France beat SA to break home record

France gave the Springboks a rude awakening to their international season when they produced a classy performance of total rugby to beat the Springboks 36-26 at a packed Newlands on Saturday.

Not only did the French completely outplay and outwit the Boks but they also brought an abrupt halt to the Boks’ proud 13 match unbeaten run on home soil and dampened what should have been a momentus day for John Smit who became the second most capped Springbok captain on Saturday.

The French may have done everything right on the day but the Springboks were less than impressive as they started the game on the wrong footing. The Boks conceded an early try to Cedric Heymans who scored in the 4th minute after latching onto a clever chip from Damien Traille.

The Springboks hit back the only way they knew how, through The boot of Percu Montgomery. Still the Boks looked doubtful of themselves as the first half wore on, with the French gaining confidence in being able to contain the hefty Bok pack.

The French had screamed off to a commanding 11-3 lead by the 20th minute courtesy of a Dimitri Yachvili penalty and a Florain Fritz drop-goal. But the Springboks eventually found their footing and thrust themselves upon a tiring French pack which yielded enough penalties for Montgomery to give the Boks a slender 12-11 lead at half-time.

The home side hit back with verve and purpose in the second half as two more penalties from Montgomery and a tenacious try from winger Brent Russell saw the Springboks assume a 23-11 lead by the 51st minute.

It was a matter of complacency by the Bok pack and a lack of urgency through the entire side that saw the French mount four bruising assaults on the Bok line which gained them 25 points in a time frame of 25 minutes.

First it was Vincent Clerc who scored in the corner after the French forwards had shown scant respect for their opposition and kept them on the back foot before spreading the ball wide.

In the second French flurry Damien Traille tore through the heart of the Bok backline beating three tackles to score unhindered under the poles to haul the French to a two point lead over the Boks at 23-25. Another snap drop-goal, this time from Traille, extended the French lead and gave them a grip of the game.

The Springboks were briefly launched into attack mode but their fear of scoring tries once again saw Montgomery seize the initiative and kick over another penalty.

But the French had one more trick up their sleeve and from a crafty stolen turnover ball in their half, took the direct route dissecting a tiring Bok defence for Clerc to collect his second try of the day in the 75th minute. The final blow came through a last second penalty from Yachvili taking the score to a rather embarrassing 36-26.

South Africa 26 France 36 Half-time: 12-11

Scorers South Africa: Try – Brent Russell. Penalties – Percy Montgomery (7) France: Tries – Cedric Heymans, Vincent Clerc (2), Damien Traille. Conversions – Dimitri Yachvilli (2). Penalties – Yachvilli (2). Drop-goals – Florian Fritz, Traille

Teams: South Africa 15-1 Percy Montgomery; Brent Russell, Wynand Olivier, De Wet Barry, Bryan Habana; Jaco van der Westhuyzen, Fourie du Preez; Pedrie Wannenburg, Juan Smith, Joe van Niekerk; Victor Matfield, Danie Rossouw, Eddie Andrews, John Smit, Os du Randt.

Replacements used: CJ van der Linde, Gaffie du Toit, Jacques Cronje, Ricky Januarie, Wayne Julies Replacements not used: Gary Botha, Albert van den Berg

France 15-1 Julien Laharrague; Vincent Clerc, Florian Fritz, Yannick Jauzion, Cedric Heym

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