Five takeaways from France v South Africa

Date published: November 11 2018

Following a 29-26 win for the Springboks over France in their November international, here’s our five takeaways from the Stade de France clash.

Kicking masterclass from Handre Pollard: Pollard produced a flawless kicking performance, maintaining a 100 percent record, as the Springbok pivot landed five penalties and two conversions for a total haul of 19 points. It will make such a difference to South Africa heading into the World Cup next year knowing that they can rely on their goal-kicker. Much of their 2007 World Cup success was owed to the reliable boot of Percy Montgomery. In those tight World Cup knockout fixtures, it can make all the difference between winning and losing.

Bok late show impresses: Where was that superb attacking play that the Boks produced in the last 20 minutes in the other hour of the match? Having been the more passive of the two sides, the Boks burst into life in the last quarter of the match and began to play at a higher tempo and with greater width as we have become accustomed to seeing them of late. Had Willie le Roux’s pass not gone forward and if Cheslin Kolbe hadn’t knocked on in his dive for the line, the Boks could have had three tries instead of just the one in the last five minutes, such was the potency of their attacking play.

Boks’ line-out improvement: Last weekend against England, it was the Boks’ Achilles heel. However, this weekend, the line-out throwing was solid and dependable, especially in the closing stages of the match. There is no doubt Bongi Mbonambi would have been feeling the pressure, having to throw three times in to the line-out after the Boks had those two tries ruled out. But thanks to Mbonambi, it was third time lucky, as he did brilliantly to go over at the back of the driving maul after another accurate arrow to the line-out.

Bok subs worked a treat: Bringing on RG Snyman, while reverting Pieter-Steph du Toit back to the blindside flank and shifting Duane Vermeulen from seven to eight in the 48th minute immediately got the Bok pack playing with more physicality. Meanwhile, Mbonambi, Elton Jantjies, Kolbe and Francois Louw all impressed off the bench. Mbonambi’s line-out throwing was dead accurate while he scored the match-winning try, Kolbe almost scored a stunning individual effort, Jantjies took the ball to the line effectively, while Louw was a nuisance at the breakdown.

France will be kicking themselves: Les Bleus would have broken a nine-year winless run against the Boks had they held on but they were their own worst enemy in the end. There were two small moments which would have been prevented. First, a fatal mix-up between Sebastien Vahaamahina and Camille Lopez allowed Sbu Nkosi to ghost in for the Boks’ first try five minutes after the interval. Then, Damian Penaud left a foot in touch a second before the hooter that gifted the Boks possession back and ultimately the chance to win the game.