South Africa fought hard at Twickenham last weekend, and were arguably unlucky in losing a tight contest against England 12-11, but with many of their first choice stars returning to the line-up, they will fancy their chances of gaining a victory over a transitioning French team in Paris.
France versus Springboks Preview and Prediction
These two old rivals first met on January 11, 1913 in Bordeaux, when the visitors ran out as 38-55 winners, but there was a gap of 39 years before their next fixture, at Colombes, in February 1952; a game which also ended in a Springboks victory.
In total, South Africa and France have met 44 times, and the Springboks have dominated, winning 26 times to France’s 11. They also have a good record in France, winning 13 of the 19 matches played on French soil, though their most important win over the French came during the 1995 World Cup when they prevailed 19-15 in a titanic semi-final played in atrocious weather conditions.
The last time France enjoyed victory over South Africa was in November 2009, but since then it has been all about the Springboks, with six consecutive victories, including a convincing 3-0 Test series win last summer, although their latest meeting in Paris last autumn was a little closer, with South Africa leading 18-10, then surviving a late comeback to record an 18-17 victory.
Last Ten Meetings
2017 South Africa won 18-17, Paris
2017 South Africa won 35-12, Johannesburg
2017 South Africa won 37-15, Durban
2017 South Africa won 37-14, Pretoria
2013 South Africa won 19-10, Paris
2010 South Africa won 42-17, Cape Town
2009 France won 20-13, Toulouse
2006 France won 36-26, Cape Town
2005 France won 26-20, Paris
2005 South Africa won 27-13, Port Elizabeth
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Jacques Brunel has achieved mixed results since he took over last winter, but there have been positive signs for French rugby after a prolonged period of underachievement. They lost narrowly to Ireland in their opening Six Nations game, but beat England for the first time since 2015 and only a narrow loss to Wales in their final game stopped them from finishing second. They returned from their summer tour to New Zealand empty-handed but Brunel will have learned much from that expedition, and his team will be keen to impress in front of their home fans after four months without international action.
Although there have been setbacks along the way, there has been a definite trend of improvement from the Springboks under Rassie Erasmus, starting with a convincing home series win over England, and backed up by sensational performances against New Zealand in the Rugby Championship, beating the All Blacks in Wellington and coming close to beating them again in the final game of the tournament. And although a weakened South Africa team lost 12-11 at Twickenham last weekend, there was plenty to like about their resilience, and the way they took the game to England.
France will be boosted by the return of Louis Picamoles, who will be able to make his first international start for over a year, and will bring valuable experience to the back row. The injury struggles of Camille Lopez are also at an end as the fly-half will end his 18 month absence with a return to French colours in Paris, and the French line-up will also feature wingers Teddy Thomas, who had an explosive start to this year’s Six Nations tournament, and Damian Penaud, whose previous five international appearances have been at centre. Guilhem Guirado will lead the side, and Brunel has opted for Sebastien Vahaamahina in the second row instead of Paul Gabrillagues.
Last time Erasmus had to manage without a number of leading players as the Twickenham game fell outside the International Window, but for the match in Paris, he will be able to call on European-based stars Willie Le Roux, Faf de Klerk, Francois Louw, Franco Mostert and Cheslin Kolbe. The return of de Klerk to scrum half will be particularly welcome, while Mostert and Pieter-Steph du Toit are likely to be the starting lock pairing, and Le Roux looks certain to start at full back.
Twelve months ago, a game in Paris provided a struggling Springboks side with a much-needed win, but while France look a better team under Brunel, South Africa have improved out of all recognition in the last year. A repeat of the mistakes that cost them dearly at Twickenham would be a problem, but with their star names back in the starting line-up, we can expect a much more convincing performance this time. France, for all their signs of progression this year, are not as tough a proposition as England, and the Springboks look a solid bet to return to winning ways this weekend.
Back South Africa to win at 4/6
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Please note betting odds quoted are correct at time of publication and are subject to change.
15 Maxime Medard, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 11 Damian Penaud, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Arthur Iturria, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 3 Cedate Gomes Sa, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1 Jefferson Poirot
Substitutes: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Paul Gabrillagues, 20 Mathieu Babillot, 21 Antoine Dupont, 22 Anthony Belleau, 23 Gael Fickou
15 Willie le Roux, 14 S’bu Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Duane Vermeulen, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Cheslin Kolbe