One more Test match remains for the South African Springboks of Heyneke Meyer on the End Of Year Tour, probably the biggest of the 3 Tests, against the unpredictable team of France. Nick Mallett was still Springboks coach when last the Springboks won IN France, against France.
On the injury front, Francois Louw looks likely to be good to go on the weekend, with the injury he suffered not so bad and recovery going well.
France is always difficult to curb when their backline gets going, so Jaque Fourie at outside centre is under pressure to play well, both on defence and attack, where he has not really impressed on tour so far since he has re-joined from his stint in Japan.
Heyneke Meyer’s biggest quandry is probably who to pick as his starting tighthead prop for the weekend. Will it be Coenie Oosthuizen who has been the bench tighthead option in the last 2 Test or will Lourens Adriaanse supercede Coenie because Lourens is a recognised tighthead?
SuperSport reports that the Springboks will know within the next 48 hours whether they will have openside specialist Francois Louw available for Saturday’s final test of the year against France in Paris.
Team doctor Craig Roberts said that Louw had been up and walking soon after being stretchered off the field towards the end of the 28-0 win over Scotland at Murrayfield last week.
“Francois received a bit of a stinger, which meant that he had problems with a nerve running down from his neck. In a situation like that you always take precautions, which was why Francois’ neck was immobilized and he was taken off on a stretcher,” said Roberts.
“But he saw a specialist straight after the game and the news there was positive. We will see what happens over the next 48 hours, but it is looking really positive on that front and we are confident there won’t be any problems.”
Roberts was equally as confident that Willem Alberts, Louw’s flank partner, would be able to make a full contribution at the weekend.
“Willem is doing well. He has a Grade 1 sprain on his AC joint (shoulder). We were never going to play him for the full game against Scotland as we wanted to ensure he was fully fresh and ready for the game against France.”
The Bok team for the Stade de France test is to be named at lunch time on Wednesday.
Sport24 reports that Jaque Fourie is under pressure to perform on the weekend.
Perhaps we should all simply dine out for a bit longer on his brilliant bit of awareness to set up a critical try against Wales in the first match of the Springboks’ European tour.
The Boks were looking just a little under the cosh in the second half at the Millennium Stadium, remember, when Jaque Fourie – shh, probably from an offside position – followed up fellow Japan-based veteran Fourie du Preez’s kick and produced that lightning, cheeky off-load to the inside to send the scrumhalf streaking away to the posts and effectively douse the Welsh fire in the Test at the same time.
It was another vintage moment to savour from the outside centre, whose first-class career has been peppered with such flashes of game-altering inspiration – and it is probably a rare skill that will never leave him.
Perhaps that classy moment from him in Cardiff will come to be recognised as the catalyst for the three-match tour as a whole turning into a productive exercise, rather than one quickly placed on the back foot had the Six Nations champions stolen game one.
But has the Kobelco Steelers player broadly done enough, in the course of mostly satisfying team triumphs over Wales and Scotland respectively thus far, to confirm that he is an attractive option for the 2015 World Cup?
The answer, I think, remains both yes and no at this point.
Fourie has quietly got into some kind of groove after a shaky first quarter or so of the Wales Test – his defensive telepathy with once-familiar midfield partner Jean de Villiers seemed to have gathered a spot of dust during his absence from international rugby – and it will be a surprise if the starting centre partnership is disturbed now for the tour finale against France in Paris on Saturday (kickoff 22:00 SA time).
South Africa have scored seven tries without reply over the course of the two contests thus far, so that seems reason enough not to shake the backline bag too vigorously.
Yet a personal suspicion remains that Fourie, while increasingly doing unobtrusive, not always flashy but important donkeywork for the cause, hasn’t exhibited either in Cardiff or Edinburgh his fullest range of abilities or been as consistently energetic and incisive as we have seen in years gone by.
He has a more generous head of hair than he used to, and that has prompted some wags to suggest he may have filled out in other areas too – I am not prepared to subscribe to that sort of mischief yet.
But the best of Fourie is so often evidenced when the Boks – especially on reasonably firm surfaces, notably not on offer on this venture so far – are in a mood for ball-in-hand counter-attack from turnovers and he uncannily finds himself at the elegant-striding fulcrum of things, either as finisher or deft facilitator for others.
Remember the last meeting between South Africa and France, at Newlands in 2010, when the Boks earned an agreeably high-tempo 42-17 caning of Les Bleus?
In a five-try romp, arguably the best touchdown came as early as the second minute when Bryan Habana made great ground after pouncing on a loose ball, Fourie was typically on hand as “middle man” to receive his pass and then run a fine angle himself before feeding Pierre Spies to maraud over the line for the score.
In fairness, occasions like that one haven’t come dime a dozen at either the Millennium Stadium or Murrayfield (where Willie le Roux produced the Midas Touches anyway).
