Cape Town – The Springboks were always up against it once Pieter-Steph du Toit was sent off after 12 minutes, but the South Africans almost pulled off a stunning victory against France in Marseille.
Les Bleus scored eight points in the final six minutes to secure a 30-26 triumph and extend their winning streak to 12 matches.
But the Boks showed great determination to stay in the fight at the Stade Velodrome, and here is how we rated their performances…
Willie le Roux: 7
Le Roux brought some real bite to the Bok attack with his clever little cross-kicks, long passes and general organisation at the back. Was unlucky to have a pass to Damian Willemse in the 77th minute near the halfway line called forward by the referee.
Cheslin Kolbe: 8
After having to kick a lot in Dublin, Kolbe had the freedom to take on the French defence with ball-in-hand and made good metres. And how about that first goal-kick from 54 metres out… A real pity that he didn’t return for the last 30 minutes after being taken out in the air by Antoine Dupont.
Jesse Kriel: 6
The Bok No 13 was again strong in the tackle and played his part in smothering the French defence, although they did find space in the wider channels. Kriel didn’t have many chances to stretch his legs with ball-in-hand.
Damian de Allende: 7
France were disrupted by No 12 Jonathan Danty going off injured in the Pieter-Steph du Toit red-card incident, and De Allende took full advantage in punching holes in midfield with powerful carries and tackles, as the hosts opted to bring on loose forward Sekou Macalou as a replacement.
Kurt-Lee Arendse: 8
Mzwandile Stick recently called Arendse a “copy and paste” of Kolbe, and that is one of the finest compliments he can receive as he justified his selection ahead of Makazole Mapimpi with a busy display. The Bulls star kept his composure well to stay in-field and score his try, while he was energetic in defence and ran hard from the back too.
Damian Willemse: 7
The sidesteps were still present, but Willemse got his entire backline into the game much more than he did against Ireland, and defended in his usual forceful manner. There was greater width on the Bok attack as the No 10 – along with Le Roux – got the ball into space via passes and cross-kicks. Willemse also showcased his temperament by slotting a pressure-filled penalty from over 50 metres to stretch the lead to 26-22.
Faf de Klerk: 8
Siya Kolisi said in the post-match TV interview that the Boks “could have been a little bit better in our kicking game… kick a bit shorter so that we could get up in the air a little bit more and have a contest instead of kicking it so far that they can call marks” – and he may have been directing that at De Klerk, who couldn’t quite find his touch with the boot.
But the Bok scrumhalf made up for that with an influential display as he delivered a slick service from the base, helped to shut down French No 9 Antoine Dupont, and made a superb break from a tap penalty that eventually led to Dupont’s red-card tackle on Kolbe.
As if that was not enough, De Klerk also slotted a conversion and penalty at goal.
Kwagga Smith: 6
A late inclusion following Jasper Wiese’s withdrawal, Smith was his usual combative self and ran fearlessly at the defence. Made one memorable turnover after Kolisi and Eben Etzebeth roughed up a French ball-carrier, but also dropped a kickoff immediately after the Bok captain had scored.
Unfortunately played a part in Pieter-Steph du Toit’s red card as he pushed the Bok No 7 forward, which saw him make direct contact to the head of Danty.
Pieter-Steph du Toit: 3
Only lasted for 12 minutes until he got a red card for a dangerous clean-out on Danty, although he was a bit unlucky as he was shoved in the back by Kwagga Smith, which propelled him forward into the French No 12.
Siya Kolisi: 9
It was one of those vintage Kolisi nights as the Springbok skipper carried and tackled relentlessly, and scored a try as well to help give his team a chance of an unlikely victory following Du Toit’s departure. Also made some brave captaincy calls in asking the likes of Kolbe and Willemse to have a shot at goal from over 50 metres, and they nailed it.
Perhaps if he had been on the pitch at the end instead of being replaced by Marvin Orie in the 72nd minute, the Boks would’ve closed out the victory?
Franco Mostert: 6
The workhorse of the pack got through lots of dirty work in defence as usual, and offered himself up as a ball-carrier at close quarters. But Mostert will be disappointed that the Boks lost three lineouts in the first half on his watch as the caller – with one throw going through his hands, although France competed well in the air – while he also made an early knock-on.
Eben Etzebeth: 8
The Bok enforcer delivered another vigorous performance and set the tone as the pack won the physical battle on the night. Etzebeth was efficient in the lineouts too, and got through a mountain of work as a ball-carrier and tackler in the tight-loose.
Frans Malherbe: 7
The Bok stalwart put the heat on France loosehead Cyril Baille in the scrums, although he didn’t always receive the reward from the referee.
Malherbe made a few carries and produced his usual share of tackles as well.
Bongi Mbonambi: 5
Reinstated in the No 2 jersey, Mbonambi controlled the ball well at the back of the mauls, and made a couple of runs. But when your team lose three lineouts in the first half alone, the hooker has to take his share of the blame too.
Mbonambi was off for 12 minutes for a concussion test, but then lasted just 10 more before being replaced by Malcolm Marx.
Ox Nche: 7
He repaid the faith shown in him by the Bok coach as a replacement for Steven Kitshoff by keeping the French defence busy with a few barnstorming runs, while he stood strong in the scrums and contested the breakdowns as well.
Best off the Bench: Malcolm Marx: 7
After the Bok lineout’s initial struggles, Marx found his target almost immediately, which led to Kolisi’s try. Made an impact in the scrum too, and worked hard to slow down France’s possession at the breakdowns.