A satisfying tour end

2013-11-25 00:00

THE blend of power, aggressive defence and tactical nous carried the Springboks to a most satisfying 19-10 win over France in front of 80 000 freezing supporters in Paris on Saturday night.

The South Africans threw a strong defensive blanket over the disjointed French who no longer have the flair, skill and pace to create their old magic.

The Springboks ended their tour unbeaten, downing Six Nations champions Wales 24-15, Scotland 28-0 and France by nine points, a margin of victory that flattered Les Bleus. Significantly, and at the end of a marathon season, the Springboks conceded only one try, while scoring eight of their own, in 240 minutes of rugby on tour.

For the third successive week, they had to play on a slippery, unsuitable surface but, ironically, the poor pitch hurt the French more than the South Africans. Not only did scrumhalf Morgan Parra slip as he attempted, and missed, an easy penalty, but the power of the French scrum was defused by the treacherous underfoot conditions.

Referee Wayne Barnes was patient in managing the scrum, refusing to penalise or yellow-card the props when they regularly went to ground (“stand closer and scrum higher” he told the front-rows). This allowed new Bok tighthead Coenie Oosthuizen to settle in impressively and the South Africans held an unexpected edge in the scrums.

The lineouts were less impressive, with the Springboks missing their most effective jumper, lock Eben Etzebeth, who left the field after 12 minutes with an ankle injury to be replaced by Bakkies Botha.

The only two tries of the game were scored at the start and end of the first half. With the game a minute old, Morgan Parra’s attempted kick to touch was charged down by hard-chasing wing JP Pietersen, who scored, and Morné Steyn converted from the touchline.

Scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar and fullback Willie le Roux, who continued to impress at fullback, kept the French pinned in their own half for long periods with their tactical kicks and Steyn banged home two penalties for a 13-0 lead.

But the Springboks, on the half-time break, failed to control a French kick-off and Pascal Pape, appearing close to off-side at the side of the ruck, stole the ball and Yoann Huget crossed in the corner. The television referee awarded the try, Parra converted from the touchline (13-7) and the French crowd suddenly found their voice.

The Boks dominated the second half and they would have killed off the contest had Scottish TMO Iain Ramage not disallowed two South African tries.

The first came after the Boks attacked after winning a tighthead and Ruan Pienaar’s pass went backwards off Steyn’s hands. Jean de Villiers picked up the ball behind him before slicing through a gap for Jaque Fourie, on his shoulder, to cross. Ramage ruled that the ball had been knocked on by Steyn.

Ten minutes later, Le Roux chipped behind the French cover and Francois Louw appeared to score. The TMO disagreed, ruling that Huget, touching the ball but not exerting the necessary downward pressure, had denied Louw.

While the decisions did not impact on the result, it did spoil the flow of the game, keeping the French in the game and just six off the pace. The Springboks, feeling vulnerable, were forced to keep playing their territory-based game instead of expressing themselves more on attack.

Steyn, doing what he does best, kicked a third penalty after an hour (16-7) and France’s substitute prop Thomas Domingo was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on Bryan Habana 12 minutes from time. But Louw soon followed him with his second yellow-card of the tour for a push in the face of Pape. Jean-Marc Doussain kicked the resultant penalty in the 73rd minute to bring France back to within a score (16-10) before Pat Lambie, replacing flyhalf Steyn, kicked a penalty in the 77th minute to seal the nine-point win.

It was the most satisfying of nights for the South Africans as they exploited their excellent defence and effective kick-and-chase game, and they looked much the better, more organised team.

The French backline, under pressure from the strong South African defence, never looked the part. They were short of ideas, lacked creativity and made a host of handling and passing errors. For many years you would never dare say that about a French backline.


South Africa 19 – Try: JP Pietersen; Conversion: Morné Steyn; Penalties: Morné Steyn 3 and Patrick Lambie.

France 10 – Try: Sofiane Guitone; Conversion: Morgan Parra; Penalty: Jean Marc Doussian.

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