South Africa v France, Cape Town, June 12
World Cup contenders hit Cape Town
June 9, 2010
Francois Trinh-Duc and Maxime Mermoz tackle Bryan Habana during the match between France and South Africa at Toulouse Stadium, November 13, 2009
Bryan Habana is stopped by Maxime Mermoz and Francois Trinh-Duc in Toulouse last year © Getty Images

It is fair to say that South Africa will be looking for payback when Grand Slam Champions France visit Cape Town on Saturday.

A fatigued Springbok side lost easily to France in Toulouse last year at the end of a gruelling season that encompassed a series win over the British & Irish Lions and a Tri-Nations title, but there will be no such excuse this weekend in a match billed as a contest between the champions of their respective hemispheres.

Consequently, South Africa coach Peter De Villiers has named a full-strength team after his experimental side scraped past Wales in Cardiff with Bryan Habana, Pierre Spies, Schalk Burger and Wynand Olivier all returning to action.

"There is no room for experimenting now as I regard the Test against France as the toughest on the in-coming tours programme," said De Villiers. "The toughest part of my job is to get the right team, the right combinations on the field."

In something of a surprise, Ricky Januarie has been chosen to start ahead of Ruan Pienaar at scrum-half following the announcement of Fourie du Preez's shoulder surgery but, according to De Villiers, the Stormers No.9's form made the decision an easy one.

"How blessed we are to have so many good options available to us," said De Villiers of Januarie's selection. "He made Juan de Jongh's try [against Wales] by delaying his pass, he put Danie [Rossouw] into the hole in the build-up to Dewald Potgieter's try. He made 11 tackles - the second most of all our players and he made a crucial turnover in front of our goal line. I don't know if you want him to be perfect, but we are very happy with him."

French coach Marc Lievremont has arguably endured some greater struggles in the naming of his French side with two of his most influential players missing through injury. Crusading Biarritz No.8 Imanol Harinordoquy is out with the rib injury suffered in the Heineken Cup and powerhouse centre Mathieu Bastareaud is nursing a groin injury.

Be that as it may, Lievremont has still named a strong side knowing that a win away from home would be a massive achievement. Les Bleus will be confident after securing their first Six Nations Grand Slam since 2004 and also had a taste of success on tour last summer as they picked up a rare win over the All Blacks.

Exciting young Biarritz flank Wenceslas Lauret is set to make his debut in a new-look back-row that sees Julien Bonnaire at No.8 and captain Thierry Dusautoir on the other flank.

A back line oozing talent includes Morgan Parra at scrum-half and his now regular fly-half partner Francois Trinh-Duc Explosive Perpignan centres Maxime Mermoz and David Marty should see plenty of ball if France establish parity in the pack. An exciting contrast of pace and power sees Aurelien Rougerie and Vincent Clerc start on either wing and the graceful Clement Poitrenaud is at fullback.

If Lievremont is to be believed though, the match will be decided on the battle of the back-rows. And it is in this area that he hopes to edge the Springboks in terms of mobility and pace.

"The Springboks build their rugby around their back row, so we wanted a more balanced back row with runners as well as tacklers," said Lievremont. "I was expecting a bit more from Louis during the season, which is why I'm starting with him on the bench and using him as an impact player. He's still young and we're expecting him to react positively to this non-selection by raising his game."

It will be almost 15 years to the day since one of the most iconic contests in the history of rugby saw South Africa splash to the tightest of victories in the 1995 World Cup semi-final, a memory that will not be lost on either team. By the time kick-off comes around at Cape Town on Saturday, South Africa will be gripped by World Cup football fever. But for fans of the oval ball, the clash between the home side and their French opponents will have an even greater World Cup bearing as two of the pre-tournament favourites vie for an early psychological advantage ahead of New Zealand 2011.

South Africa: Z Kirchner (Bulls); G Aplon (Stormers), J Fourie (Stormers), W Olivier (Bulls), B Habana (Stormers); M Steyn (Bulls), R Januarie (Stormers); G Steenkamp (Bulls), J Smit (Sharks), BJ Botha (Ulster), D Rossouw (Bulls), V Matfield (Bulls), S Burger (Stormers), F Louw (Stormers), P Spies (Bulls). Replacements: C Ralepelle (Bulls), J du Plessis (Sharks), F van der Merwe (Bulls), D Potgieter (Bulls), R Pienaar (Sharks), J de Jongh (Stormers), J de Villiers (Western Province).

France: C Poitrenaud (Toulouse), V Clerc (Toulouse), D Marty (Perpignan), M Mermoz (Perpignan), A Rougerie (Clermont Auvergne), F Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), M Parra (Bourgoin), T Domingo (Clermont Auvergne), D Szarzewski (Stade Francais), N Mas (Perpignan), L Nallet (Racing Metro), R Millo-Chluski (Toulouse), T Dusautoir (Toulouse, capt), W Lauret (Biarritz), J Bonnaire (Clermont Auvergne) Replacements: G Guirado (Perpignan), J Baptiste Poux (Toulouse), J Pierre (Clermont Auvergne), L Picamoles (Toulouse), D Yachvili (Biarritz), D Skrela (Toulouse), M Andreu (Castres), L Ducalcon (Castres)

Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Keith Brown (New Zealand), David Changleng (Scotland)
Television match official: Graham Hughes (England)


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