South Africa beat France to earn their second win on the road

France vs South Africa - Stade de France, Saint-Denis, France - November 18, 2017   South Africa's Jesse Kriel in action.
France vs South Africa - Stade de France, Saint-Denis, France - November 18, 2017 South Africa's Jesse Kriel in action.
Image: REUTERS

The Springboks drowned out the near deafening chant 'Allez les Bleus' in the closing minutes to earn just their second win on the road on a chilly evening in Paris on Saturday.

It would have been heart warming, especially the last passage of play, for beleagured coach Allister Coetzee to watch his young charges eke out a close win.

It was one of his objectives to win close games on this tour and last night he got his wish, especiallywith the pong of the Dublin Debacle still in the air.

There was rare respite for him here but he'll know better than to swing from the chandeliers just yet.

This week marks the 20th anniversary of South Africa's triumph of fist thumping authority over France in the hosts' last Test at the Park des Princes.

They won 52-10 then but these are very different times.

If anything this match played itself out along similar lines to the one they played at this sporting cathedral almost to the day in November 2013. The Boks won 19-10 with Heyneke Meyer at the helm then.

It required firm resolve to keep France at arm's length then and again the Boks with not much going for them by way of form and resultant confidence had to scrap for every morsel.

Their defence stood the challenge here and they will fly to Italy with the slightest spring in their step, although not so for captain Eben Etzebeth.

Etzebeth was withdrawn from the action in the 63rd minute with what looked like a knee injury. It casts doubt over his ability to play next weekend against Italy in Padua.

It was difficult to separate these sides in the build up and so it proved at the final whistle. Had Handre Pollard found the middle of the uprights with greater regularity the Boks would have won by a greater margin.

The French are under the cost and they played with desperaation last night.

It's been a long time since the French have assemble a team of substance. Just as much as Springbok rugby is hamstrung by defections to this country, the proliferation of foreigners in the Top 14 has diluted the French talent base.

Coach Guy Noves is under pressure with four straight defeats, while some senior players are having harsher light directed at their performances.

The Boks however repelled their advances. Malcolm Marx again delivered a jaw dropping display, while Lood de Jager and Etzebeth were full of second row industry. Francois Venter brought more direction in midfield. His no frills running are at the very least incisive.

Marx proven a limpet mine over the ball, while he has the odd devilish offload in him too. Increased dexterity will make him a complete player.

Pollard's performance was less assured. He said in the build up that he had not felt physically better inthelast two years.

He missed a fourth attempt at goal in the 54th minute.

The Springboks haven't had a commanding performance of the wearer of the No10 jersey for some time.

Coetzee sought to lower expectations in the build up by stressing the late kick-off and the expected greasy conditions the teams were likely to face.

France however started in almost cheerily optimistic fashion with a stirring opening passage that saw the seamless transfer of the ball between backs and forwards.

A timely turn over however, didn't just beat off the imminent threat, the tourists against all expectation were also caught up in the attacking frenzy and ran their way out of trouble.

Their attacking intent prevailed and the French defence yielded to Dillyn Leyds' final advance. Although he had to stretch far for the line it was a team try in every sense with its origins in a solid scrum inside their half.

Again failure to deal with the high ball caused consternation in the Bok ranks. Leyds was a bystander as the ball bounced favourably into French hands and once Teddy Thomas found space on the right wing the Bok defence looked as solid as a soufflé.

Flyhalf Anthony Belleau had a lot of tiptoeing todo before he could round off but he did so with aplomb.

Belleau delivered an accomplished performance. His distribution is neat and as he showed in the try, he has quick feet.

If Bok rugby is in peril, the French aren't far behind.

ScorersFrance (17). Tries: Anthony Belleau, Baptiste Serin. Conversions: Belleau (2). Penalty: Belleau.

South Africa (18) Tries: Dillyn Leyds, Jesse Kriel. Conversion: Handre Pollard. Penalties: Pollard (2).

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