France showed encouraging signs beating Boks

France has shown it has nothing to fear from stronger teams after standing up to South Africa’s physical might during an impressive 20-13 win over the World Cup holders.

The roles were reversed as this time it was the Springboks who were dominated in open play and lost the one-on-one battles in the scrum during Friday’s match in Toulouse, home to some of France’s most passionate rugby fans.

“We were quite happy about it. For once, it’s good to see that it’s not their opponents who are bleeding, but them,” France prop Fabien Barcella said after locks Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield both had to leave the field for treatment.

“We felt they weren’t expecting this level of combat from us. We’re all very happy that we managed to take it to them.”

The convincing victory should give the French team further confidence after an impressive summer tour to New Zealand, where France won the first test 27-22 and narrowly lost the second 14-10.

After trailing 13-11 at halftime Friday, France defended brilliantly and conceded only one penalty chance to the Springboks.

Julien Dupuy kicked four penalties, winger Vincent scored a try in the corner, and Morgan Parra slotted over a late kick.

Talk before the test had centered around French criticisms of the Boks being overly aggressive in view of some violent incidents during the British and Irish Lions tour over the summer. But France surprised the Boks by refusing to be intimidated.

“The South Africans are very tough physically, so it’s a great honor to beat this remarkable South African team,” Barcella said.

“It was very hard and it was a very tough scrap. But we’re not going to stop now. … It’s not because we beat the South Africans that we’re going to start acting like kings.”

France next faces Samoa at Stade de France on Saturday and then takes on New Zealand in Marseille, where further victories will further improve confidence ahead of the Six Nations.

Although South Africa was let down by its handling, allowing the French to ruthlessly exploit the turnovers, the dejected Boks weren’t looking for excuses.

“(The French) came out firing. Their intensity was very high and they got stuck into everything,” Matfield said.

“Yes, it was wet out there, but it was wet for both sides. They definitely didn’t spoil as many balls as we did, so we will have to look at ourselves.”

South Africa’s vastly stronger pack was outmaneuvered by France’s lighter unit, prompting concern from Matfield.

“It’s something we are working on every week,” he said.

“We gave away a few penalties and that is something we need to keep on working (on), and hopefully next week it will be better.”

Flyhalf Morne Steyn also thinks the Boks will need to make much better use of their possession against Italy and then Ireland.

“You have to use all the ball on the ground,” Steyn said.

“We will have to go back to the drawing board Monday and see where we can improve for the next two tests.”

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