Rugby: the XV of France extricates itself in extremis from the claws of South Africa

Rugby is a combat sport. If some were tempted to forget it, there is a team that takes care of remembering it: South Africa. In all places equal to itself, imposing confrontation and physical challenge again and again. It came close to triumphing, this South African world champion, proud and fierce as usual, this Saturday, November 12 at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille.

Except that opposite stood a XV of France who learns to get out of all situations, to bend without breaking and to carry the thrust when all seems lost. The Blues therefore reversed a very compromised situation to win in the end 30-26 and offer themselves a twelfth consecutive victory at the end of a crazy match.

Blues passed through the rolling mill

The battle was announced. Before the meeting, the tricolor coach Fabien Galthié had summarized the qualities of these South Africans that the Blues had not managed to beat since 2009. “In their culture, they have this: intensity. It’s a team that likes to move forward, which must move forward, whatever happens, with or without the ball, with a defense that throws itself at the opponent, harasses him, grabs him by the throat. » And from the outset things happened exactly that way. South Africans in rolling mode. And Blues who collect and respond.

But the characteristic of great matches is not to be satisfied with ready-made explanations. And the least we can say is that the game began to write a rather upsetting scenario. Springboks reduced to 14 after the expulsion of one of their player who was a little too furious, the Blues in excess who seemed to be in control at first but who soon gave in to the redoubled assaults of South Africans as if galvanized. Consequence: concussions in spades, and an XV of France which arrives at half-time having already emptied two thirds of its bench of substitutes.

Antoine Dupont expelled

What happens next doesn’t help. At the very beginning of the second half, an excess of commitment from captain Antoine Dupont forced the referee to show a red card, restoring the balance on the lawn: 14 against 14. The Springboks added more, advanced on all impacts and finished by taking the score. The case for the Blues is badly off, until the entry of the last substitutes, the revolt sounded in the last minutes and an unexpected test which changes the situation in extremis.

Like a week earlier when a final try by Damian Penaud offered a victory over the gong to the Blues against Australia? Not quite. Against the Wallabies, it was an individual feat that tipped the balance on the right side (30-29). Against the Springboks, it was the collective solidarity and the contribution of the finishers who immediately entered the right tempo that made it possible to win the bet. Probably not in the prettiest of ways, but with character.

“It was a bit of a war on the pitch”

“All the players went for this victory. They refused defeat. We felt it at some point. She was prowling there, she was in the stadium. We saw her, but the players refused her. At what price ! », commented Fabien Galthié after the meeting. In fact, the Blues pay dearly for their exemplary resistance. During the shock leading to the first expulsion, the center Jonathan Danty suffered a fracture of the orbital floor. The prop Cyril Baille will have to undergo minor surgery for a hernia in the groin. The second line Thibaud Flament suffers from a concussion. “I have never experienced such enormous intensity. It was a bit of a war on the pitch.”underlined the second line of the Blues Cameron Woki.

The three injured players, like Antoine Dupont sanctioned, will be absent from the last test match of this autumn tour against Japan in Toulouse on November 20. “There are positives tonight”, however wanted to retain the captain of the Blues. The victory, in fact, yet another. The ability to react, again, to get out of a bad situation. But that was hanging by a thread and the Blues also suffered a lot without being able to impose their game. It is not impossible that they will meet the Springboks in the quarter-finals of the World Cup next September. It’s not the happiest of prospects.



CAN 2022: figures of African football denounce the contempt of which the competition is said to be a victim

“It shows the lack of respect for Africa. ” This was Sébastien Haller’s answer to a question from a journalist for the Dutch daily. From Telegraaf asking him if he preferred to favor participation in the next African Cup of Nations (CAN) or stay with his club. “Would we have asked this question to a European player before the Euro?” Of course I’m going to CAN ”, added the star striker of Ajax Amsterdam and the Ivorian selection, a bit annoyed.

TO READ. In Cameroon, Jesuit priest calls for boycott of Africa Cup of Nations

At the origin of the controversy: the desire of European clubs not to release their African players selected by their national team to play the next CAN, organized in Cameroon from January 9 to February 6. “The African Football Confederation has not yet made public a suitable medical and operational protocol for the CAN tournament, in the absence of which the clubs will not be able to release their players for the tournament”, threatened on December 15 the European Association of Clubs (ECA), the organization responsible for defending the interests of teams from the Old Continent.

Eto’o and Drogba on the front line

These threats were ultimately not carried out. However, they did not fail to trigger the exasperation of African football players. If these pressures return on the occasion of each new CAN, the reaction has, this time, taken on an unprecedented scale. Great voices from the continent have strongly denounced the contempt they consider victim to competition in particular, like African football in general.

Samuel Eto’o, living legend of African football, did not hesitate to step up when the statements of the ECA cast doubt on a postponement or even cancellation of the competition. “Why shouldn’t the Africa Cup of Nations be played out? Give me only one valid reason!, rebelled the new president of the Cameroonian Football Federation on December 21. We are being treated as we have always been treated: we are less than nothing and we must always suffer.

Ten days later, it was the former Ivorian glory Didier Drogba who expressed his indignation on Twitter: “Respect must be mutual (…). There is still too much discrimination, inequalities with regard to our competitions and our players. ” A call also relayed by non-African personalities, such as Ian Wright, former Arsenal star striker. “Is there a tournament more despised than the African Cup of Nations”, wondered the Englishman, consultant for the BBC, who judges “Disrespectful” and “Tinged with racism” the attitude of journalists asking players if they would prefer to join their selection or stay with their club.

CAN in summer?

However, behind the contempt hides a much more down to earth issue: the calendar. Unlike other international competitions such as the Euro or the World Cup, the CAN is played in January, that is to say at the same time as the major European championships. Hence the pressure exerted by the clubs to retain their players at an important point in the season.

→ READ. CAN, mirror of the difficulties and promises of African football

Pressure that pushes some players to give up their summons to selection, even if their club does not strictly forbid them to go there. This was for example the case of Yacouba Nasser Djiga, Burkinabé defender of FC Basel whose refusal triggered the ire of his coach and his federation.

One solution could however satisfy everyone: organize the CAN in summer, when the clubs are no longer playing. The debate around the availability of players had also not taken in the summer of 2019, date of the last CAN. A return to the summer format is planned for 2023.