Boks bring Six Nations champs back down to earth

South Africa 42 France 17

South Africa 42 France 17

South Africa produced a ruthless five-try display as France were brushed aside in the one-off Test at Newlands in Cape Town.

The tourists never recovered after a nightmare opening quarter, but in truth they struggled to cope with the Springboks’ physicality and supreme line-out work throughout as they were handed a humbling defeat following their Grand Slam winning exploits in the RBS 6 Nations.

The world champions roared into a 17-0 lead after 10 minutes thanks to tries from number eight Pierre Spies and wing Gio Aplon plus a penalty and two conversions from fly-half Morne Steyn.

Steyn added another penalty and prop Guthro Steenkamp went over as the hosts took a 25-10 half-time lead. Aurelien Rougerie crossed for the visitors with Morgan Parra kicking five points.

Steyn, who kicked 15 points in total, added another penalty after the break and Aplon’s second try plus a score from Francois Louw sealed an emphatic win. Replacement Marc Andreu got a late consolation for the French.

South Africa made seven changes from the side that beat Wales a week ago as the likes of Spies, Bryan Habana, Schalk Burger and Steyn all returned.

France coach Marc Lievremont handed a Test debut to flanker Wenceslas Lauret but stuck with the majority of the side that secured the Grand Slam with victory over England in Paris back in March.

Wing Rougerie returned after missing the majority of the Six Nations through injury while Maxime Mermoz partnered David Marty at centre.

The Springboks made the perfect start as a thrilling counter-attack yielded a second-minute try.

Marty lost the ball in contact and Habana seized on it to race clear, the winger’s inside ball found Jaque Fourie who fed Spies to race behind the posts, Steyn adding the extras.

The Six Nations champions’ early problems were compounded as they lost their first three line-outs and then some woeful defending allowed Aplon in for the second try in the opening eight minutes.

A simple move off a maul saw the winger bounce off the weak tackle of Mermoz and race over for his first Test try in the right-hand corner, Steyn’s conversion making it 14-0.

And things could have become even worse for the tourists seconds later when Ricky Januarie’s perfectly-weighted chip saw full-back Zane Kirchner race clear, but Vincent Clerc made a brilliant cover tackle.

However, referee Bryce Lawrence brought play back for a penalty, which Steyn stroked over.

France did finally manage to settle down but they offered very little attacking threat and a poor decision to counter-attack by Clement Poitrenaud saw the full-back penalised for holding on in the tackle, Steyn once again punishing Les Bleus.

But the visitors finally put together a constructive passage of attacking play in the 29th minute as good hands from Poitrenaud, Mermoz and Julien Bonnaire sent Rougerie galloping over for a try, converted by Parra.

The respite did not last long, however, as the Springboks hit back as Steyn’s floated pass gave, of all people, prop Steenkamp a simple run-in down the left flank. The fly-half was off target for the first time in the match with the conversion.

Parra slotted a penalty on the stroke of half-time, but it would have come as little consolation to Lievremont’s side.

Another Steyn penalty re-established South Africa’s 18-point lead, and any hopes France may have had of a comeback were ended when a loose pass in a promising attacking position was seized on by Aplon and the Stormers speed merchant raced 80 metres to dot down. Steyn again added the extras.

France looked to hit back as Rougerie’s pass set scrum-half Parra on a run to the line, but a magnificent covering tackle from the outstanding Danie Rossouw denied the scrum-half.

With his side well on the way to victory Springbok coach Peter de Villiers brought on flanker Dewald Potgieter and fly-half Ruan Pienaar, as well as handing a debut to lock Flip van der Merwe, although the latter’s first cap was quickly interrupted as he was sin-binned for slowing down the ball.

With the visitors also ringing the changes the game became a scrappy affair but flanker Louw got his first Test score late on as he broke clear to race over. Pienaar added the extras, to cap an impressive display from South Africa.

But there was still time for replacements David Skrela and Andreu to link up for the latter to barge his way over.

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