France vs South Africa: 5 Famous Matches

Danny CoyleFeatured ColumnistNovember 19, 2013

France vs South Africa: 5 Famous Matches

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    France and the Springboks renew their rivalry on Saturday night in Paris in what promises to be a full-blooded encounter.

    South Africa had little trouble brushing aside Scotland last weekend and will be keen to end a season in which they ran the All Blacks close on a high.

    France looked vastly improved from the side who finished bottom of the Six Nations in spring when they went toe to toe with New Zealand two weeks ago. But a win against lowly Tonga is all they have to show for their toils this autumn so far.

    If both sides bring their 'A' games we could be in for a classic, so let's whet the appetite with a look back at some memorable clashes between the Boks and Les Bleus.

South Africa 19-15 France, 1995, World Cup Semi-Final

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    The 1995 World Cup is full of iconic moments; Lomu’s four-try romp against England, Chester Williams’ starring role for South Africa and Nelson Mandela’s famous arrival on the Newlands’ turn in Francois Pienaar’s No. 6 jersey before the final.

    Among the highlights that defined the tournament, you will seldom find the moment a clutch of elderly women took to the sodden turf of Durban’s Kings Park to save South Africa from an ignominious exit.

    The Boks were due to face France in the semi-finals when a biblical downpour delayed the start of the game.

    Conditions were so appalling they considered cancelling the match, which would have seen France go through on account of their better disciplinary record in the tournament.

    With referee Derek Bevan erring towards a cancellation, fearing what might happen should a scrum collapse in one of the deeper pools of water, the women were dispatched, brooms in hand, to sweep the worst of the flood over the touchlines.

    The game was allowed to start in possibly the worst conditions a game in the modern era has ever been played.

    Ruben Kruger scored the game’s only try while Joel Stransky and Thierry Lacroix traded penalties to leave the game in the balance at 19-15 in the dying moments.

    When Abdelatif Benazzi poured through on an up-and-under five metres out from the South African line, he slid over on the wet turf and looked for all the world as though he had scored the try to break 43 million South African hearts.

    But Bevan decided he had been held up, and there was no time left for another assault. The weather, the referee and a few ladies and their trusty brooms had sealed South Africa's place in the World Cup final.

France 10-52 South Africa, 1997

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    The Parc des Princes was home to the French national team since 1906, when they were beaten 38-8 by New Zealand.

    They bade farewell to the old concrete citadel in the autumn of 1997 when they hosted the world champion Springboks.

    But the Boks were in no mood to make it a fond farewell to the ageing stadium, and they inflicted a heavier beating than the one by which the ground was christened 91 years previously.

    Coming off a humbling defeat to the unfancied Lions that summer, South Africa were in Europe with a point to prove, and they hammered it home in Paris with a 52-10 win.

    Wing Pieter Rossouw plundered four tries, with Henry Honiball, Andre Snyman and Gary Teichmann all crossing as well in a powerful demonstration of South African rugby.

    France left the place behind to move to the gleaming new Stade de France, only returning ten years later for the third-place playoff in the 2007 World Cup with Argentina.

    It would not be a happy return, as the effervescent Pumas beat the hosts for the second time in the tournament.

South Africa 30-30 France, 2005

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    When Bryan Habana skated home for his second try of the match, it looked as though South Africa were well on their way to a comfortable win over Les Bleus in Durban, the first of a two-test series in 2005.

    Habana’s score made it 20-13 early in the second half, but the French came roaring back.

    Pascal Pape and Julien Bonnaire both crossed the whitewash to put France ahead 25-20.

    But a try from Jean de Villiers and a drop goal from Percy Montgomery sent the Boks back into the lead in this topsy-turvy 40 minutes of rugby.

    Five points down and the clock running out, the game looked up for France, until a slick handling move released Julien Candelon to rescue a draw from the jaws of defeat.

South Africa 26-36 France, 2006

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    France inflicted South Africa’s first home defeat in three years with a win in Cape Town after yet another stirring comeback.

    Five Percy Montgomery penalties and a Brent Russell try put the home side in control at 23-11 up.

    But two inspired tries from diminutive Toulouse legend Vincent Clerc and a virtuoso effort from Damien Traille ensured France would taste victory on South African soil for the first time since 2001.

    With only a year to go before the 2007 World Cup, this result ensured the knives were out for Springbok coach Jake White, who survived the calls for his head to lead the Boks to the Webb Ellis Cup, ironically in Paris, the following autumn.

France 20-13 South Africa, 2009

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    Insult was added to injury for South Africa on a brisk night in Toulouse as they went down 20-13 to France.

    Les Bleus outmuscled the Springbok pack and thoroughly deserved their victory. It was sealed by a try from Vincent Clerc plus four penalties from Julien Dupuy and another from Morgan Parra.

    The Boks had led 13-11 at the break thanks to a John Smit try, which may have gone some way to erasing the demolition job done on their national anthem by Ras Dumisani.

    The Reggae star from South Africa butchered Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika to the point where the South African players looked in a state of shock and sections of the crowd were bent double with laughter.

    The Guardian's report on the fiasco revealed the shock waves from Dumisani's performance reached political levels in South Africa, while Boks skipper Victor Matfield also let his feelings be known.

    "It was a joke out there. The guys couldn't sing along to it and even the crowd were starting to laugh. It was very disappointing."