Siya Kolisi scored a try and set up another as South Africa counter-punched France to win 37-15 at King’s Park and clinch the three-Test series with one match remaining.
The Springboks have now taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series after last week’s 37-14 win in Pretoria with the final match to take place next weekend in Johannesburg.
The Boks continue on the road to redemption after last year’s annus horribilis. However, coach Allister Coetzee cannot rest on his laurels as a defeat next weekend could still cost him his job after the SARU ultimatum which said he had to win the series 3-0.
However, Coetzee would be satisfied with not just the winning margin but also the style of rugby his side are playing this year. And so the Springbok supporters should be, albeit grudgingly.
Tries from Jan Serfontein, Siya Kolisi, Coenie Oosthuizen and Elton Jantjies proved too much for the French who scored through Scott Spedding and Damian Penaud. Elton Jantjies produced a flawless 100 percent kicking display in which 17 points came from his boot.
South Africa attacked the gainline ferociously and were immense on defence driving the French back as well as creating a number of turnovers. The opening 20 minutes of the second half in which they resisted a sustained French onslaught was a throwback to the glory days of 2007 under Jake White. The Boks made 153 tackles with three players making over 15 tackles whereas the French only made 44.
Despite the French enjoying 66 percent possession and 64 percent territory, the Boks showed it is not about how much ball or territory you have, but how you use it and how clinical you are.
Some good work by the French backline down the left wing resulted in the game’s first try. Virimi Vakatawa broke three tackles to create the momentum and from the recycled ball Penaud managed to stay in the field of play before feeding Spedding who finished well in the corner. Francois Trinh-Duc added the extras to give les Bleus a 7-0 lead inside three minutes.
France had the better of the early possession enjoying over 70 percent of the ball in the first quarter. Despite this the Boks made a few promising line breaks but failed to convert. Mohoje was then knocked out after a heavy collision with Louis Picamoles and Jean-Luc Du Preez came on for his debut after only 13 minutes. Jantjies then pulled a penalty back for the Boks to make it 7-3.
On the 20 minute mark, the South Africans responded with a try. Good passing interplay saw the ball go down the left wing through the hands of Serfontein, Lionel Mapoe, Courtnall Skosan and Kolisi who offloaded brilliantly on the inside for Serfontein to dot down. Jantjies added the extras.
Soon after, Kolisi got in on the act with a sublime intercept in which he plucked the ball out of the air from inches above the ground and showed good speed to race in under the posts. It all came from a good Serfontein kick in behind the French defence which pressured the Les Bleus defence into throwing an errant pass.
Jantjies added a further two penalties in the first-half to ensure the Boks went in to the interval at 23-7 in the lead.
The French dominated the possession and territory stakes and applied persistent pressure on the Springbok try-line for the opening 20 minutes of the second half.
Credit must go to the Boks for surviving this onslaught with a heroic defensive effort. This will please the coaching staff and supporters greatly as it is something the Boks have always prided themselves on. All the French had to write home about for their sustained pressure was a sole Trinh-Duc penalty.
Having soaked up the pressure, the Boks went on to score their third try in the 69th minute. Pieter-Steph Du Toit showed the subtle touch and vision of a backline player with an expertly timed pass to Oosthuizen who ran a marvellous line and with that sort of momentum was not going to be stopped. Jantjies converted to give the Boks a 30-10 lead.
However, the French responded immediately from the re-start. South Africa were unable to secure the ball from the French kick-off and launched a swift counter-attack with Vakatawa integral to the move that saw Penaud dotting down on his debut.
The fourth Bok try came courtesy of some more Kolisi magic. Again he made an excellent intercept and ran fourty metres before producing a wonderful offload for Jantjies to cruise in under the posts. And that’s how it stayed until the final whistle with the Boks winning the match 37-15.
For South Africa:
Tries: Serfontein, Kolisi, Oosthuizen, Jantjies
Cons: Jantjies 4
Pens: Jantjies 3
Tries: Spedding, Penaud
SOUTH AFRICA: 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 Tendai Mtawarira
Bench: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 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
Bench: 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
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Angus Gardner (Australia)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)