With a bit of luck, pitch conditions at Stade de France – not to mention the possibility of some Gallic flair coming into play – will be a bit more conducive to a free-flowing spectacle and that might get someone like Fourie’s attacking juices flowing once more.
Another rather muted, inconclusive game from him might only heighten fears that RWC 2015 could be a bridge too far in partnering Fourie with current captain De Villiers; they already sport a combined age of 62.
Also to be considered, and Fourie will surely not be unaware of it, is that coach Heyneke Meyer has spent a fair chunk of his two-season tenure in charge “investing” in the more youthful JJ Engelbrecht (24) in the No 13 jersey.
The gangly Engelbrecht, slippery and not lacking in game-cracking pace, has some question marks around his defensive game still – an area in which ace organiser Fourie has an obvious advantage – but he is already 12 appearances wiser as a Test player and should stay at least thereabouts as a midfield contender.
Jaque Fourie converting six-out-of-10 sort of showings of late into a seven or even eight on Saturday would settle a few lingering issues, you would think.
Buoyed by so much pleasant imagery of what he’s done in green and gold before, there are plenty of people keen to see him snap into fullest mojo in the last Bok Test of 2013 …
Rugby365 reports on the selection headache Heyneke Meyer has in selecting his tighthead prop for the clash against France.
With tighthead props in short supply, the Test against France in Paris this weekend will provide another Springbok No.3 with a chance to impress.
Having come through the Tests against Wales and Scotland with rookie Frans Malherbe anchoring the scrum, the Boks will have to hand another tighthead his first start on Saturday after Malherbe was sent home due to a rib cartilage injury.
The Bulls’ Frik Kirsten was called up as cover for the Stormers prop, but the contenders for the starting berth in Paris are Coenie Oosthuizen and the uncapped Lourens Adriaanse.
With the Boks having relied heavily on veteran Jannie du Plessis over the last few years, there are not many other tightheads around with much Test experience, so the match in Paris could be another opportunity for the understudies to make a statement against a powerful French front row.
Despite playing tighthead at school, Oosthuizen has played the bulk of his professional rugby as a loosehead, and has been used exclusively as an impact player by Bok coach Heyneke Meyer who believes the Cheetahs prop could develop into a Test standard tighthead in time.
He certainly held his own as a late first-half replacement for Malherbe against Scotland at Murrayfield where he was solid in the scrums and got through plenty of work in the loose.
Bok forwards coach Johan van Graan said that whilst the final decision is up to Meyer, he believes Oosthuizen has shown that he is ready to start a Test match at tighthead.
“All credit to Coenie, I think it is the most he has played at tighthead – 46 minutes in which he made 15 tackles and scored a try so I think he had a really good game.
“I think Coenie is good enough to start, I think he is gaining quite a bit of experience and he showed on the weekend that he is good enough to play either off the bench or start a Test match,” he said.
Springbok scrum coach Pieter de Villiers, who played 68 Tests at tighthead for France, knows that the French will pose a serious threat at scrum-time, but he believes that whoever wears the green and gold No.3 jersey will be up to the task.
“France will always be a strong scrum challenge, they have proved to be one of the most successful scrums around the globe. A year ago they have given away the least scrum penalties and earned the most so it will be a strong scrum test for us which is great.
“We have also been working hard on our scrums, our system fires well and it is great to end the tour off against a good, strong scrummaging side to see where we stand.
“Coenie has grown, he is powerful and technically he has grown a lot so we have got a lot of confidence in Coenie. We have got a lot of confidence in Lourens as well who has proved himself to be a strong scrummager.
“Whatever choices the coach makes I think the guys will fit in well into the system,” he explained.
Van Graan said that the scrumming performance against Scotland has given the pack confidence ahead of their clash with Les Bleus.
“I think there were a lot less resets in this game on the weekend. At one stage we scrummed with six players on our own goal-line, attacking and defending, we were pretty happy with the way it went.
“On our ball we were quite good, we had a solid base and then at times when we needed to exit from our own half in the scrums Duane [Vermeulen] did really well at the back.
“We had a new front row combination and I think they did well,” he said.
The only other fitness concern at the moment surrounds flank Francois Louw, who was stretchered off after being charged by Scottish lock Jim Hamilton at a ruck. Bok team doctor Craig Roberts said that he has progressed quite well so the chances of him playing against France are quite good.
“The other person that was injured was Francois Louw who got quite a bad stinger where he pinched a nerve in his neck and got some pain down his arm.
“We always take precautions with that and that is why we had to immobilise his neck on the field and take him off on a stretcher. Thankfully he saw a specialist straight after the game and he has responded really well.
“He came home with the team and spent the function with us after the game. We will see how he goes over the next 48 hours but we are quite optimistic that he will be ready for the weekend,” he said.