Boks pure courage, grit as they keep all of France at bay to reach RWC semis

15 October 2023 - 23:07 By Liam Del Carme at Stade de France
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The Springboks celebrate victory at full time after the 2023 Rugby World Cup quarterfinal against France at Stade de France in Paris on Sunday night.
The Springboks celebrate victory at full time after the 2023 Rugby World Cup quarterfinal against France at Stade de France in Paris on Sunday night.
Image: Warren Little/Getty Images

They were at times scintillating, but the mostly resourceful and resolute Springboks kept all of France at bay as they reached the Rugby World Cup semifinals for the third time in a row.

The defending champions beat the hosts 29-28 at Stade de France in Paris to set up a meeting with old foes England here on Saturday.

The defeat condemned France to a third knockout exit on home soil.

The City of Love gave the Boks the cold shoulder on a crisp autumn evening but it mattered little as they warmed their fans' hearts with a strong finish when they appeared under the cosh halfway through the second half.

With the Boks with their backs to the wall a converted Eben Etzebeth try in the 67th minute gave the defending champs a slender lead before a nerveless long-range Handré Pollard penalty from just inside his own half handed the Boks a four-point cushion.

Thomas Ramos trimmed that lead to a point with a penalty with eight minutes to go but France could do no more.

Unlike against Ireland in their pool defeat the Boks executed with precision in the first half.

France made most of the running but the Boks proved effective counter-punchers. France were found wanting under the high ball in the first half especially but it bit them in the end.

Referee Ben O'Keefe was under early pressure when Cheslin Kolbe's last-gasp intervention denied France a try in the second minute.

Allez le Bleus rang around the stadium soon enough when France marched the Boks back at a disconcerting rate from a maul with man mountain tighthead prop Uini Atonio in the vanguard.

They hit left then right to where loosehead prop Cyril Baille ran in unopposed for a converted try.

France appeared firmly in the ascendancy with hooker Peato Mauvaka and Uini Antonio benders of the Boks' first line of defence.

The 145kg Atonio was used as battering ram and at times a pillar to which his teammates attached themselves.

France kept up the heat but a turnover well inside Bok territory gave Cobus Reinach the opportunity to launch the ball into the Paris sky. France failed to deal with the bounce of the ball and it fell kindly for Kurt-Lee Arendse who ran the better part of 40m to score near the right corner. Manie Libbok, with the shot clock almost tripping him up converted — just.

The Boks again profited by going to the air as France again looked hesitant when the ball had the stars as a backdrop.

Damian de Allende provided the surge and soon-to-be-followed finish.

France hit back with a well-orchestrated Mauvaka try near the corner but Kolbe's charge down of Ramos's conversion attempt said a lot about his determination, not to mention speed.

Bok fans beamed, the French wore the face of the Mona Lisa after Cheslin Kolbe's try. It was clear the Boks meant business.

The excellent Etzebeth's collision with Atonio just before the break didn't only provide France a three-point lead, but condemned the Boks to 14 men for the first 10 minutes of the second half.

Scorers

France (28) — Tries: Cyril Baille (2), Peato Mauvaka. Conversions: Thomas Ramos (3). Penalty: Ramos (2).

South Africa (29) Tries: Kurt Lee Arendse, Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe, Eben Etzebeth. Conversions: Manie Libbok (2), Handré Pollard. Penalty: Pollard.


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