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Boks opt for mobility over muscle

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With Erasmus sticking with the same loose-trio that ran out a week ago, and rightly so, the Boks have more men who seem to never run out of gas

Frances Camille Lopez is in top form, says John McFarland. Picture: EPA/YOAN VALAT

ONE thing the Springboks won’t be short of tomorrow is work-horses. The Boks may be giving up a few kilos, and lacking some brawn, because of Eben Etzebeth’s absence – he has a foot injury – but with Franco Mostert back in the team, the visitors will have a super mobile, and extremely hard-working lock pairing and back row.

And their engines will keep going and going, until coach Rassie Erasmus deems they can do no more.

Disappointment

With Mostert coming in to partner Pieter-Steph du Toit in the second row, the Boks will have two locks against France in Paris that are renowned for their work-rate and tackling ability. And let’s not forget, both men have regularly played at blindside flank, so there’s plenty of mobility there, too – a further big boost for the Boks, who desperately need to win after the disappointment of losing to England first-up last week.

And then, with Erasmus sticking with the same loose-trio that ran out a week ago, and rightly so, the Boks have more men who seem to never run out of gas.

Warren Whiteley has been one of Super Rugby’s biggest tacklers in recent years, topping the hits-list on several occasions, while captain Siya Kolisi’s tackle rate and work effort this year have gone through the roof. They’re also players who get through plenty of work as carriers, and will be ably supported by Duane Vermeulen – who’ll take on a greater ball-carrying role now that Etzebeth is missing.

He’s no slouch when it comes to tackling either.

It is not surprising Erasmus has stuck with the same men up front for this week’s Test – bar of course, Mostert coming in for Etzebeth. The Bok pack did well last week at Twickenham and dominated in several areas; it is just fair they get another opportunity this week.

The only real department of concern, and which Erasmus and Co will hope is much-improved this week, will be the line-outs where Malcolm Marx missed his jumpers on four occasions.

Mostert is one of six overseas-based players included after not being available last week, and it’s fully understandable why Erasmus has gone that route.

They are all experienced campaigners, with knowledge of northern conditions and of some of the French players – and it’s a Test the Boks won’t want to slip up in.

Willie le Roux and Faf de Klerk certainly strengthen the side at scrumhalf and fullback – and as regular starters this year were always going to get picked ahead of the younger rookies.

One has to feel for Damian Willemse, who started at No 15 last week and is now out of the match-23 completely, but Le Roux has always been Erasmus’ first choice man.

On the bench, Saracens-based Vincent Koch – who is highly rated in England – gets an opportunity, coming in for Wilco Louw, and his experience of scrumming in northern conditions and against some of the Frenchmen will also boost the Bok set-piece, but it is unfortunate that Trevor Nyakane has been overlooked.

Francois Louw, with 62 caps, is the most senior man in the matchday squad and a player who is as rated by Erasmus as he was by Allister Coetzee, Heyneke Meyer and Peter de Villiers.

Again, the Bok boss has gone for experience, but it would have been nice to see Sikhumbuzo Notshe, with his pace, getting a go this week.

Cheslin Kolbe’s X-factor and experience – and his knowledge of the French – would have got him the nod ahead of Willemse, and you can’t argue too much about that. Perhaps Willemse could have stayed in the side though and got a chance as Handré Pollard’s back-up this week, with Elton Jantjies sitting out.

The Lions’ man’s squad place is safe and secure so Willemse getting an opportunity to maybe play at No 10 wouldn’t have been a bad move this week.

All in all, it’s a very solid Bok squad. They now need to perform as well as they look.

France (15-1): Maxime Medard, Teddy Thomas, Mathieu Bastareaud, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Damian Penaud, Camille Lopez, Baptiste Serin, Louis Picamoles, Arthur Iturria, Wenceslas Lauret, Yoann Maestri, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Cedate Gomes Sa, Guilhem Guirado (capt), Jefferson Poirot. Bench: Camille Chat, Dany Priso, Rabah Slimani, Paul Gabrillagues, Mathieu Babillot, Antoine Dupont, Anthony Belleau, Gael Fickou

South Africa (15-1): Willie le Roux, S’bu Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk, Warren Whiteley, Duane Vermeulen, Siya Kolisi (capt), Franco Mostert, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff. Bench: Bongi Mbonambi, Thomas du Toit, Vincent Koch, RG Snyman, Francois Louw, Embrose Papier, Elton Jantjies, Cheslin Kolbe