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.