The Springboks have secured a series victory against France after a 37-15 win at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.
And still the Springboks did not yield.
They were warned the French would be more physical, and they were, but their zeal and energy waned as the Springboks refused to yield. In the second half they attacked the Springbok line for 12 minutes, 25 phases in one batch, 10 in another, and still the Springboks did not yield.
The Springboks were warned that this French team, bolstered by first-choice players who had been allowed to rest in Pretoria and it made little difference to the Springboks. In Pretoria they won 37-14, four tries to two. This time they won 37-15, four tries to two.
They were called on to make 185 tackles and made 169 of them. The French had to make 72 tackles and missed 14 of them.
Clearly this Springboks team is not going to be intimidated and is not going to yield. It deserves the respect of all opponents and the admiration of all spectators.
The Springboks are back.
The change is remarkable - same head coach, same player pool and a vastly changed approach. What is the reason(s) for the change? It's worth examination.
The match started at a cracking place. The first stoppage after three minutes' play was a try, not a refereeing intervention.
From the start South Africa ran with a will. South Africa kicked off, France got the ball and François Trinh-Duc kicked towards the touchline on his left. Andries Coetzee raced to catch the ball and kept on running in counterattack. A strong counter-ruck won France a turnover and they ran. Virimi Vakatawa beat Raymond Rhule and Malcolm Marx down the left and they went through phases and then went back left where Scott Spedding gave to Vakatawa who charged down the touchline. The big Fijian gave inside to new cap Damian Penaud and the willowy centre played inside to Spedding who headed for the corner as Etzebeth tried to wrestle him into touch.
The TMO was able to tell the referee that by a hair's breadth Spedding had not been in touch and so the try stood. Scrumhalf Baptiste Serin converted from touch. 7-0 to France after 3 minutes.
After the kick-off Trinh-Duc was penalised for being offside and Elton Jantjies goaled. 7-3 after 5 minutes. That penalty was the referee's first intervention in the match.
From a Springbok line-out Raymond Rhule was put into a gap and raced swerving past a defender and the Springboks looked set to score but the opportunity was destroyed by a wayward pass that went into touch.
At this stage Oupa Mahoje was injured onto a tackle on Louis Picamoles and was taken off on a mobile stretcher, his place taken by Jean-Luc du POreez. Picamoles also left the field soon after, his place taken by Bernard le Roux of Moorreesburg.
From a line-out on their left, the Springboks went wide right and then wide left where Siya Kolisi gave Jan Serfontein a pass with a clear run to the line. Jantjies converted, and after 20 minutes the Springboks led 10-7, a lead they built on.
Jan Serfontein kicked a long way downfield and chased his kick. Trinh-Duc fielded the ball and tried to run but Serfontein tackled him. Tackled, Trinh-Duc tried to pass to his left but Siya Kolisi put out a hand and intercepted the low ball. The elegant flank then raced 40 metres to score under the posts. 17-7 after 26 minutes.
The Springboks mauled from a line-out and were going well. Guilhem Guirado was penalised for trying illegally to stop the match. Jantjies goaled 23-7 after 38 minuets, the half-time score with the French seemingly tamed.\\
The French returned to the fray with renewed energy and determination. This was the period of 12 minutes spent battering at the Springbok line.
They went through one sequence of 25 phases.
They had two five-metre scrums.
They went through a sequence of 10 phases.
They had a five-metre penalty.
They had a five-metre line-out.
They then had another five-metre penalty and tapped to go left, but Rhule intercepted.
The Springbok defence was magnificent - all of them. In this prolonged attack, Franco Mostert tackled 19 times, Frans Malherbe 13 times, Etzebeth and Serfointein 12 times each.
It was not completely over. When the Springboks were freekicked at a scrum five metres from the line, France opted for a scrum and Yacouba Camara gave to Penaud who dived for the line as Ross Cronje tackled him. This time the TMO detected a French foot in touch. The Springboks survived, though a penalty against Mostert for being offside gave Trinh-Duc the easiest of kicks. 23-10 after 58 minutes.
From now on changes happened till all the bench had a chance to play.
One of those who came on was Coenie Oosthuizen who scored the next try.
Marx and Whiteley had set the Springboks on the attack. They went far right and came back where Pieter-Steph du Toit gave Coenie a perfect pass. The burly prop had positioned himself opposite a gap and nobody in France could have stopped him as he scored near the posts. 30-10 after 69 minutes.
France won the ball from the kick-off and they went left. Lanky Penaud beat three defenders to score. 30-15 with 8 minutes to play.
A penalty to the Springboks gave them a five-metre line-out but Bongi Mbonambi threw over the line-out and France came away with the ball. Vakatawa had an open line in front of him but Rhule caught him from behind and tackled him into touch.
Just inside his half Kolisi intercepted a pass and ran away. With Spedding and Gaël Fickou bearing down on him as he crossed the French 22, he passed to Jantjies who had a clear run to the posts for his first try in Test rugby.
The win gave South Africa an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-Test series ahead of their final Test at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on 24 June 2017.
Man of the Match: Jan Serfontein was a strong candidate and so was Jean-Luc du Preez but our choice is the flank who tackled his heart out, ran with effect, scored a try and made two tries - Siya Kolisi.
Moment of the Match: Those 12 minutes of Springbok defence in the second half, the rock that wrecked the French attack.
Villain of the Match: Nobody. It was a hard but clean and well-mannered match.
For South Africa:
Tries: Serfontein, Kolisi, Oosthuizen, Jantjies
Cons: Jantjies 4
Pens: Jantjies 3
Tries: Spedding, Penaud
South Africa: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Coenraad Oosthuizen, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Francois Steyn, 23 Dillyn Leyds.
France: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Damian Penaud, 12 Gaël Fickou, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 François Trinh-Duc, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Kevin Gourdon, 6 Yacouba Camara, 5 Yoann Maestri (captain), 4 Romain Taofifenua, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1 Jefferson Poirot.
Replacements: 16 Clément Maynadier, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Uini Atonio, 19 Julien le Devedec, 20 Bernard le Roux, 21 Antoine Dupont, 22 Jean-Marc Doussain, 23 Nans Ducuing.
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Angus Gardner (Australia)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)
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