Victory shows Boks’ depth

2010-06-14 00:00

THE healthy mix of pace, power, intensity and opportunism proved far too much for the French as the Springboks dumped the European champions 42-17 at Newlands on Saturday.

It was a victory which again underlined the depth in South African rugby while vindicating a number of the fringe selections of coach Peter de Villiers and his panel.

No one could have expected the victory to be as emphatic, both on the scoreboard and in the style it was achieved, and the French never recovered from their nightmare opening quarter, which saw them trail 17-0.

It was also the most satisfying of victories for the Springboks, who have battled against the French in recent years.

Captain John Smit, who left the field with a hamstring strain at half-time, said the win would provide the Boks with a massive psychological boost ahead of the international season and next year’s World Cup.

“It was crucial in the greater scheme of things that we won this Test,” Smit said. “We did the basics really and that was the secret to the win.”

But the Boks, slick and fast, also finished off clinically as number eight Pierre Spies burst away after a Bryan Habana intercept to score in the opening moments, and then small wing Gio Aplon bumped and stepped his way through to score the second.

With Morné Steyn adding seven points with the boot, the French were quickly down 0-17 and they said later that the opening quarter decided the Test as a contest.

French coach Marc Lievremont said as he reflected on the defeat, “It is difficult to find a word to describe our performance. We knew it was going to be physical and we came to South Africa with great expectations.

“But our first 20 minutes were catastrophic. When we gave the Boks the lead it was always going to be difficult to come back. We did not plan a poor start like that.

“The Springboks were opportunistic in their approach from the outset and did well to capitalise on our errors in the first 20 minutes. There was not much we could do to get back into the game.”

His captain, Thierry Dusautoir, also bemoaned his team’s ragged start.

“It was the first 20 minutes that cost us and the Boks exploited the errors we committed early on.”

He refused to blame the referee’s interpretations, which resulted in a slew of early penalties against the French.

“At one point, I didn’t realise we were playing under new law interpretations,” he added.

Loosehead prop Gurthro Steen­kamp, put into space by a long Steyn pass, gleefully dived over after half-an-hour and the Boks were ahead 25-10 at the break.

But the killer try, and the second by Aplon, came early in the second half when the French seemed certain to score, but dropped the ball, and the Bok wing, in true sevens style, nosed into a gap and ran 90 metres to score.

Replacement lock Flip van der Merwe was yellow-carded for a technical foul, but he was not missed at the strong lineout drive which saw flank Francois Louw score the Boks’ fifth try in the 76th minute (42-10).

Marc Andreu scored a consolation try on the final whistle (42-17), but the French were a well beaten side.

Bok coach De Villiers was chuffed by the quality of the win over a strong French side.

“Their forwards are bulky and physical and we had to be on top of our game to just match them. We did more than that.

“We showed intent from the beginning of the match and were direct and accurate in everything we did.”

De Villiers said he was disappointed that the Boks relaxed after going well clear at the start and they placed themselves under pressure.

“Thankfully they didn’t punish us too badly,” he said.

De Villiers said he was delighted with the improved scrummaging while Matfield and company constantly threatened the French at the lineout.

But it was the form of the reserve players and the depth in the squad which pleased him most.

“I can honestly say that for the first time in two years I don’t have any doubts about a player’s ability to come up to scratch when he comes off the substitutes’ bench,” said De Villiers.

“What we’ve done with our selections [of the two Test teams] is to give ourselves an opportunity ahead of the Tri-Nations and the Rugby World Cup next year to settle down as a combination.

“What we saw from this team against France was most heartening,” said the Bok coach.

 

SCORERS

South Africa: Tries — Pierre Spies, Gio Aplon (2), Gurthro Steenkamp, Francois Louw. Conversions — Morne Steyn (3), Ruan Pienaar. Penalties — Steyn (3)

France: Tries — Aurelien Rougerie, Marc Andreu. Conversions — Morgan Parra, David Skrela. Penalty — Parra.

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