The second Test of the the three match series saw the Springboks defeat France at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban by 37 points to 15.
Springboks Defeat France in Durban
Many pundits took the gloss off the Springboks win at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, pointing out that this was not a strong France side, missing all of the players that took part in the French Top 14 competition the previous weekend.
The Springboks showed definite improvement from the first Test and while they are only making their first steps in rebuilding their national and international reputation, the influence of a much more qualified coaching squad is becoming evident.
South Africa 37 France 15
South Africa – Tries: Jan Serfontein, Siya Kolisi, Coenie Oosthuizen and Elton Jantjies; Conversions: Elton Jantjies 4; Penalties: Elton Jantjies 3
France – Tries: Scott Spedding and Damian Penaud; Conversion: Baptiste Serin; Penalty: Francois Trinh-Duc
We take a look at some of the key points coming out of this Test.
Key Talking Points
The Inexperienced Players Did Not Disappoint
The likes of Andries Coetzee, Ross Cronje and Raymond Ruhle did their fledgling international careers no harm at all. Cronje especially has impressed with his well timed arrival at ruck time to clear the ball quickly. His no frills approach to getting the ball out to flyhalf Elton Jantjies has given the pivot the opportunity to deliver much more settled performances than he has before.
Blindside flanker Oupa Mahoje left the field concussed, giving Jean-Luc du Preez the opportunity to earn his third Test cap. He climbed straight in and was very busy on defence, making some big hits and working hard at trying to hold the ball carrier up to force turnovers.
A defensive pattern will always take some time to mature and for the players to trust each other and understand the role each player will play in any situation. The Springboks were caught out in the early minutes of the game, with France wing Virimi Vakatawa breaking a few weak tackles to put ex-Durbanite Scott Spedding for a try that would have given him much pleasure. Other than that, the Springboks defensive line held firm other than leaking a late try by Damian Penaud.
They held on grimly from the 45th to the to 57th minute, holding off wave after wave of attack. They will face more creative attacking teams, but at least they now have a base to work off.
The Springboks attack was placed under pressure by impressive line-speed from the French defense in the first quarter. They continued to attack with a much improved tempo and did not fall into the trap of playing a fast passing game with no structure. Passes were generally to players in better positions and within the attacking structure. We also saw a few scissor and dummy scissor moves in the backline, bringing a level of attacking creativity that has been absent for two years.
Impressive Bench Strength
As already mentioned, Jean-Luc du Preez’s early entrance to the game afforded him the opportunity to deliver a strong defensive performance. The injection of players such as Francois Hougaard, Pieter-Steph du Toit kept the continuity going. Steven Kitshoff was impressive both at scrum time as well as defensively, making some big hits. Coenie Oosthuizen displayed his impressive ball carrying ability to crash over for a try soon after entering the fray.
It is still with sadness we have to admit that the Springboks are still very much a work in progress with attacking and defensive structure.