Boks take France out

In a com­fort­able win against a de­ter­mined French side, Siya Kolisi shone as bright as the star he is

CityPress - - Sport - SIMNIKIWE XA­BAN­ISA at Kings Park Sta­dium sports@city­press.co.za

The French brought out the heavy ar­tillery and some­thing ap­proach­ing their A-game, but the re­sult was de­press­ingly fa­mil­iar – an­other com­fort­able win for the Spring­boks. In the build-up to this game, talk was that the French could only be stronger af­ter chang­ing eight play­ers in their team and would seek to be phys­i­cal.

But a per­for­mance big on phys­i­cal­ity, de­fence and com­po­sure not seen last year by Al­lis­ter Coet­zee’s men meant not only did they win the game, they won the three-match se­ries against the vis­i­tors with a game to spare.

The game had flanker Siya Kolisi’s fin­ger­prints all over it in a mon­strous per­for­mance not seen in a while from a player in a green and gold jer­sey. Kolisi made two try-scor­ing passes; tack­led ev­ery­thing that moved; was all over the ball on the ground like a cheap suit; and still found time to score an in­ter­cept try of his own in a per­for­mance for the ages.

The irony was that the French, whose phys­i­cal­ity at Lof­tus Vers­feld was ap­par­ently de­scribed as “laugh­able” by their wily coach Guy Novès, had ac­tu­ally brought the req­ui­site noise in the early col­li­sions.

A counter-ruck in­side their own half in the third minute led to a try for full­back Scott Sped­ding on his re­turn to King’s Park af­ter nine years, while a ram­pag­ing run in the by num­ber eight Louis Pi­camoles meant would-be tack­ler Oupa Mo­hojé was stretchered off in­side the first quar­ter with sus­pected con­cus­sion.

The hall­mark of that try, con­verted by scrum half Bap­tiste Serin, was said heavy me­tal, a cou­ple of ven­omous thrusts by winger Virimi Vakatawa, pa­tience with ball in hand and good de­ci­sion-mak­ing on the ball.

But just as the 41 806 peo­ple in the sta­dium started sound­ing be­calmed by the French re­sis­tance, the hosts – led by their aveng­ing an­gel Kolisi – re­sponded with a com­bi­na­tion of in­ven­tive­ness and bru­tal­ity. A case in point was their first try, scored by cen­tre Jan Ser­fontein.

The score had its ori­gins in an Eben Etze­beth line-out take, with Kolisi mak­ing the de­ci­sive in­side pass for Ser­fontein. But the im­pres­sive thing about it was that the Boks looked like they knew what they were do­ing in set­ting it up, with screens run­ning in front of the in­tended ball car­ri­ers to fix the de­fence.

Then came the testos­terone-fu­elled re­sponse, which showed it­self in Kolisi, hooker Mal­colm Marx and Etze­beth’s car­ry­ing, with the for­mer two and Ser­fontein do­ing the bulk of the thiev­ing of the ball over the ground.

In the mean­time, prop Beast Mtawarira and Rabah Sli­mani waged their own pri­vate war in the scrums, the ledger read­ing “won some, lost some” for both, while cap­tain War­ren White­ley gave some­thing ap­proach­ing a clinic in line-out play through­out the game.

When the French did muster the re­serves to hit back, as was the case early in the sec­ond half, the Bok de­fence was not found want­ing, keep­ing the French out for a pe­riod of five min­utes from the 50th minute.

A mark of the de­sire de­fen­sively within this team was that wee Ross Cronjé fin­ished it all off with a lung­ing tackle on debu­tant Damian Pe­naud, who would have scored were it not for the scrum half’s des­per­a­tion.

Other Bok play­ers who tried to mus­cle in on the Kolisi show were Ser­fontein, Marx and fly half El­ton Jan­tjies.

The re­tir­ing Ser­fontein wasn’t flashy, but he did do the right thing at the right time; the block­buster Marx continues in ex­plo­sive vein in con­tact, adding ac­cu­rate line-out throw­ing and ball pil­fer­ing to his wreck­ing ball ways; and Jan­tjies con­tin­ued with his less mercury, more sub­stance game.

PHOTO: AN­TON GEYSER / GALLO IM­AGES

POW­ER­ING THROUGH Siya Kolisi in ac­tion dur­ing the Boks’ test match against France at Kings Park Sta­dium in Dur­ban yes­ter­day

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