SOWETO – The South African A side sealed a 2-0 series whitewash over the French Barbarians with a convincing 48-28 win at a chilly Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Friday night.
This result would have certainly warmed the hearts of many rugby fanatics in the country, and added further impetus to the upward trajectory that the green-and-gold are enjoying over their French counterparts.
Unlike last weekend at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, the South Africans looked more assured and the manner in which they executed their game plan.
While their surroundings last weekend and on Friday night may have been unfamiliar at football stadia, Johan Ackermann’s men played with more intent and direction this time around, and they were richly rewarded for their endeavour to limit the visitors’ possession.
It was in the good start that SA A had through a first-minute try by fullback Warrick Gelant that sparked the hosts into action.
While the French struck back five minutes later when centre Lucas Dupont collected a cleverly executed grubber from Frederic Michalak, the hosts continued to lead the charge, with Chris Cloete bouncing off three would-be tacklers to score and regain the lead in the 20th minute.
But as is typical of the French fighting spirit, the visitors nullified the seven-point lead nine minutes later when wing Fabrice Estebanez charged over from a well-controlled rolling maul.
It was the home side again that would take the initiative two minutes later when Cheetahs prop Ox Nche showed why he is talked about as a future Springbok when he sprinted all of 40 metres to score after being put into the gap by lock Jason Jenkins.
With Ackermann’s troops in full control, Sharks lock Ruan Botha tested the team’s resolve and character when a moment of stupidity saw him charge with his shoulder into the head of a French player, and he was justifiably given his marching orders by referee Jaco van Heerden.
But the French were not going to allow themselves to be outdone by their hosts, and Jean-Baptiste Dubie also committed an act of recklessness as he rushed in late with a shoulder charge on Fred Zeilinga.
With one man short but having established dominance in the game, SA A unshackled themselves from the structured game and played with a lot of freedom in the second half, which led to two tries within the first 12 minutes through Cloete and Lionel Mapoe.
Cloete’s second try of the night saw him take a well-timed pass from Southern Kings teammate Andisa Ntsila for Cloete to tip-toe along the left-hand touchline to score under the sticks.
The hard-working Ntsila was also involved in Mapoe’s try as he broke the fickle French defensive line before the ball was offloaded to Mapoe, who cantered for the South Africans’ fifth try.
The French managed to pick up two consolation tries through Marco Tauleigne in the 56th minute and Louis Dupichot in the 79th, but it was Gelant who would have the final say as he carved through the French defence with his pace and smart footwork to give his team a resounding win.
SA A 48 – Tries: Warrick Gelant (2), Chris Cloete (2), Ox Nche, Lionel Mapoe. Conversions: Fred Zeilinga (5), Jano Vermaak (1). Penalties: Zeilinga (2).
French Barbarians 28 – Tries: Lucas Dupont, Fabrice Estebanez, Marco Tauleigne, Louis Dupichot. Conversions: Frederic Michalak (3), Anthony Belleau (1).