The defending champion Springboks clinched a nerve-racking 29-28 win over hosts France in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final clash at the cauldron Stade de France in Saint-Denis on Sunday night.
It was a back and forth first half that saw six tries shared between the two sides and the French taking a three point lead into the break, before the Boks battled back in the second half to seal a thrilling win.
The match got off to a blistering start, with France almost going two scores up early as prop Cyril Baille went in at the corner for a converted score in the third minute, before a crucial intervention from Eben Etzebeth stopped an overlap that looked destined for a try.
This allowed the Boks to level the scores in the seventh minute as an up and under was knocked back by a French hand, which saw wing Kurt-Lee Arendse pounce to pick it up and sprint away to score in the corner, with flyhalf Manie Libbok’s conversion making it 7-7.
France was struggling with the Bok aerial game and another un-gathered up and under in the 17th minute allowed inside centre Damian de Allende to seize on the ball and sprint away, with him tackled just short, only for him to dive over a few phases later to put the Boks ahead 12-7.
It was France’s turn to hit back in the 21st minute as scrumhalf Antoine Dupont took a quick tap on the Bok 5m and sent the ball to hooker Peato Mauvaka to go over in the corner, with fullback Thomas Ramos’ conversion attempt sensationally charged down by wing Cheslin Kolbe.
Back and forth game
The back and forth game continued over the rest of the half as a counter-attack from the Boks in the 25th minute saw outside centre Jesse Kriel grubber the ball ahead for Kolbe to go over for a converted score, followed by Baille’s second from close range in the 30th levelling things up.
A yellow card to Etzebeth for a head clash on the stroke of halftime gave Ramos the chance to put his team 22-19 up at the break.
It was a quieter start to the second half with the Boks managing their 10 minutes without Etzebeth well, but France got the first points of the half with a 53rd minute penalty.
In the 68th minute the Boks hit the front again as a quick tap penalty in the French 22m ended with Etzebeth powering over to score, with replacement Handre Pollard adding the extras to go into a one point lead.
Two minutes later a monster penalty from Pollard just inside his own half put the Boks 29-25, only for Ramos to hit straight back with a penalty of his own to make it a one point game again, with the Boks then holding on desperately over the closing moments.