Rugby: South Africa overpower France to clinch series

Yoann Maestri (right) of France tackled by Malcolm Marx of South Africa.
Yoann Maestri (right) of France tackled by Malcolm Marx of South Africa.PHOTO: EPA

DURBAN (REUTERS) – South Africa overpowered France 37-15 in the second test on Saturday (June 17) to seal a series win and give another boost to their hopes of putting a miserable 2016 campaign behind them.

Jan Serfontein, Siya Kolisi, Coenie Oosthuizen and Elton Jantjies scored tries for South Africa and Jantjies added 17 points with the boot. Scott Spedding and debutant Damian Penaud went over for the French.

The Springbok forwards laid the platform for success as they edged the French in a bruising battle, dominating the breakdowns and proving tenacious in defence.

South Africa, who lost eight of 12 internationals in 2016 in the worst year in their history, were 37-14 winners in Pretoria last week in the first test and have a 2-0 lead going into the last game of the French tour at Ellis Park in Johannesburg next Saturday.

Jantjies got his first test try after Kolisi set him up with a break in the closing stages but it was in the last 20 minutes of the first half that the home side found their stride as they dominated the breakdown and established a 23-7 interval lead.

France were ahead after just three minutes as South African-born Spedding scored in the corner but Serfontein and Kolisi dotted down for the Boks before the break.

Kolisi’s try was a moment of magic. A punt up field was fielded by Francois Trinh Duc but he was caught by Serfontein and popped the ball up in the tackle for the rampaging Bok flanker to grab it millimetres off the ground and sprint from outside the 22 to dive over behind the posts.

Jantjies’ boot also punished French forward infringements to give the Boks a handy lead but they had to defend ferociously for the first 15 minutes of the second half to hold out the visitors’ efforts to get back into the game.

“We managed to hold them out at that stage which was very important. We are extremely excited with our improvement,” South Africa captain Warren Whiteley told a news conference.

A raft of substitutions with 15 minutes ago allowed fresh attacks from South Africa with prop Oosthuizen bursting through for their third try, only for Penaud to evade several tackles straight from the resultant kickoff and touch down for France.

Kolisi, who had won several turnovers and showed sharp handling skills a day after his 26th birthday, created an exciting finale for the 41,000-strong crowd with a break to set up Jantjies and put the seal on a convincing home performance.

"Things are really falling into place but we haven’t achieved anything yet. If we continue building like this we’ll definitely be a force to be reckoned with again,” South Africa coach Allister Coetzee said.