Rugby Union: Springboks find taste for touring

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The Independent Online
THE Springboks have been received with alacrity in France by everyone except the sports minister and, as they begin the real business this afternoon against France Espoirs (Hopefuls) in Bordeaux, they have made it plain that they are set on enjoying it to the full, writes Steve Bale.

After the years of boycott, this evidently applies off the field as well as on it. Although the Espoirs have a threequarter line of internationals, this is not regarded as one of the hardest tour games. Even without the injured Philippe Sella, Aquitaine in Pau on Wednesday threatens much worse.

It is 11 years since South Africans retreated from their last tour, the visit to New Zealand which earned them the sobriquet 'Barbed-wire 'Boks'. Hence the enthusiasm with which this generation have taken to their host country.

'To be here is a real pleasure,' the prop Keith Andrews said. 'We are going to visit the Medoc, Lacanau and the beach, and above all St Emilion. Ah . . . French wines]' Andrews played for Aurillac two years ago, so knows what he is talking about. He plays today in a side containing only six of those who were trounced by Australia in August. Naas Botha leads.

'The South African players want to play and win against the French, but they also want to take advantage of the trip and collect souvenirs after 11 years of sanctions,' Jean Gabriel, the French federation's liaison man, said. 'They are asking us about the price of wines, the addresses of the best restaurants. They also want to party on and off the rugby field.'

If they keep up this pace, the Springboks will be spent by the time they reach their last match in France, against a French Barbarians side in Lille on 31 October. Serge Blanco, the captain and selector of the invitation team, has had an acceptance from Robert Jones, the Wales scrum-half, who will be the only home-union player in the French Baa-Baas team.

Swansea play Pontypridd in the Heineken League on the same day, a game which may cause Jones some complications. Originally Blanco approached Gary Armstrong, but the Scot felt he had to stay with his club, Jed-Forest, against Heriot's.