DURBAN, South Africa, Jun 17 – South Africa defeated France 37-15 at Kings Park stadium in Durban Saturday to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in a three-Test series and continue their recovery after a horror season.
After conceding an early try, the clinical Springboks built a 23-7 half-time lead, then defended brilliantly before scoring a couple of late tries.
A second successive win over France was another step forward for South Africa following a calamitous 2016 season in which they lost eight of 12 Tests.
The scoreline was almost identical to the first Test in Pretoria — won 37-14 by South Africa — even though France, with eight changes, were expected to provide much tougher opposition.
France failed to score when dominant during the third quarter and this proved their undoing, leaving them with only pride to play for in Johannesburg next Saturday.
South Africa skipper and No. 8 Warren Whiteley said: “They put some pressure on us in the first 10 minutes but we managed to turn it around, picked up the intensity and put the pressure back on them.
“The second half was also important for us. We knew the pressure would be on us. I’m really proud of the team.
“It was all character — that’s what we’ve been speaking about the last three or four weeks.
“Just extremely proud of the boys, the support has been phenomenal. We really appreciate it, we want to make our country proud.”
France captain and hooker Guilhem Guirado said: “We started the match well and after the South Africans attacked us from every angle, we had a very bad tackle.”
Les Bleus got off to the perfect start with South Africa-born full-back Scott Spedding scoring a third-minute try in the corner that scrum-half Baptiste Serin converted.
Fly-half Elton Jantjies cut the deficit with a sixth-minute penalty for South Africa, whose flanker Oupa Mohoje was forced to retire after colliding with Louis Picamoles.
South Africa went ahead on 20 minutes as a slick, five-man handling movement ended with centre Jan Serfontein dotting down and Jantjies converted for a 10-7 lead.
Flanker Siya Kolisi scored a second try for the Springboks by superbly holding on to the ball off an intercept and darting to the line with Jantjies converting again.
Another successful penalty kick by Jantjies and it was 20-7 in favour of the hosts in the Indian Ocean port city.
The scrums were a mess that kept New Zealand referee Ben O’Keeffe busy and he took loosehead Tendai “The Beast” Mtawaria and tighthead Rabah Slimani aside to warn them.
Another Jantjies penalty closed the first half scoring and left South Africa 23-7 in front at half-time.
After five successful shots at goal during the opening half, Jantjies failed with his first attempt of the second half, his long-range kick dropping just short.
France then camped close to the South Africa tryline for close to 15 minutes, much of the time inside the five-metre line, without scoring any points.
The relentless pressure ended with debutant Damian Penaud believing he scored in the corner, but the television match official ruled the centre put a foot in touch before dotting down.
It took 24 minutes for the first points of the second half as French fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc slotted a penalty.
A try to each side followed soon after with replacement prop Coenie Oosthuizen barging over for South Africa and the impressive Penaud cutting inside to score at the other end.
Jantjies kicked his conversion, but Trinh-Duc missed, leaving the Springboks 30-15 in front eight minutes from time.
A Jantjies try a minute from time, which he converted, completed the scoring and gave South Africa a fourth win in seven matches against France in Durban. The other three were drawn.