Springboks crush dismal France
June 12, 2010
Pierre Spies scored early on for the Springboks
© Getty Images
South Africa cruised to a 42-17 victory over France in their showdown at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday.
With the World Cup dominating the headlines in South Africa the Springboks secured some column-inches of their own by getting their own back on the Grand Slam champions, who had bulldozed their way to victory in the reverse fixture last November.
France's soccer counterparts had spluttered their way to an uninspiring 0-0 draw against Uruguay in Cape Town on Friday night and some of their malaise filtered down to their union counterparts, who were behind early and did not recover. Hometown boy Gio Aplon scored twice in only his second Test while No.8 Pierre Spies, loose-head Gurthro Steenkamp and Stormers flanker Francois Louw rounded off a brilliant performance of power and poise.
France, so strong during the Six Nations, were a poor second, scoring tries through Aurelien Rougerie and Marc Andreu but showing little of the guile that made them so dangerous in the battle for European supremacy.
It took the home side just over a minute to score the opening try, and it was a wonderful effort. Bryan Habana flew along his wing after pouncing on a loose ball and with Jaque Fourie up in support France were splintered. Fourie went on an angle to the line and when the French cover converged Spies was on hand to swan dive over under the posts.
France were reeling and the Springboks were in no mood to ease off the accelerator. A brutish rolling maul, the likes of which had been pinpointed as a major threat by French coach Marc Lievremont in midweek, sucked in the French pack and when scrum-half Ricky Januarie took charge his pass found Aplon. The diminutive Stormers wing bounced through Maxime Mermoz's weak tackle before pulling out a superb jink to outfox Clement Poitrenaud and score.
Morne Steyn clipped over the conversion and added a penalty moments later as the physicality of the home side continued to take chunks out of France's confidence. Les Bleus mounted a short-lived comeback as the powerful running of Rougerie and hooker Dimitri Szarzewski came into play but Steyn's second penalty knocked their game off track once again.
France's riposte, when it arrived, was a classic mix of pace and precision. Poitrenaud had the presence of mind, and bravery, to stop as the Springbok midfield flew up and his offload opened up the space for Mermoz to put Clermont's Julien Bonaire galloping into space. The No.8 showed plenty of gas to ghost through a gap and his scoring pass was perfectly timed to allow Rougerie the simplest of run-ins.
Unfortunately for the tourists their try was the spur South Africa needed to knuckle down to their task again. It took only three minutes for them to score a third and again it was based on sound basics. Quick ball to Steyn left the fly-half with time to fire a superb arching pass to the wing where Steenkamp showed a good turn of pace to power over in the corner.
France reduced the arrears further before the break with a Morgan Parra penalty, which was secured thanks to dominance at the scrum. That dominance was carried on into the second-half, but with South Africa in control of territory Steyn was the man who picked up the first points of the half with a penalty.
South Africa's fourth try was a cruel blow. France were pressing hard at the Springbok try-line after Poitrenaud had injected pace with a quick tap and while Francois Trinh-Duc took the time to assess his options out wide his pass was a howler, landing at the feet of Aplon. France turned and chased for all they were worth but the Sevens specialist had pace to burn and coasted in for his second.
The power of replacement No.8 Louis Picamoles almost sparked a score for France in response. The Toulouse powerhouse held off the tackle of Spies long enough to offload to Mermoz, whose pass found Rougerie. The winger set off for the line but was hauled in, his pass to Parra only allowing the scrum-half enough time to be shunted into touch by Danie Rossouw.
Flip van der Merwe was introduced for his Test debut in place of Rossouw, becoming part of the 11th father-son Springbok combination in the process. His father, Flippie, played six Tests for the Boks at tight-head between 1981 and 1989. The young Van der Merwe's bow was an inauspicious one as he picked up a yellow card for a cynical flap at the ball while French replacement Dimitri Yachvili prepared to pass.
France conceded their numerical advantage when Yachvili followed Van der Merwe to the bin for throwing the ball away having not heeded a previous warning. The ball went to the corner and South Africa's forwards enjoyed another rumble to the line, Louw breaking from the back to dive over for a deserved score. Ruan Pienaar converted to the delight of the Newlands faithful, who had seen their side keep alive the feelgood factor in some style. A late consolation to Andreu could not dampen the spirits, and France retreated to lick their wounds.
Huw Baines is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.