The Springboks are expecting a huge forward challenge from France on Saturdaywhen the two teams meet in the first of three Castle Lager Incoming Series Test matches in Pretoria, according to Bok assistant coach Johann van Graan.
The forwards coach addressed a media briefing on Tuesday afternoon at the team’s hotel in Pretoria.
Duane Vermeulen joined the Springboks on Tuesday morning straight after his arrival from France, where he led his club side Toulon in the Top 14 Final against Clermont on Sunday evening.
Vermeulen, who sustained a shoulder injury in the match, was assessed by the Springbok team doctor on Tuesday and referred to a shoulder specialist in Cape Town to determine whether surgery is needed. However, the injury has ruled him out of action for the three-match series against the French.
Van Graan said he is expecting a tough battle amongst the forwards on Saturdayafternoon, when the two teams meet for the first time again since 2013, when South Africa won in Paris.
“If you look at the 2016 set-piece stats, then South Africa and France were No 1 in the world with a 95% success rate,” said Van Graan.
“The French have got a very good scrum and a brilliant lineout, plus they defend the driving maul well. However, we want to concentrate on ourselves, doing the things we have to do.
“We’re fortunate to have a few players who have played in France and who know a bit about them, but as coaches we’ve done our homework and we will be well-prepared on Saturday.”
Regarding the loss of Vermeulen, Van Graan said: “He is a world class forward, and a fantastic asset to have in your side. Team selection is the task of coach Allister (Coetzee), but what I can tell you is that we have some brilliant loose forwards in our squad, and the selections will be made according to what is needed for the coming challenge.”
Van Graan said the Bok’s scrum and lineout work have gone well and highlighted the three training camps and last week’s exercise in Plettenberg Bay as very beneficial to the squad’s preparation.
Meanwhile, the Boks continued with their training on Tuesday. The early morning gym and field session at Affies was followed by an afternoon workout at Loftus Versfeld.
The match on Saturday is scheduled to kick off at 17h05 at Loftus Versfeld. The Bok coach will announce his team on Thursday afternoon during a media conference at the team hotel.