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DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) - South Africa made a winning start to their bid to recover from a horror 2016 with victory over France in the first of their three match series last weekend, but Saturday’s second test in Durban is likely to be a stiffer test of their potential revival.
The Springboks, who lost eight of 12 internationals and finished the year in turmoil, beat the French 37-14 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria last week. But they were pitted against a weakened outfit after the tourists did not pick key players, who arrived late after the end of their domestic season.
Seven players were not considered for the first test but were all available when coach Guy Noves made his selection for the second test, changing eight players.
“We’ll know after the game if it was important to bring in some fresh blood into the team after the first test,” he told a press conference on Thursday.
“To change eight players is to also realise that we are on tour, that we play three tests and we have a chance to see everyone of the tour party play.”
Even if he seemed to suggest there might be an air of experimentation about his selection, the French line-up for the King’s Park Rugby Stadium on Saturday is considerably more experienced, with captain Guilhem Guirado back and Francois Trinh-Duc returning at fly half.
“We feel (Trinh-Duc) is back at full capacity to play. He tells me he sleeps well, that he feels good and he’s happy to be here. He seems fit to me,” added Noves of the 30-year-old pivot, who will start a first test since breaking his arm last November against Samoa in Toulouse.
South Africa coach Allister Coetzee confirmed they are anticipating a stepped up French performance.
“We know we will be up against a very well prepared French team in the second Test and we are readying ourselves for that. They would like to bounce back and we would like to continue with our processes. Both teams have a lot to play for,” he told a separate press conference in Durban.
“Although not perfect, I’m pleased with the set-pieces and expect a huge onslaught from the French in both areas," Coetzee said. "We created a number of scoring opportunities (in the first test), which is a great positive, and hopefully our execution will be better this time.”
South Africa made just one change to their winning first test outfit, with Lionel Mapoe replacing Jesse Kriel at centre.
Editing by Mark Heinrich