Boks ready for heavy artillery

2010-06-11 00:00

THE Springboks are preparing for a massive physical onslaught at Newlands tomorrow, but wing Bryan Habana has warned that the French now match their brawn with brains.

Victor Matfield, the Springbok vice-captain, told reporters in Cape Town yesterday that he was bracing for a bruising contest against one of the “best teams in world rugby”.

Last year the French set out to batter the Boks from the kick-off in Toulouse and they emerged with an impressive win.

“We haven’t done well against them recently, but most of those games have been in France. It will be good to play them at home. They’re a very physical side and they do the basics well,” said Matfield.

The South Africans have lost seven of their nine Tests against France and Matfield said it was important to gain a psychological advantage over France in case they meet in the World Cup next year.

Matfield said that the Boks had prepared well this week and there was no talk of fatigue after the long Super 14 season.

“Once you’re with the Boks, you’re ready to play,” said Matfield. “After all, we’re only halfway through the season.”

Loosehead prop Gurthro Steenkamp, back in the front-row after an excellent Super 14 season said he was looking forward to the challenge after the Boks’ scrummaging failures against Leicester last November.

“My selection for this Test, my first since 2008, gave me goose bumps. There were reasons for our poor performance against Leicester and it will be really good to measure myself against a strong, physical French scrum now,” he said.

But wing Habana believes the French will also be clever.

“They are very physical, but they have become a lot smarter in their tactical approach. They are now a good all-round side. In the past you didn’t always know which French side would pitch up, but the way they have played the last few years places them close to the top three nations in world rugby.”

The selection of Ricky Januarie ahead of Ruan Pienaar to replace the injured Fourie du Preez at scrumhalf has met with some criticism, but flyhalf Morné Steyn defended his new halfback partner.

Steyn says it is unfair to compare Januarie to Du Preez.

“Fourie is probably the best in the world with his tactical kicks but Ricky has others strengths, like his physicality, that will benefit us.”

Steyn said he would miss having his Super 14 team-mate Du Preez alongside him but the selection of fellow-Bull Wynand Olivier at inside centre would help him settle and he said he was feeling more comfortable in the Bok team than he did last year.

“I feel like I’m starting to express myself more freely, and I hope that helps with me with the Boks.”

The Test kicks off at 2 pm.

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