The Springboks rounded out a highly successful Incoming Series with a third win in three weeks over France when they ran out 35-12 victors in Johannesburg on Saturday 23 June. This historic victory marks the first South African win over Les Blues in Emirates Airline Park over the long history between the two sides.
The South Africans attacking prowess has been the flavour of the series over the past few weeks, however in the third test, it was their defensive capabilities that ensured the home side would walk away victorious.
The Springboks maintained a solid tryline, not allowing their French counterparts over their line once. In particular, the home side’s lineout and maul defence was exceptional and allowed the Springboks to assert their dominance over the visitors.
South Africa outscored the French by four tries to nil in the cold Johannesburg conditions. Jesse Kriel, Eben Etzebeth, Malcolm Marx, and Rudy Paige all crossed over the whitewash for the home side.
After the match, Springbok coach, and Grahamstown local, Allister Coetzee was happy to win the series and felt that it was a good turn around from the poor 2016 season, however he reminded fans that the Springboks are far from the complete package.
“This was a huge step in the right direction for us,” said Coetzee. “Test match rugby is always about winning, not about being pretty. This was what happened tonight. We did not execute as well as we wanted to, but the courage of the team was great.”
Coetzee believed that the Springboks suffered a number of execution problems in Johannesburg that they will need to work on ahead of the Rugby Chapionship. Coetzee admitted that although it might not be possible to win every match, he promised “there will always be effort from a Springbok squad going forward”.
The effort shown on defence by the Springboks pleased Coetzee. “Losing the captain on a Friday, having a stand-in captain and then defend our line and keep France scoreless, that is massive step in the right direction for all of us,” Coetzee said.
“Losing Warren was not easy, but our core leadership group was awesome in the last couple of days. Our defence was not perfect. We had a couple of missed tackles, but the exciting part was how they got back to their feet and into position,” said Coetzee.
Coetzee was happy with the series as a whole, and believes that the team has started to bring some pride back to the Springboks. “We are happy that we could turn things around for them too. We needed to turn this around, we still have a lot to do, but the belief is back in the jersey again. That is a great feeling. A lot of small things combine to make the product better.”
On his appointment as captain for the match, Eben Etzebeth said that it was easy to slot into the role with the help of the leadership group in the team. “It was easy to stand in for Warren as we have a strong leadership group, so it was not that hard to slot in. The preparation at the camps was good, we got to know each other. It was probably the best three weeks with the Springboks I have had.”
Warren Whiteley will be assessed by a specialist on Monday and the full extent of his injury will be discovered. The Lions’ medical team will then make the call regarding how long he is expected to be out of action.
The Springboks will now head back to their respective Super Rugby sides, before joining together ahead of their opening game of the Rugby Championship against Argentina in Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth. “We will enjoy this one, but will start all over again come the Castle Lager Rugby Championship against Argentina,” Etzebeth said.
Tries: Jesse Kriel, Eben Etzebeth, Malcolm Marx, Rudy Paige
Conversions: Elton Jantjies x3
Penalties: Elton Jantjies x3
Penalties: Jules Plisson x4