Kirchner, Jacobs and Kankowski likely to fill in for Boks

2009-11-10 00:00

SHAKEN, stirred, but not panicky – that is the response of the Springbok coaching team to the weekend’s 22-17 defeat by a makeshift Leicester team in their European tour opener.

Head Bok coach Peter de Villiers, looking ahead to Friday night’s Test against France in Toulouse, said that “there were more positives than negatives in the loss,” but admitted the defeat had been “an eye-opener”.

“Now we know where we are going. We knew it would be tough after only a week of preparation.”

While the Boks look like a team that had never trained — or at least scrummed — together before, the selectors now know where their problems will lie on tour.

De Villiers identified leadership as one problem in Leicester, but clearly the scrum is a major concern. Indeed, the Boks have taken the unusual step of looking to former French prop Pieter de Villiers for help ahead of this week’s Test.

The ex-South African, now living back in Cape Town since his retirement, played 70 Tests for France and he knows the Springboks’ opponents well.

Bok forward coach Gary Gold said yesterday that the French would be just as tough and physical as the All Blacks.

“They have a big strong pack and they will be very physical,” Gold said. “They’re the one team in the world with New Zealand who can match our forwards for size,” he said.

“They’ll be playing in a small stadium — and if a French side comes out firing they can rip the heart out of anybody.”

The Springboks have not won in France since 1997 when Gary Teichmann’s team romped home 52-10 and were warmly cheered by the Paris crowd.

Since then the Boks have lost all three of their matches against France — 20-10 in 2001, 30-10 in 2002 and 26-20 in 2005.

The Springboks leave for Paris tonight and the team for Friday night’s Test will be named prior to their departure.

There will be three changes to the starting line-up that won the Tri-Nations by beating the All Blacks in Hamilton with De Villiers forced to replace fullback Frans Steyn and centre Jean de Villiers, who are both playing club rugby overseas, and number eight Pierre Spies, who damaged a finger in the Currie Cup final.

The replacements appear obvious with the Test XV staying behind in Johannesburg while their dirt-trackers (and seven bench players) were being embarrassed in Leicester.

Zane Kirchner at fullback, Adi Jacobs at inside centre and Ryan Kankowski at loose forward appear the certain choices, although the Boks could opt to beef up their back-row — missing the physical Spies and Juan Smith — by starting with Danie Rossouw at number eight.

The French named their starting line-up yesterday and are clearly aiming to target Jacobs at centre and the less physical Bok backrow.

The powerful centre Yann David will partner the 105 kg David Marty in the midfield and Jacobs, exposed by the British Lions defensively, faces a bruising night.

“The key word is the advantage line,” said backline coach Emile N’Tamack.

“That’s why we’ve gone for the beefier option.”

Coach Marc Lievremont said they had looked for “weaknesses in the Bok side” in naming their centre pairing.

“We wanted more strength and explosiveness to start in the midfield,” said Lievremont.

The selection of the Bok bench will be of more than passing interest following the Leicester defeat and the Boks may well opt for a five-to-two split between forwards and backs. Indeed De Villiers could name a full front-row on the bench (CJ van der Linde, Adriaan Strauss and Wian du Preez) along with lock Andries Bekker and either Rossouw or Kankowksi.

Ruan Pienaar, Wynand Olivier and Francois Hougaard are the likely backline reserves if De Villiers opts for the usual three backline replacements.

Friday’s Test kicks off at 9.45 pm.

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