Springboks end Ellis Park French voodoo
REPORT: The Springboks ended France's dominance over them at Ellis Park when they secured a 35-12 victory that also ensured a 3-0 series whitewash on Saturday.
What a difference team spirit makes! For one thing it produces winning. And what a difference winning makes!
The team spirit is obvious in this team. You can almost feel how much the players like one another, which is the essence of good team spirit, how confident and determined they are, how they put setbacks aside and keep soldiering on.
They had a disappointment on match day when their leader Warren Whiteley was forced to withdraw because of a groin injury. For the first time Eben Etzebeth led them out onto the field, and the team's spirit seemed unaltered. The French, especially in the first half, dominated possession and territory, in fact dominated the match, but still the Springboks won the half 16-9.
What a difference winning makes! In Ellis Park on this, the third Test of the series there were 55 820 spectators - about 40 000 more than there were at Loftus Versfeld for the first match of the series. And so the Springboks beat France at Ellis Park for the first time, after France had won the previous four at the ground. And - while we are on history - this was 22 years to the day after the Springboks won the Rugby World Cup for the first time - 24 June 1995.
It was not a comfortable game. The French appeared to want to counter the accusations that the Springboks had been too physical for them., That seemed the basis of their game plan, more important than teamwork.
The Springboks did not show continuity and team work to the extent that they had in the previous two Tests. The slowness of the connection between forwards and backs may have had a lot to do with that. The reduced line-out options also militated against flow in the game. Whiteley and Oupa Mahoje had both given them greater line-out options.
Not having Whiteley meant reorganising the loose forwards. In came Jaco Kriel with Jean-Luc du Preez moving to No.8 and Lood de Jager came onto the bench in Kriel's place.
There were ceremonies before the match. The players were all introduced to four dignitaries. A Boeing flew low overhead as it had done in 1995, there were flames shooting up and muscular Impi danced about aggressively. Chester Williams of 1995 was the South African flag-bearer. The anthems were sung and eventually Jules Plisson kicked off down to the corner on the Springboks' left.
That is how the French kicked off and the Springboks response each time was to kick the ball into touch. The French then won the line-out and went through phases which did not advance but Jaco Kriel burst away, angrily bashing ahead as the French tried to bring him down. Then, when Yoann Maestri played Francois Hougaard before he had the ball, Elton Jantjies goaled. 3-0 after 5 minutes.
centre Jan Serfontein won a turnover off lock Romain Taofifenua. Jantjies kicked down into the French 22. The Springboks chased and Serfontein tackled Nans Ducuing who got the ball to Virimi Vakatawa who was engulfed by Springboks. New cap Ruan Dreyer dispossessed the French wing and gave to Jesse Kriel on the narrow blindside and Kriel score in the right corner, a millimetre or two from touch. Jantjies converted from touch. 10-0 after 8 minutes.
The French then scored twice - penalty kicks, first when Tendai Mtawarira was penalised for tackling high and then when Jesse Kriel was penalised =for holding on in a tackle when he tried to recover from a ghastly pass. 10-6 after 15 minutes. This became 13-6 seven minutes later, when Guilhem Guirado was penalised.
The French attacked in phases and the Springboks tackled, but the French had a grip on the game till Serfontein threw a dummy and broke downfield brought down by an ankletap/Yacouba Camara was penalised just inside the French half and Jantjies goal. 16-6 after 38 minutes. Immediately Dreyer was penalised a scrum and Plisson made the half-time score 16-9.
Scrums were part of the stop-start nature of the game. There were eight of them which produced seven collapses and seven penalties. That's not fun.
France's Kevin Gourdon went offside and the Springboks had an attacking line-out. The French were again penalised and the Springboks had a five-metre line-out. Suddenly it was Serfontein who was lifted high in the line-out. He came back to earth, slipping the ball to Etzebeth who was next to him on the touchline side and quickly Etzebeth scored. 21-9 after 42 minutes.
Early on the Springboks changed props and brought Pieter-Steph du Toit on foe Jean-Luc du Preez.
When Etzebeth was penalised for an air tackle in a line-out, Plisson goaled. 21-12 after 57.
Franco Mostert won a French line-out and Du Toit charged. The Springboks went down the left where Guirado stepped into touch as he intercepted a pass from Courtnall Skosan. The five-metre line-out started untidily till Steven Kitshoff went buffalo-ing on as three French man tried to being him down. He was stopped at goal-line. The Springboks went right and Malcolm Marx grabbed the ball and grounded it against the upright for a try. 28-12 with 18 minutes to go.
France had a five-metre line-out but Etzebeth stole their ball.
Andries Coetzee was about a centimetre short of scoring.
At this stage the Springboks emptied their bench and one of these who came on scored the last try.
From an attacking line-out, the Springboks mauled and Bongi Mbonambi broke away. Tackled he popped a pass to Rudy Paige and the impish scrumhalf scored his first try to the delight of his team-mates.
That moment seemed to epitomise the spirit of this Springbok team.
Man of the Match: Louis Picamoles had his best match of the series but not nearly as good a match as our Man of the Match Jan Serfontein who ran, attacked, defended, chased and even won a try-bearing line-out.
Moment of the Match: Jan Serfontein's line-out leap.
Villain of the Match: Nobody, though it would have been so good to see one of the speedy Springbok wings get a pass from backline passing.
For South Africa:
Tries: Jesse Kriel, Etzebeth, Marx, Paige
Cons: Jantjies 3
Pens: Jantjies 3
Pens: Plisson 4
South Africa: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Jean-Luc du Preez, 7 Jaco Kriel, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Lodewyk de Jager, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Dillyn Leyds.
France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Nans Ducuing, 13 Damian Penaud, 12 Gaël Fickou, 11 Virimi Vakatawa. 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Kevin Gourdon, 6 Yacouba Camara, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Yoann Maestri, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1 Jefferson Poirot.
Replacements: 16 Clément Maynadier, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 Uini Atonio, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Loann Goujon, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 François Trinh-Duc, 23 Vincent Rattez.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand), Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)