Gurthro Steenkamp believes the more prepared France will have that “extra edge” when the Springboks and Les Bleus clash in Marseille on Saturday.
Speaking on Rugby Pass’ ‘Le French Rugby Podcast’, Steenkamp, who earned 53 Test caps and helped South Africa win the 2007 Rugby World Cup, claimed France coach Fabien Galthie has prepped the 2022 Six Nations winners for anything that Rassie Erasmus and the world champions dish out at Stade Velodrome.
The Boks have not lost to France in over a decade, but were narrowly beaten by Ireland last week in the first of four end-of-year Tests in Europe.
“It’s kind of like watching two scientists at work, Rassie Erasmus and Fabien Galthie, because they’re both very meticulous in their work,” Steenkamp, the current La Rochelle scrum coach, said.
“I’ve especially been following the French team and what they’ve been doing; their preparation is unbelievable. Watching them train, everything is worked out to the smallest detail – the timing, the shot clock, everything. It’s all about precision and training with high intensity.
“It’s going to be quite tough but I do believe France has that extra edge.
“They have that ability to attack out of nowhere, and they’re so much more disciplined than they’ve been in the past. They’re solid on defence, and just got all these amazing players that are consistently playing at the highest level every single weekend.”
He added: “Born and bred in South Africa, I’ll always support the boys, but working with so many great players [at La Rochelle] … I don’t want to lie, it’s kind of difficult because I want the boys to do well.
“My heart says South Africa … knowing the Boks, they’re very disappointed and for us as SA rugby, it’s more than just a game, we’re representing a nation and creating hope.
“As players you always feel that responsibility to give back and lift spirits, so I know it’s a wounded beast that’s going to come into France.
“I’ve experienced games like that, losing on tour, and the pressure’s on – not just amongst each other as a team but from back home… The public is not always that lenient to the Springboks.”
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) November 10, 2022
On which team will have the advantage in the front-row battle on Saturday, the former Bok loosehead prop tipped his countrymen – but only just.
“Watching the Irish-Springbok clash, I was quite impressed by the Irish scrum, they put the Bok scrum under pressure, which we haven’t seen in a while. Very few teams have managed to achieve that. But Australia also managed to put the French team under pressure at scrum time,” he said.
“I’m sure the boys will be pumped up and have a point to prove and the scrum is about pride and there’s that ego part of it. That’s the thing being a prop … it’s like someone stole your cake, and us props we love our cake!
“It’s going to be a tough one [but] I do believe the Springboks at the moment – technically – they are the better team, but at the end of the day, France-SA anything can happen.”
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