Saturday 16 December 2017

New-look Boks 'embrace diversity'

Warren Whiteley:
Warren Whiteley: "We have a massive opportunity to build something special in this team." Photo: Getty Images

Nick Clarke

New South Africa captain Warren Whiteley hopes to cap a week in which he became a father for the second time with the rebirth of a feared Springboks team and a Test victory over France at Loftus Versfeld today.

The Boks are coming off their worst season in history - in 2016 they lost eight of their 12 Tests, including a first home defeat to Ireland and a maiden loss to Italy.

And Whiteley accepts that they will have no excuses if they fail to beat an under-strength French outfit.

"Everything has been going so well at training. It's been so easy for me these past few weeks," he said.

"We have a massive opportunity to build something special in this team. We've had sufficient time to prepare going into this season. We've had some great training camps."

Whiteley has praised the culture within the new-look Bok squad that has five uncapped players in the match-day 23 and just four of the team that started the 27-13 loss to Wales in November.

"It's about becoming a family, about embracing each other as individuals, and about embracing our diversity, because we are a diverse nation and a diverse team," he added.

"It's been a great build-up for me, for rugby and personal reasons, and the game at Loftus will be the cherry on the cake.

"We are determined to put some pride back into the jersey. We've worked extremely hard over the past few months."

South Africa coach Allister Coetzee has included four debutants in his starting line-up, including Ghana-born wing Raymond Rhule.

The other uncapped players are full-back Andries Coetzee, wing Courtnall Skosan and scrum-half Ross Cronje, all from the Lions Super Rugby franchise.

Second-row Yoann Maestri will captain a depleted France team, with coach Guy Noves having decided not to include any of the seven players in his squad from Top 14 finalists Clermont Auvergne and Toulon.

South Africa v France,

Live, Sky Sports 3, 4.0pm

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