The roar of the 60,000 spectators at Stade Vélodrome as they sing the La Marseillaise is such a strong reminder of how big the challenge is for the 15 Springboks on the field.
No rain, no wind, pretty cold, no excuses. This is the biggest test of the Springbok tour so far. The answers we get tonight will give us a serious indicator of how we’re going to do in the World Cup in September 2023.
France’s penalty in the first minute is neither here nor there – although it would be better to be three early points ahead than behind.
While the French seem to prefer to kick long, the Springboks run back at France, which is good. The Boks lose the first lineout on their own throw and that’s certainly not good.
And then disaster strikes. Wayne Barnes waves a red card at Peter-Steph du Toit for a low tackle – and very possibly wraps up the game for France with 70 minutes to go.
France get a second penalty after Kwagga Smith is caught offside.
South Africa hold their own in the forwards, but at exactly 20 minutes on the clock France break through and score the first try. The conversion gives the French a 13-point lead.
It’s 10.27pm in South Africa and perhaps it might just be time to go to bed – but wait!
South Africa have a long shot – in more ways than one – to put some points on the board. Cheslin Kolbe gives South Africa three points with a brilliant 50m kick.
Remarkably, the Springboks now play the best rugby they’ve played on the tour so far, even silencing the hissing French crowd, but will the Boks be able to keep it up?
On 30 minutes, the Springboks maul the ball up to the French try line, and Siya Kolisi scores a beautiful try. Kolbe adds the extras and the Boks are now, miraculously, only three points behind.
On halftime France score another penalty, giving them a six point lead at the break.
While the Boks seem to making mistakes when it matters, they are still taking the game to the French, and win or lose, that’s good to see.
It’s possible that both teams will change their strategies for the second half.
Kolbe gets a third shot at the posts and once again he slots it. Does this mean South Africa’s kicking problems are over? Certainly not, but the signs are good.
Thomas Ramos scores a penalty and the difference is six points once again.
The farce turns into a joke when Cheslin Kolbe goes up for a high ball leaping into Antoine Dupont. Kolbe falls really badly and has to go for a Head Injury Assessment, bringing Maksole Mapimpi onto the field. And yes, Wayne Barnes points his red card at Dupont.
The Springboks, showing a lot of fight, take the battle to the French who seem to be hanging their heads.
Attacking forward play by the Boks sees Willie le Roux shooting a great pass out to Kurt-Lee Arendse who scores right in the corner. With Kolbe off the field, Faf de Klerk nails the conversion. The Boks are in the lead. There is certain joy in watching 60,000 French spectators sulking.
South Africa have a four point lead, but there is still a lot of rugby to come.
Ramos scores a penalty and South Africa leads by one precious point.
With Faf de Klerk replaced by Cobus Reinach, Damian Willemse has a crucial penalty kick and he too, slots it.
With exactly ten minutes to go, Wayne Barnes strikes again. Deon Fourie gets a yellow card for who knows what? South Africa will finish the match with 13 men.
Still four points behind with seven minutes left on the clock the French take the lineout and score the inevitable try through Sipili Falatea.
The TMO comes into play causing a three minute delay, but the try is awarded anyway as the TMO goes off the air.
Ramos misses the conversion, the first missed kick for the entire match. France lead by one point with five minutes to go until Ramos scores a penalty.
France wind down the clock. It’s a famous victory for France and Wayne Barnes.
Tries: Cyril Baille, Sipili Falatea
Cards: One red
South Africa: Tries: Siya Kolisi, Kurt-Lee Arendse
Cards: One red, one yellow
France 30-26 South Africa
Pictured above: Wayne Barnes
Image source: @gloucestershirelive