Boks retain core for final test

FILE PICTURE: Bismarck du Plessis. Photo: Gallo Images.

The core of the Springbok team that has played in 2013 has been selected to start in the final match of the season, marking 100 years of Test rugby against France in Paris on Saturday evening.

Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth and Morne Steyn return to the starting line-up after last weekend’s 28-0 win over Scotland in Edinburgh for the last match of the Outgoing Tour.

Mtawarira, Etzebeth and Steyn are part of a group of 10 players who have been selected for every Test in 2013, along with Willie le Roux, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Ruan Pienaar, Coenie Oosthuizen, Adriaan Strauss and Pat Lambie.

A further three players — Du Plessis, Flip van der Merwe and Francois Louw — have each missed only one Test this season.

After an impressive performance against Scotland, Oosthuizen will be in the starting line-up for the first time after 13 appearances off the bench.

He takes over at tighthead prop from the injured Frans Malherbe, with the uncapped Lourens Adriaanse on the bench.

“This is a great opportunity for Coenie and we believe he’s ready to make the step up to a starting role in the team,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

“I’m also very happy for Lourens, who has been part of the squad for almost the entire season.

“He’s waited patiently for an opportunity and what better way to make your debut than against France in Paris.”

Meyer said he had rotated the squad during the final three Tests of 2013 in order to keep the players fresh.

“Gurthro, Adriaan, Bakkies and Pat did very well last week against Scotland and will have an important role to play this week,” said Meyer.

“We have been quite fortunate with injuries this year and I’m very happy that we’ve managed to keep the continuity in selection.

“Most of the players have received ample game time and showed they have what it takes to perform at Test level.

“Our aim is now to keep on improving against France and hopefully end a very successful season on a high note.”

The Springboks have won nine of their 11 Tests in 2013 and 12 of the past 14, including last year’s November tour.

However, the task of taking on Les Bleus in France is a formidable one as South Africa’s last away victory over France was at the Parc des Princes in 1997.

South Africa and France have played twice at the Stade de France in Paris, with France winning both — by 20-10 in 2001 and 26-20 in 2005.

The Boks’ last game at this venue was in the 2007 Rugby World Cup final against England on October 20, 2007, when they claimed the title.

South Africa team: Willie le Roux, JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers (captain), Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Ruan Pienaar, Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Flip van der Merwe, Eben Etzebeth, Coenie Oosthuizen, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Gurthro Steenkamp, Lourens Adriaanse, Bakkies Botha, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi, Jano Vermaak, Pat Lambie.

– Sapa

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