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Pluck the Golden Rooster

Stade de France, the national stadium of France, is situated just north of Paris in the commune of Saint-Denis. It has an all-seater capacity of 81,338, making it the sixth largest stadium in Europe, and is used by both the French national football and rugby teams for international competitions. Also Sprach Wikipedia.

It is a worthy venue for a game which marks 100 years of test rugby between France and South Africa. It is also a venue where we lost the last two encounters. Park de Princes was the scene of the last victory by the Boks over France, in France, way back in 1997.

The Springbok side for Saturday sees only two changes in the starting line-up against Wales, two weeks ago. This appears to be Heyneke Meyer’s first choice team at the moment, barring Fourie du Preez.

It is interesting that he only picked two backs amongst the reserves – Lambie and Vermaak.

I was also surprised by the inclusion of Bakkies Botha and Pieter-Steph Du Toit on the bench. The youngster could possibly also double as a second loose forward replacement should the two players with niggles both not be able to complete the game.

Coenie Oosthuizen at last gets his chance in the starting line-up after 13 appearances on the bench. Last week against France, he made 15 tackles and scored a try. Imagine the damage he can do if he plays a full match.

A concern, shared by many, is at scrumhalf. Ruan Pienaar has not lived up to expectations, and his pairing with Morné Steyn could see the side reverting to ten-man rugby, particularly if he dallies, as he is wont to do, before passing or kicking.

The acid test for Willie le Roux will be whether he will be able to repeat his brilliant play of last week. His flair and vision on attack could see us utilising our brilliant backs better.

We have an excellent bow in our quiver to combat the strong French pack. Pieter de Villiers is absolutely the right man, given his experience of having represented the French with distinction in the front row, not that long ago.

At the time of writing, the Golden Roosters (Le coq d’or) had yet to announce their team. I must admit that I do not know them well enough to comment, but they are a team who makes radical changes week after week, and still do well. Having said that: their recent record reads: Played 10, won 2, drawn 1 lost 7. Perhaps they need to consider consistency?

As always, we need to consider the referee for Saturday. Wayne Barnes is an English referee, and also a qualified lawyer. When I Googled his name, I came across a Facebook page called “Wayne Barnes is the sh…est referee in the world. Most of the members of the group appear to be Kiwis. Can anyone remember what he did to become so unpopular?

I sincerely hope that we won’t be joining that page after the game on Saturday.

Bafana Triumphs

In a pre-match interview, the Spanish coach said that his side had to be wary of Bafana who play a very fast game. And bla-bla-bla, I thought, as did most who heard this.

Well, the record shows that our national football side refused to accept what appeared to be the inevitable. It says much for Gordon Igesund that he managed to instil the belief in the players that they could win. Cynics will laugh it off as a flash in the pan incident, but if the team manages this correctly, it could be a major turning point in SA football.

Ironically, I was reminded of a comment made by Sean Fitzpatrick in his interview with Ali Bacher. Asked about how they felt after losing the 1995 RWC at Ellis Park, he commented on the mood in the dressing room after the game. He asked the players to never ever forget that feeling of despondency, but to use it as inspiration in the future. “You do not ever want to feel like this again.”

The challenge for Bafana will be to take the positives out of the victory and build the future on it. They now know what they can achieve – they just need to keep believing they can.

Duckworth-Lewis to the Rescue

For once the system worked in our favour, helping the Proteas make it 8 wins out of 10 against Pakistan. It will be interesting to see how this winning margin affects attendance – a fair challenge will always draw bigger crowds than being able to predict the outcome before the first ball is bowled.

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