South Africa leave it late in Paris
Cape Town – South Africa extended their winning streak to seven matches over France when hooker Bongi Mbonambi scored from the back of a rolling maul nearly four minutes after the final hooter, to give the Springboks a 29-26 win in Paris on Saturday night.
Following last week’s 12-11 loss to England the Springboks needed to bounce back with a strong performance against Les Blues at Stade de France, and although this was not emphatic, they delivered in dramatic fashion.
A final play that started close to Boks’ tryline when flank Francois Louw won his second turnover penalty in the closing five minutes, ended with a lineout drive and Mbonambi’s winning score nearly four minutes later.
Flyhalf Handre Pollard kicked seven from seven from the tee to contribute 19 points to the effort while the Boks bench made a telling difference in the dying coals of the game.
Until that point there could have been qualms had France won what was a tight match as the Boks gave another error-strewn display that gave the home team an iron grip on most of the match.
This was the Boks’ sixth win in 12 Tests this year and was a relief after some narrow defeats this season but it was still far from a vintage display even if wings Cheslin Kolbe and Aphiwe Dyantyi crossed the French line only to have their scores disallowed.
The forwards were powerful with Duane Vermeulen making metres and defending strongly while the lineout was perfect after last week’s misfire at Twickenham. But tactical kicking and the attack were erratic while there were too many missed tackles.
France deservedly led at the break after asking tough questions of the Bok defence, of which only some were answered.
The Springbok kicking game relied heavily on scrumhalf Faf de Klerk’s boot and he was unable to find the pinpoint accuracy he needed to allow his runners to pressurise the receiver consistently.
From the time they had on the ball, France fullback Maxine Medard and wing Teddy Thomas were able to expose cracks in the Boks’ wide defence. Only France’s own lack of clinical finishing spared the Boks further embarrassment in a first half that saw the Boks miss 18 out of 90 tackles.
France hooker Guilhem Guirado scored the only try of the half when he bashed over from close range, which came moments after Thomas carved a huge hole in the Bok defence, where skipper Siya Kolisi missed a routine tackle.
Thomas made 50 metres and only a brilliantly executed tackle by fullback Willie le Roux saved the day, although Thomas botched it with two support runners on his inside.
Scrumhalf Baptiste Serin landed two first half penalties with flyhalf Camille Lopez also slotting a drop-kick to keep the scoreboard moving for Les Blues.
Serin’s first two penalties gave the home side a 6-0 lead but three Pollard penalties followed – the Bok flyhalf moving beyond 300 Test point in the process.
Things couldn’t have been much worse for the Boks two minutes into the second half when wing Sbu Nkosi botched a deadly Lopez up-and-under.
Quickest to react was centre Mathieu Bastareaud to score France’s second try, which Serin converted to open a 14-point buffer.
Nkosi made immediate amends with a try from the restart as France botched the Boks kick-off, which allowed the tourists back into the match immediately.
They still had to chip away at the lead, but it finally feels like luck has turned South Africa’s way on this trek through Britain and France.
France – Tries: Guilhem Guirado, Matthieu Bastareaud. Conversions: Baptiste Serin (2). Penalties: Serin (3). Drop-Goal: Camille Lopez South Africa – Tries: S’bu Nkosi, Bongi Mbonambi. Conversions: Handre Pollard (2). Penalties: Pollard (5)