The Springboks produced a superior physical performance to beat France 37-15 on Saturday and clinch the series. JON CARDINELLI at Kings Park reports.
In the lead-up to the second Test, captain Warren Whiteley said that his charges wanted to be measured by their performance against a full-strength France side. Whiteley called for a lift in intensity and physicality in anticipation of an almighty French onslaught.
The Boks will feel that they passed the French trial by fire. Their set piece was dominant, as was their performance at the gainline.
The highlight, however, was the display at the breakdown. The Boks' ability to hold their ground over the ball and in many instances win turnover penalties was game-shaping.
Siya Kolisi was the standout for the Boks, both at the breakdown and with ball in hand. Jean-Luc du Preez made a massive impact when he was introduced after just 13 minutes.
France dominated the early exchanges. The visitors breached the Boks’ defence on several occasions during the first quarter, and Raymond Rhule battled to keep the French ball-carriers honest on the right wing. When Scott Spedding scored in the corner after three minutes, it looked as if the Boks may be in for a long evening.
The complexion of the game changed after one particular collision. Louis Picamoles ran into Oupa Mohoje, and the latter was forced to leave the field.
Almost immediately, Du Preez, Mohoje’s replacement, made a difference at the breakdowns and collisions. The Boks began to make some progress in the physical fight.
By the end of the half, there was no doubt regarding the victor in this department. The Boks scored two tries during the first stanza. Elton Jantjies ensured that the hosts converted forward pressure into points with three penalty goals. At 23-7, the Boks were well in control.
Kolisi was involved in the buildup to the Boks’ first try, delivering the final pass to Jan Serfontein. The second try was the product of a great defensive read by the Bok No 6.
François Trinh-Duc was caught in a tackle well behind the gainline, and decided to throw an offload. Kolisi timed his run to perfection, intercepting the pass and then racing towards the tryline.
Last week, the flanker didn’t have the pace to finish. On this occasion, Kolisi showed sufficient speed to score under the posts.
French heads began to drop, They battled to maintain their discipline in the dying stages of the first half, and found themselves going to the break some 16 points behind on the scoreboard.
The Bok performance was not as convincing in the second half. Both their attack and defence fired in patches. In fact, it was France who scored the first points of the stanza – a penalty goal via Trinh-Duc.
That penalty left the visitors needing 14 points for victory in the remaining 18 minutes. France’s poor discipline and defence would let them down again, though, at a crucial stage in the game.
Replacement prop Coenie Oosthuizen ran a great line to breach the defence and steamroller the last would-be tackle. With Jantjies adding the extras, the game was effectively over as a contest.
The 41,800-strong crowd at Kings Park seemed to sense that a win, and a series victory, was in the offing, and began to sing ‘Ole, ole, ole.’
The Bok defence conceded a second try in the 70th minute when Damian Penaud exposed some weak tackling on the right wing. The hosts’ discipline in the final stages of the contest also left a lot to be desired.
But the Boks, and that man Kolisi in particular, would have the final say. The flanker made a searing break after the hosts had secured yet another turnover. The cover defence managed to haul Kolisi in, but not before he found Jantjies with an offload. The flyhalf went on to score under the posts and ensure that the hosts ended the match on a high.
The result sees the Boks taking an unassailable lead in the series. The third and final game will be played next Saturday in Johannesburg.
Springboks – Tries: Jan Serfontein, Siya Kolisi, Elton Jantjies, Coenie Oosthuizen. Conversions: Jantjies (4). Penalties: Jantjies (3).
France – Tries: Scott Spedding, Damian Penaud. Conversion: Baptiste Serin. Penalty: François Trinh-Duc.
Springboks – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Su bs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Coenie Ooshuizen, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Frans 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 Kévin Gourdon, 6 Yacouba Camara, 5 Romain Taofifeuna, 4 Yoann Maestri, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (c), 1 Jefferson Poirot.
Subs: 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.
Photo: Anne Laing/HM Images