France make one change to 15 who took on the All Blacks (team sheet)

The French have returned to their strongest possible team this weekend in anticipation of a tough forward Teamsheetsbattle with the Springboks.

Sofiane Guitoune comes in on the left wing (he only debuted last weekend against Tonga) and replaces Maxime Médard, who is surplus to requirements and doesn’t even make the match day squad. Médard has been a recent stalwart and his absence will puzzle many from the Southern Hemisphere, as his dangerous finishing is well noted.

South African-born loose forwards Antonie Claassen and Bernard le Roux missed out on selection altogether.

France – 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Sofiane Guitoune, 10 Rémi Talès, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Wenceslas Lauret, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Pascal Papé, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Yannick Forestier.
Subs: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Thomas Domingo, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 20 Yannick Nyanga, 21 Jean-Marc Doussain, 22 Frédéric Michalak, 23 Mathieu Bastareaud.

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Few changes to Springboks for Scotland scrap (team sheet)

Heyneke Meyer has erred on the side of caution for the Boks ‘easiest’ game of their Northern hemisphere side. Many expected wholesale changes, especially a rest for over-worked captain Jean de Villiers. But in the cut-throat game of professional coaching losing is just not on the cards.

We saw it (lack of rotation) with 4 out of the 5 South African Super Rugby coaches, and players suffered because of it. Stormers, who are arguably South Africa’s strongest side, didn’t even make the playoffs this year and the Bulls fell flat when it was needed most in their home semi against the Brumbies.

There are some changes however, and this must be applauded.

“We said from the start of the tour that we were going to make a few changes for this Test,” said Meyer.

“We need to keep players fresh and motivated. Willie and Pat both did well after we lost Morné last weekend and deserve another opportunity on Sunday.

“Gurthro and Adriaan, who will take over the vice-captaincy as well, have been part of the squad for a long time and will slot in easily. Furthermore, it has been great to have Bakkies back. His enthusiasm has been contagious and the younger guys have already learned a lot from spending time with him.

“We got our tour off to a good start last week against Wales in Cardiff and the focus this week has been on further improvement in a number of key areas of the game, most notably our discipline. In the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, we conceded the fewest penalties, but last week against Wales we were penalised too much. It’s something that is very important to us and we are working very hard on our discipline.”

The Springbok team to face Scotland in Edinburgh is:

15. Willie le Roux 10 caps 15 points
14. JP Pietersen 49 caps 70 points
13. Jaque Fourie 70 caps 160 points
12. Jean de Villiers (captain) 94 caps 125 points
11. Bryan Habana 93 caps 265 points
10. Pat Lambie 30 caps 57 points
9. Fourie du Preez 66 caps 75 points
8. Duane Vermeulen 14 caps 5 points
7. Willem Alberts 28 caps 30 points/Siya Kolisi 9 caps 0 points
6. Francois Louw 26 caps 25 points
5. Flip van der Merwe 32 caps 5 points
4. Bakkies Botha 76 caps 35 points
3. Frans Malberhe 1 caps 0 points
2. Adriaan Strauss (vice-captain) 31 caps 25 points
1. Gurthro Steenkamp 47 caps 30 points
Replacements:
16. Bismarck du Plessis 55 caps 45 points
17. Tendai Mtawarira 51 caps 10 points
18. Coenie Oosthuizen 12 caps 5 points
19. Eben Etzebeth 22 caps 0 points
20. Marcell Coetzee 14 caps 5 points
21. Ruan Pienaar 72 caps 130 points
22. Morné Steyn 52 caps 627 points/AN Other
23. JJ Engelbrecht 11 caps 20 points

France beat the Blues in mid-week match (15 – 38)

France – 38 (12)

Tries: Noa Nakaitaci (2), Gael Fickou, Benjamin Kayser

Conversions: Jean-Marc Doussain (3)

Penalties: Doussain (4)

Blues – 15 (3)

Tries: James Parsons, George Moala

Conversion: Chris Noakes

Penalty: Baden Kerr

 

Kiwi Cotter to coach Scotland

Vern Cotter, who led Clermont to the final of the Heineken Cup this year, will take charge of the Scotland national side as soon as his club contract expires.RW Stamp

Other New Zealanders coaching international  teams:

  • Joe Schmidt – Ireland
  • Warren Gatland – Wales and the British & Irish Lions
  • Robbie Deans – Australia
  • Steve Hansen – New Zealand

SGR

According to Aussie papers Deans is nearly done

When Rugby Window previewed the Bok v Wallaby game last Saturday, we described it as being a watershed (or even Waterloo) for both coaches. The one who lost would be packing his bags very shortly…and it was Deans and his walking wounded who limped off the Loftus Versfeld after receiving a 5 try to 1 hiding.

