Much-improved second half effort ensured the tourists didn't register back-to-back defeats
Springbok captain Siya Kolisi has praised his team’s fighting spirit after they came back from being 23-9 behind early in the second half against France in Paris on Saturday night to win 29-26.
The Boks had been 16-9 behind at half-time, but a much-improved second half showing by the tourists ensured they didn’t register back-to-back defeats after losing to England the previous week.
A late breakdown penalty, secured by replacement forward Francois Louw, allowed the Boks to repel a dangerous France attack and kick into opposition territory. After a series of line-outs and Aphiwe Dyantyi coming close to scoring, the Boks eventually crossed the whitewash after the hooter had sounded through replacement hooker Bongi Mbonambi, who had earlier hit his target in five line-outs to help secure the win for the Boks.
Kolisi said it was extremely pleasing to get rewarded like that at the end of a tight battle.
“The amazing thing is we could have given up when Cheslin Kolbe’s try was disallowed (earlier in the second half when he lost the ball going over the line), and also when Aphiwe (Dyantyi) was denied a try because of a forward pass. But we kept fighting,” said a relieved Kolisi.
“The message the whole week was about improving and being better than the week before (against England). When we most needed our maul to work this week (right at the end), it worked and came through for us.”
Kolisi conceded his team had simply been out-muscled by France in the first half of the match. “They simply dominated us. That was the big thing we didn’t make any technical errors or such, but they got over the gainline, got over the ball, and we couldn’t move them.
“They won the physical battle in the first half, but we were much better after the break.”
Coach Rassie Erasmus was more blunt in his response, admitting his side had not delivered a clinical performance.
“Last week (against England) we lost in the last minute; this week we won it in the last minute so it’s a much better feeling this time,” said Erasmus.
“But this was not a perfect performance, it was definitely not a clinical performance, but it was a gutsy effort.
“Last week we took the ball through 15 phases to try and win a penalty and the game (and came up short); this week we had to score a try and (referee) Nigel (Owens) had the guts to award us some penalties and we got the reward.”
Erasmus added France were no pushovers. “You have to see every win in context France are not the pushovers of a year ago. We could have easily lost the match but we were on the right side of the result today.”
The Boks now move on to Edinburgh and a date with Scotland on Saturday.