Boks out to end perfect French Ellis Park record

Boks out to end perfect French Ellis Park record

Having sealed the three-Test series with two convincing triumphs, South Africa want to beat France at Ellis Park for the first time Saturday.   

Springboks SA Rugby

The Johannesburg stadium where the Springboks won the 1995 Rugby World Cup watched by then state president Nelson Mandela has been a happy hunting ground for Les Bleus.

France have played four Tests against South Africa there since 1958 and won them all -- by four, five, one and nine-point margins.

The most recent success at the 65,000-seat ground a few kilometres east of downtown Johannesburg came in 2001, with the tourists finishing 32-23 victors.

Based on the first two Tests of this series, South Africa are favoured to complete a 3-0 whitewash and continue on the road to recovery from a calamitous 2016 season.

Guided by new coach Allister Coetzee, the Springboks lost eight of 12 Tests, the worst calendar-year record for a country playing international rugby since 1891.

Coetzee survived intense close-season bashings from the public and media with former Springboks handler Nick Mallett saying better coaches of the green and gold had been axed. 

The 54-year-old incumbent, a former provincial scrum-half denied a chance to play for the Springboks by apartheid, blamed his late appointment last year for the horror campaign.

Amid media speculation that he would be sacked if the team suffered a series defeat against France, Coetzee vowed to deliver victories in his second season.

Playing with a spirit totally lacking last year and performing the basics well, South Africa punished understrength France to triumph 37-14 in Pretoria.

Bolstered by a number of Clermont and Toulon stars unavailable the previous weekend, France were expected to fare much better in the second Test in Durban.

But after camping inside the Springboks 22-metre line for much of the third quarter without scoring, France suffered an almost identical reverse, losing 37-15 at Kings Park.

South Africa have made four changes to the starting line-up for Johannesburg -- two of them injury enforced -- with Coetzee saying wholesale alterations would have been suicidal. 

"Changes were kept to a minimum because we have huge respect for this powerful French team. I anticipate a huge onslaught from them," he told reporters.

"This is the last match of the season for France and they will be highly motivated to finish on a high.

"We will have to work extremely hard to subdue a very physical French team who will test us in all departments."

"There is no room for complacency," he said of a side with two backline changes and two in the pack.

Having recovered from concussion, Jesse Kriel returns to outside centre with Lionel Mapoe switching to the South Africa A side that plays the French Barbarians in Soweto Friday.

Concussion has ruled out two other Durban starters with scrum-half Ross Cronje replaced by Francois Hougaard and the place of flanker Oupa Mohoje going to Jean-Luc du Preez.

Tighthead prop Ruan Dreyer wins a deserved first cap with many pundits believing he should have been there from the start of the series rather than Frans Malherbe.  

France coach Guy Noves has given a vote of confidence to the pack that started in Durban with No. 8 Louis Picamoles having recovered from a injury that led to him being substituted.

In backline changes, full-back Brice Dulin, winger Nans Ducuing and fly-half Jules Plisson replace South Africa-born Scott Spedding, unfit Yoann Huget and Francois Trinh-Duc.  

The Test marks the end of the season for France while South Africa begin their Rugby Championship campaign on August 19 at home to Argentina in Port Elizabeth.

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