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DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) - A stiff challenge is expected from tourists France in Saturday’s second test against South Africa and will give the hosts a better indication of whether they are emerging from a 2016 slump, Springbok captain Warren Whiteley said on Friday.
“We do expect France to be much improved. They have brought in guys who played in the Top 14 and they are experienced players,” he told a press conference on the eve of the clash at King’s Park Rugby Stadium in Durban.
“The French side that plays us on Saturday is a good team and maybe that is a good thing for us, in that the match will be a big challenge and tell us where we are as a team.
“We expect the French to be more physical. They will be direct in their approach and they will have strengthened their set-pieces, both the lineouts and the scrums.
“But we have focused more on ourselves this week rather than pay too much attention to the opposition. We are focused on improving what we started last week,” Whiteley told reporters.
South Africa lost eight of their 12 internationals last year in their worst ever 12-month return, but made a positive start to their 2017 programme by beating the French 37-14 in the opening test at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
“A series win would mean a lot to us but we haven’t even spoken about it or mentioned it," said Whiteley.
"We are focusing on this game as an individual game. We have had the same approach as we had last week and are just aiming at bettering our performance. We know we can definitely improve on what we did at Loftus."
South Africa have made just one change to their line-up, with concussions ruling out centre Jesse Kriel and bringing in Lionel Mapoe.
"The preparations have been great though and the intensity has been great, so I am sure we can sort out the areas we fell down on in Pretoria," Whiteley added.
France coach Guy Noves named eight changes on Thursday, forming a markedly strengthened line-up for the second test with captain Guilhem Guirado returning and Francois Trinh Duc partnering Baptiste Serin in a new halfback pairing.
Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Mark Heinrich