By Nick Said
(Reuters) - Planning, preparation and player management have been key to South Africa's success in 2013 and are just as important ahead of one of the biggest challenges of the year against France on Saturday, according to coach Heyneke Meyer.
Meyer is as meticulous in the way he approaches games as he is excitable during them and, barring injuries, admits he had his team selected for the Paris clash before the side left South Africa for their European tour.
"I do a lot of planning and I am clear in my mind what I want," Meyer told a press conference after his side beat Scotland 28-0 in Edinburgh on Sunday.
"What is important is that the players also know where they stand and they are a great bunch of guys who have accepted rotation selections where they are necessary."
It is that clarity of thinking that has helped South Africa to nine wins from 11 matches so far in 2013 - their only defeats coming at the hands of the world champion All Blacks.
"If we win in Paris it will give us an 80 percent plus record for the year and there have not been many occasions when the Boks have managed that in the post-isolation era, so I will be very happy with that," he added.
Meyer will be without veteran scrumhalf Fourie de Preez, who has been released from the squad in another move that was planned before the tour in conjunction with his Japanese club.
He will be replaced in the match day squad by Jano Vermaak, who recently joined French side Toulouse, while Ruan Pienaar will take over at number nine in the starting line-up.
Vermaak has played three times for the Springboks earlier this year after making his debut against Italy in June.
"Fourie will be sorely missed as he was man of the match in two of the five tests he played this season," Meyer said.
"He really put his body on the line the last fortnight, and we are very fortunate though to replace him with another world class player in Ruan Pienaar.
"It was always part of the plans for Jano to join the team for the France week. He needed game time and had stand-out performances for his club in the last couple of weeks.
"He has been part of the squad before and knows our plans and systems well."
South Africa have not beaten France away from home for 16 years, their last triumph a 52-10 victory in November 1997.
Since then they have lost four matches in a row, the last a 20-13 defeat in Toulouse in 2009.
(editing by Nick Mulvenney)