South Africa’s 29-28 victory over France in Sunday’s World Cup quarterfinal was decided by the finest of margins, said coach Jacques Nienaber as the defending champions went past the host nation and into next weekend’s semi-finals.
South Africa won an attritional contest, taking their opportunities to outscore the French four ties to three and set up a meeting with England at Stade de France on Saturday.
“Credit to the French first of all,” said Nienaber. “We knew it was going to be this tight. I think everybody knew it was going to be a big battle. There were two good teams and fortunately for us, we were on the right side of things.”
There were a raft of early second half changes that nullified France’s advantage after Eben Etzebeth was yellow carded and sent to the sin bin and allowed South Africa to turn the tide after France kicked a 54th minute penalty to go 25-19 ahead.
“With the yellow card, we had to come up with solutions, but I must say that’s probably credit to the experience that we have in the squad. Stuff like that happens, they’ve been there before, they’ve been at a World Cup before and they’ve found solutions during the game,” Nienaber added. South Africa’s replacements outmuscled the tiring French and after Etzebeth’s try they went ahead and held on in the end to extinguish home hopes.
“I must give credit to the guys that came off the bench, they came and made a huge difference,” added captain Siya Kolisi.
Man-of-the match Bongi Mbonambi added: “All credit to the team, it was a whole team effort. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy playing the host team in their backyard with a sold-out crowd singing their national anthem the whole time.
“We were just focused on what we had to do, we stayed on task. It was a great game of rugby.”
The Springboks now meet England back in Paris on Saturday.
“I think it’s going to be a massive challenge. In the knockout rounds anything can happen, there are going to be small margins right to the end,” added Nienaber.
And Mbonambi warned that South Africa’s defence of the title was not yet complete. “We’ve still got two more games to go, this is still nothing.” – SuperSport.