Springboks take series over France, win 2nd test 37-15

June 17, 2017
Gaël Fickou, middle, is tackled by South Africa's Franco Mostert, right, during their international rugby union test match between South Africa and France in Durban, South Africa, Saturday, June 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Christiaan Kotze)

DURBAN, South Africa (AP) — South Africa responded to an early setback with 23 successive points, overpowering France 37-15 in the second test on Saturday to win the three-match series with a game to spare.

The Springboks shrugged off a third-minute try by France fullback Scott Spedding to eventually score four of their own in their best performance under coach Allister Coetzee.

On top of the series victory, it was the Boks’ biggest step on the road back from a woeful 2016 season, which included a record defeat by world champion New Zealand the last time they played in Durban.

“Unbelievable performance,” Coetzee said. “Very proud of how this team has grown over the last nine months. Nine months ago we were all sitting here in a lot of pain.”

Flanker Siya Kolisi set up South Africa’s first and last tries, and scored one himself to be the home team’s standout player at Kings Park.

He provided the final pass for center Jan Serfontein to go in for the first try, then intercepted for his score. Replacement prop Coenie Oosthuizen barged over late on and another surging Kolisi break set up flyhalf Elton Jantjies for the final try, capping the Boks’ dominance over a France team that was back to near full strength following the first test and expected to provide a sterner challenge at Kings Park.

The challenge didn’t materialize.

“Now we have to focus on the last game, and I said to my players we have to play our best next weekend,” France captain Guilhem Guirado said. “We have to play for pride.”

Hooker Guirado was one of eight frontline players recalled to the starting 15 by coach Guy Noves after they were rested for the opening test. One of them, South Africa-born fullback Spedding squeezed over in the left corner in the third minute to help put France 7-0 ahead in no time, testing South Africa’s character.

Ultimately, though, France wasn’t in it despite another try in the second half from debutant center Damian Penaud.

South Africa kept France scoreless for the next hour after Spedding’s early try, backing up some incisive attacking play with long periods of gutsy defensive work for a second straight win after ending a four-test losing streak in the first game last weekend.

Trailing 23-7, flyhalf Francois Trinh Duc kicked a penalty midway through the second half, with France settling for three points after it couldn’t find a way through the Springboks during a 15-minute spell of pressure. That period appeared to drain the last ounces of energy from the French attack.

Oosthuizen went barging through three France players soon after to reassert South Africa’s superiority. Penaud, the son of former France flyhalf Alain Penaud marked his solid debut with a try, but Kolisi made sure South Africa had the last say. He broke downfield to set up a late try for Jantjies, who collected 22 points on the night with a try and five out of six shots at goal.

This series has provided a chance for redemption for Coetzee and South Africa after the worst season in the Springboks’ modern history. Although the series victory came against a French team at the end of their season, and showing signs of weariness, it still brought some long-awaited relief for the Boks.

“That’s by far the best I’ve ever felt after a game,” Kolisi said.

The final test is in Johannesburg next weekend.

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