The Australian media are now calling for his head:

“The coaching future of Robbie Deans will go on the line in Argentina when a second-string Wallabies side takes on the Pumas,” The Daily Telegraph’s Jim Tucker said.

“The unnerving knowledge that the Broken XV in the casualty ward is a far superior line-up to the Wallabies flying into a wild Argentinian ambush is not how Robbie Deans planned to fight for his coaching future.”

“Not after five seasons of triumphs and crashlandings in the big-ticket arenas of Sydney, Brisbane, Durban, Bloemfontein, Twickenham, Murrayfield and, of course, Auckland with that cursed Eden Park patch.”

Former Wallaby captain Andrew Slack said the “messiest” fortnight in Australian rugby’s professional history had pushed Deans’s tenure as national coach close to breaking point.

“Nowadays is it perform or perish,” Slack told the Australian Associated Press.

“People will be looking for a scapegoat and rightly or wrongly the responsibility for the performances rests with the coach.

“There will be a lot of pressure on Robbie heading into the (Argentina) game.

“And if it is a game they lose, that pressure will only intensify but I think even if they win that pressure will still be there.”

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Greg Growden said “disruption and decay” were everywhere.

“Australian Rugby has endured the most dreadful of weeks. And next week could be even worse, with the Wallabies heading deeper into the horror tour from hell,” Growden wrote.

“Disruption and decay are everywhere. (Flyhalf) Quade Cooper dumps on them, the Springboks smash them and now they head to Argentina with the fear that without enough fit bodies they could be decimated by the Pumas.”

The Australian newspaper said Australian rugby was deteriorating fast and called on new ARU chairman Michael Hawker to act.

“If he doesn’t hit the button for the crash cart now, the game will soon slip beyond the point of saving,” the paper’s Wayne Smith said.

“The defibrillator paddles have to be applied and the first jolt needs to shake loose Robbie Deans from the coaching position.

“There is not the slightest doubt that Deans has given his all over the past five years and tried to make the Wallabies work.”

“But clearly they’re not working and that was obvious at Pretoria long before injuries reduced the team to a shambles midway through the second half.”

SGR

Aussies likely to lose Higgenbotham for Pretoria Test (latest teams)

The Aussies were struck a blow with the news that skillful and hard-running loose-forward Scott Higgenbotham would probably be ruled out of the Saturday’s test due to injury.

This will be very disappointing for the player, who had to pull out of another test in Pretoria in 2010 just before the match.

Wallaby Team

15 Berrick Barnes, 14 Dominic Shipperley, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Radike Samo, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Nathan Sharpe (c), 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson
Subs: 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Scott Higginbotham/Mike Harris, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Brett Sheehan, 22 Anthony Fainga’a

Springbok Team

15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermuelen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Marcel Coetzee, 20 Elton Jantjies, 21 Juan de Jongh, 22 Pat Lambie.

SGR

Meyer and Deans Under Pressure

Loftus Versfeld could be a watershed moment for both coaches; the winner could go on to take their team to the 2015 World Cup in England and the loser could start packing his bags and dusting off the old CV. Both coaches have been heavily maligned by their local media, for poor player management, picking the wrong players and for sticking to a game plan that quite clearly is not working.

There is a contrast, almost an opposite scenario that has developed in each camp. Where one coach (Deans) is not getting along with his fly-half Quade Cooper and the other (Meyer) is continuing to include his totally out-of-form fly-half, Morne Steyn, in the starting 15. Number 10 is the most important decision maker on the field and without the coaches backing or a game plan that suits their style, the both attack and defence tend go be a bit all over the place. And this is exactly what we have seen from the Wallabies and Springboks, who have produced very little decent rugby this winter.

The winner of Saturday’s match in the South African capital could save his job, whilst the lost match for the loser might just be the last straw. Deans has coached the Wallabies more than any other coach in their history, recently breaking Bob Dwyer’s record, whilst Meyer has been in charge for just 7 weeks, which could count in his favour if the Boks decide to throw another game away.

Growing resentment and poor play relations could see Deans get the boot after the Rugby Championship even if they beat the Springboks on Saturday, as he has failed to turn the Australians into the world-beaters, as he had promised at the beginning of his tenure.

Whatever the result and whoever gets the chop, this writer will be hoping that the rugby on display resembles that of two of the top 3 sides in world, not the half-heart and misdirected 80 minute dog-shows that have happened so far.

SGR