Defending champions South Africa emerged victorious against the host nation, France, in a nail-biting seven-try encounter that ended with a score of 29-28, propelling them into the Rugby World Cup semi-finals.
South Africa’s Fight to Defend Their Title
The exhilarating match on Sunday saw the Springboks keep their hopes of securing a record fourth title alive, thanks to the remarkable performance of fly-half Handre Pollard in the second half. This hard-fought victory sets up an enticing semi-final clash against England in Paris, scheduled for the upcoming Saturday.
France’s Disappointing Quarter-final Exit
France, ranked third in the world, had high hopes of advancing in front of their home crowd at the Stade de France. Despite leading at halftime, they faced an agonizing exit at the quarter-final stage. The disappointment was palpable among the home supporters.
South Africa’s captain, Siya Kolisi, commented on the match, acknowledging the French team’s resilience: “It was a hard game. We knew how tough it was going to be with the French team at home, and honestly, I just want to say well done to them for what they have achieved and how hard they worked.”
French Perspective and President Macron’s Presence
French fly-half Matthieu Jalibert expressed the team’s frustration and disappointment: “There is a feeling of a lot of disappointment and frustration. It is sad and very disappointing for us… it is hard to accept going out.” French President Emmanuel Macron was among the 79,500 spectators who witnessed the high-quality rugby contest, reflecting the significance of the match.
Antoine Dupont’s Return and Early Scoring
All eyes were on France’s captain Antoine Dupont, who made a remarkable return from a cheekbone fracture he suffered last month. His contribution was evident as he played a pivotal role in the French team’s early scoring. The first try came when Dupont fed Damian Penaud, who made an elegant pass to prop Cyril Baille, igniting the passion of the Parisian crowd.
South Africa’s Response and Breathless Start
Despite France initially appearing to be in control, the Springboks quickly responded. Kurt Lee-Arendse capitalized on a bouncing box kick to level the score. Manie Libbok, who was preferred over World Cup-winning fly-half Handre Pollard, brought parity after 10 minutes. The Boks’ momentum continued as Damian de Allende crashed over for a try, giving them the lead.
Ebb and Flow of the Game
The match witnessed a series of lead changes. France showcased their resilience as Dupont set up Peato Mauvaka for a crucial try. However, Ramos missed the conversion, which would prove costly later. South Africa regained the lead as Cheslin Kolbe charged down Ramos’ conversion attempt.
Halftime Drama and Second Half Momentum Shift
The first half ended with France leading 22-19, and South Africa down to 14 men after Eben Etzebeth received a yellow card. The second half saw tactical changes for the Springboks, with Cobus Reinach and Libbok being replaced by Faf De Klerk and Pollard. Etzebeth redeemed himself by scoring a try, swinging the momentum in South Africa’s favor.
A Nerve-wracking Finish
In a nerve-wracking final few minutes, Handre Pollard traded penalties with Thomas Ramos, keeping the outcome in suspense. As the clock ran into the red, Faf De Klerk’s crucial steal secured South Africa’s victory.
The heart-pounding match lived up to the World Cup’s grandeur, and South Africa’s triumph sets the stage for a thrilling semi-final showdown against England. The world eagerly awaits the outcome of this epic clash.