On Saturday 24 June, the Springboks took on France in the third match of the Castle Lager Incoming Series at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg. The Springboks, who came into the match as the firm favourites after winning the first two matches of the three match test series. This would be the first match that South Africa has won over the French in Johannesburg.
The Springboks suffered an early setback before the match kicked off, with influential skipper, Warren Whiteley, being ruled out during training with a groin injury. In his absence, lock Eben Etzebeth was given the captains armband, with Jaco Kriel coming in at seven, with Jean-Luc du Preez starting his first game at eight. Lood de Jager would be welcomed back to the side as he took up Kriel’s position on the bench.
In a proud moment for Grahamstown, Joao Fonesca, more widely known as J’Something from Mi Casa, who graduated from Graeme College in 2006, sang the Nkosi Sikelei i’Afrika ahead of the match.
The match kicked off in near perfect winter atmosphere on the Highveld, with the late afternoon son providing good temperatures and conditions for positive attacking rugby. The near-capacity Johannesburg crowd were in for a massively entertaining game.
South Africa were on the board first after they weathered an early French assault on their tryline, to be awarded a penalty in the French half. Elton Jantjies made no mistake in converting the early points, taking the hosts out to an early 3-0 lead.
Moments later, the French failed to clear the ball out of their 22m, whih resulted in a turnover for the home side. Jesse Kriel was put away in the corner for the first try of the match. Elton Jantjies showed his class by converting the difficult kick from the sideline to take the hosts to a 10-0 early advantage.
The French capitalized on South African complacency soon after, however, as Jules Plisson slotted a penalty from 40 metres out. The French thus closed the gap to 10-3 after the first ten minutes.
Elton Jantjies missed his first kick of the match immediately after the restart, after the Springboks were awarded a penalty for the French putting hands in the ruck. In reply, France closed the gap through the boot of Plisson, with another 40-meter penalty, reducing the home side lead to 10-6.
After the early excitement, the match quickly dulled into a battle between Plisson and Jantjies. Halfway through the first half, South Africa was awarded a penalty for offsides, which Jantjies snuck over from halfway. With 15 minutes to go in the first half, the home side maintained a 13-6 advantage.
With three minutes left in the half, the Springboks were given an opportunity to extend their lead back to ten points after France was once again penalized at the breakdown. Elton Jantjies slotted the 50-meter kick and took South Africa to a 16-6 lead with two minutes to play.
As the halftime siren sounded in the stadium, the French were awarded a scrum penalty just inside the South African half. Plisson continued his kicking form to convert the kick and reduce the Springbok lead to 16-9 at halftime.
Immediately after the kickoff, the Springboks showed their attacking intent by opting to go for the line from a penalty. Moments later, their bravery was rewarded as captain Eben Etzebeth crashed over the line from the lineout. Jantjies’ conversion hit the upright and bounced away, and the Springboks went to a 21-9 lead in the opening minutes of the second half.
French Jules Plisson missed his first kick of the match after South Africa was penalized for hands in the ruck. Plisson pushed a penalty from the halfway line wide to the left. Plisson made no mistake moments later, however, as he slotted a penalty after Etzebeth was penalized for dragging the player down in the lineout. With just over 20 minutes to play, the home side clung on to a 21-12 lead.
The South African attack was once again challenging the French line halfway through the second half. Malcolm Marx showed great strength and vision to pick up the ball from the base of the ruck and dot down under the poles in his home stadium. Jantjies wasted little time and converted the easy kick, extending the home lead to 28-12.
Whilst the home side seemed eager on attack, their defence remained a significant aspect of their game, as they kept the visitors from crossing their line on several occasions throughout the match. In particular, the South African maul defence managed to turnover a number of good attacking ball from the French.
The French failed to clear the ball out of their half, however, and the Springboks capitalized with a try through Rudy Paige off of a lineout. Jantjies converted the try, taking the South Africans to a 35-12 lead, and put the final nail the coffin in what was to become a whitewash South African series victory with five minutes still left to play.
After what looked like it was going to be France’s first try of the game, The Springboks turned the ball over after the hooter, with Frans Steyn kicking into French territory. The French decided that that was enough for one day and chipped the ball into touch. The final whistle blue and the match ended 35-12, with the Springboks whitewashing the French 3-0 in the series.
Tries: Jesse Kriel, Eben Etzebeth, Malcolm Marx, Rudy Paige
Conversions: Elton Jantjies x3
Penalties: Elton Jantjies x3
Penalties: Jules Plisson x4