Ross Cronjé keeps the French defence busy in what was a fine Springbok debut. Photo: Kim Ludbrook, EPA
Ross Cronjé keeps the French defence busy in what was a fine Springbok debut. Photo: Kim Ludbrook, EPA
Tendai Mtawarira carries it up into the French defence. Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters
Tendai Mtawarira carries it up into the French defence. Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters
Franco Mostert surges forward against France. Photo: Kim Ludbrook, EPA
Franco Mostert surges forward against France. Photo: Kim Ludbrook, EPA
Jesse Kriel celebrates his try against France. Photo: Kim Ludbrook, EPA
Jesse Kriel celebrates his try against France. Photo: Kim Ludbrook, EPA

PRETORIA – A win is a win. There was some good and there was some average, but at least there wasn’t any bad. The Springboks are off to a winning start in 2017.

In a game that never reached any great heights and in which the French were markedly below standard, the Boks made the most of the time they’ve spent together recently to produce a far more polished performance than the visitors.

But that also doesn’t mean that Allister Coetzee’s men were impressive or the finished product. They were far from it on Saturday night. They were simply a little better than their opponents.

But for the rookies and the men who took so much flak last season, this was certainly a positive way to get this series under way.

There were some nervy moments in the second half, when France spent a great deal of time camped in Bok territory and asked plenty of the home team’s defence.

And when replacement scrumhalf Baptiste Serin scored from close range to help his team close the gap to two points (16-14) after 55 minutes it was anyone’s game.

Jesse Kriel dives over for the Springboks' opening try at Loftus Versfeld. Photo: Kim Ludbrook, EPA


But then came a vital few minutes around the hour mark that swung the contest the Boks’ way. The officials decided wing Courtnall Skosan had been impeded by Brice Dulin in trying to haul in the ball, and the home team were handed seven points on a platter thanks to the penalty try.

Virtually from the kickoff, Ross Cronjé scored a stunner of a five-pointer after taking a push down ball from his captain Warren Whiteley, who’d called a long ball to himself in a lineout on halfway.

Seven minutes later, the Boks were 37-14 ahead after Jan Serfontein finished off a wonderful counter-attacking move started by replacement No 9 Francois Hougaard and taken forward by Andries Coetzee.

It was game over and job done, but the French won’t have liked the penalty try given against them that dramatically swung the tie the Boks’ way.

Springbok wing Raymond Rhule gets his offload away against France at Loftus. Photo: Gavin Barker, BackpagePix


The Boks started strongly and dominated most areas of the contest, and deservedly led 6-0 after just a few minutes.

While they created several try-scoring chances in the first half-hour, poor decision-making and some errant handling cost them dearly.

Centre Jesse Kriel finally found his way over after 31 minutes when he showed good pace to outstrip the French defence after being put away by Malcolm Marx.

Fullback Coetzee, though, made the initial break and the two Lions teammates can look back on the outing with plenty to be happy about; they both produced excellent performances.

Very much against the run of play, the French hit back through centre Henry Chavancy, who scored after beating everyone else to the ball after a nasty bounce inside the in-goal area left Coetzee clutching at air.

A solid strike by Jantjies on the stroke of halftime, though, ensured the Boks changed sides 16-7 up, and they sealed the game with those three tries in an eight-minute spell in the second 40.

French fullback Brice Dulin beats Jan Serfontein at Loftus on Saturday. Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters


The standout feature of the Bok performance was their impressive defensive display – they were put under serious pressure at times and stood up well.

Raymond Rhule was excellent throughout in this department, while the exit kicking by Jantjies was also a feature of the performance.

There were times when the Boks looked really good with ball-in-hand, but they will have to play a little more direct if they’re to get full value for their attacks.

They’ll hopefully build on this performance and show greater accuracy this week in Durban.

It’s a winning start for Warren Whiteley and his new-look team and, if we’re honest, that’s all that matters right now.

Points-Scorers

South Africa 37 – Tries: Jesse Kriel, Penalty Try, Ross Cronjé, Jan Serfontein. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3). Penalties: Jantjies (3).

France 14 – Tries: Henry Chavancy, Baptiste Serin. Conversions: Jules Plisson (2).

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