PARIS — France is unchanged for the rugby test against South Africa at Stade de France on Saturday because coach Guy Noves believes the players deserve another chance after losing heavily to New Zealand.
A France side with four new starters was overwhelmed in the first half of the 38-18 home defeat to the All Blacks last Saturday. But the players responded with a better performance in the second half to limit the damage.
“This team has potential and we couldn’t judge its true level in the first test,” Noves said on Thursday. “This team has the right to make up for things after the first-half failure against the All Blacks.”
Young halves pairing Antoine Dupont and Anthony Belleau played together for the first time against the All Blacks and showed glimpses of their potential.
Burly center Mathieu Bastareaud keeps his place in midfield alongside Geoffrey Doumayrou, who wins his second test cap.
Belleau, flanker Judicael Cancoriet, and lock Paul Gabrillagues also make their second appearances.
“It’s normal to give them another chance,” Noves said. “We weren’t going to throw the players into the nettles after some of them had made their first appearances.”
There is one change to the reserves, with prop Sebastien Taofifenua replacing Raphael Chaume.
It was the complete opposite from South Africa as coach Allister Coetzee made 10 changes after losing to Ireland by a record 38-3 last weekend.
Among the notable changes, the experienced Duane Vermeulen comes in at No. 8 for Francois Louw, who moves to flanker in a positional switch.
Vermeulen has played his club rugby with French club Toulon — a three-time European champion — since 2015.
“Duane is very experienced and fits in well with our plan for Saturday. He is a great lineout and ball-carrying option,” Coetzee said. “His presence and knowledge of the French is also a huge benefit for us.”
Flyhalf Handre Pollard replaces Elton Jantjies, and Francois Venter comes in at inside center for Damian de Allende.
Pollard is back after niggling injuries since he last played for the Springboks in the bronze-medal match at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
“Handre has trained exceptionally hard the past few months,” Coetzee said. “He is looking forward to the opportunity to once more start in the Springbok jersey.”
Prop Coenie Oosthuizen, who seriously damaged knee ligaments against Ireland, was replaced by Wilco Louw for his first test start.
“Wilco did very well last Saturday and gained valuable experience when he came on as an early replacement for Coenie,” Coetzee said. “He deserves the opportunity to start against a strong French pack of forwards.”
The Springboks easily swept aside France in June, winning all three tests at home by more than 20 points. South Africa also won the last time it came to France, 19-10 at Stade de France. Its on a five-match winning run against the Tricolors.
“France is a much changed and improved side and will certainly pose a different challenge this time,” Coetzee said.
“We have to be at our best in terms of tactics, physicality, and mental preparation, in order to confront and match France in front of their passionate supporters.”
France: Nans Ducuing, Teddy Thomas, Mathieu Bastareaud, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Yoann Huget, Anthony Belleau, Antoine Dupont; Louis Picamoles, Kevin Gourdon, Judicael Cancoriet, Paul Gabrillagues, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Rabah Slimani, Guilhem Guirado (captain), Jefferson Poirot. Reserves: Clement Maynadier, Sebastien Taofifenua, Daniel Kotze, Paul Jedrasiak, Anthony Jelonch, Baptiste Serin, Francois Trinh-Duc, Damian Penaud.
South Africa: Andries Coetzee, Dillyn Leyds, Jesse Kriel, Francois Venter, Courtnall Skosan, Handre Pollard, Ross Cronje, Duane Vermeulen, Siya Kolisi, Francois Louw, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth (captain), Wilco Louw, Malcolm Marx, Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Trevor Nyakane, Franco Mostert, Dan du Preez, Rudy Paige, Elton Jantjies, Damian de Allende.