Eben Etzebeth held off several French players to score South Africa’s fourth tryFrance: (22) 28Tries: Baille 2, Mauvaka Cons: Ramos 2 Pens: Ramos 2South Africa: (19) 29Tries: Arendse, De Allende, Kolbe, Etzebeth Cons: Libbok 2, Pollard Pen: PollardSouth Africa kept the defence of their title alive with a thrilling quarter-final victory over France in one of the greatest matches in World Cup history.
Eben Etzebeth’s powerful late surge saw the Springboks come from behind to end France’s 18-game winning run on home soil and book a semi-final with England in a repeat of the 2019 final.
Both sides scored three tries in a pulsating first half at Stade de France before a Thomas Ramos penalty handed the hosts a narrow lead at the interval.
Ramos added another three points as France, led by their returning talisman Antoine Dupont in their pursuit of a maiden title, looked to wrestle momentum from the defending champions in a more attritional second half.
But Etzebeth’s try overturned the deficit before Handre Pollard’s huge penalty from inside his own half proved to be decisive.
Another Ramos penalty brought France to within a single point, to set-up a tense finale at the same venue that witnessed another last-eight thriller between New Zealand and Ireland just 24 hours earlier.
France were urged on by their partisan home support as they looked to keep the ball alive with the clock in the red, but as it spilled forward and Kurt-Lee Arendse gathered to pump it into the stands, the French challenge ended as the Boks celebrated.
France’s World Cup party comes to an endThe Springboks will now be favourites to overcome England next weekendBefore a ball had been kicked, the tournament hosts were tipped by many to go one better than their final defeat in 2011 and cap a golden era of French rugby with that elusive Webb Ellis Cup.
That confidence looked well-placed as France began their campaign with an impressive win over perennial World Cup heavyweights New Zealand on opening night and topped Pool A with four wins from four.
The only dark moment was a fractured cheekbone to poster-boy Dupont, but the anguish eventually faded as the scrum-half was cleared to play against the Springboks and 2023 started to feel like it could be the year.
France kicked off with intensity, looking to move the ball quickly through Dupont, and were rewarded in the fourth minute as Cyril Baille crossed in the corner.
South Africa pegged France back through Arendse before taking the lead with a Damian De Allende breakaway try.
Peato Mauvaka was a constant threat in the loose and his try restored parity before Ramos’ conversion attempt was brilliantly charged down by Cheslin Kolbe’s inspiring endeavour.
Kolbe then turned from points-saver to points-scorer as he latched onto Jesse Kriel’s perfectly-weighted grubber kick to leave Damian Penaud in his wake and score South Africa’s third try.
In a highly-skilled end-to-end half of Test rugby, Baille doubled his tally from close range as the momentum shifted once again. Ramos added the conversion and a penalty to bring the half to and end with France in the lead.
The second half was somewhat different as neither side wanted to make the crucial error.
The pendulum swung from side to side before the Boks prepared for a tap and go close to the line, which resulted in Etzebeth’s powerful charge over the line.
Boks show their tournament nous South Africa’s three titles make them the joint most successful side in World Cup history, with the All Blacks.
Eight of the starting XV began the win over England in the World Cup final in Japan four years ago, and that experience told when it mattered most.
South Africa had been training with background noise in preparation for the hostile atmosphere in the French capital, but they wanted to ensure they fired shots of their own.
The ploy to kick high and challenge inexperienced French wing Louis Bielle-Biarrey worked wonders as the hosts failed to gather the ball for Arendse’s opening try.
Manie Libbok was selected at fly-half despite his poor form from the kicking tee in the defeat by Ireland in the pool stages. As the under-pressure fly-half lined up to take his first conversion attempt, he calmly slotted the ball through the posts from close to the touchline.
More Springbok possession was kicked towards Bielle-Biarrey’s channel, and this time De Allende was the beneficiary as he scooped up the loose ball to charge towards the line.
Kolbe’s try was the best finish in the game as Penaud could only lay a helpless hand on his opposite wing’s buttocks, but despite France regaining the lead, the Boks always looked a threat and eventually turned the tide in their favour through Etzebeth.
They will be strong favourites to overcome England next Saturday and make it to consecutive World Cup finals.
Line-upsFrance: Ramos; Penaud, Fickou, Danty, Bielle-Biarrey; Jalibert, Dupont (capt); Baille, Mauvaka, Atonio, Woki, Flament, Jelonch, Ollivon, Alldritt.
Replacements: Bourgarit, Wardi, Aldegheri, Taofifenua, Cros, Macalou, Lucu, Moefana.
South Africa: Willemse; Arendse, Kriel, De Allende, Kolbe; Libbok, Reinach; Kitshoff, Mbonambi, Malherbe, Etzebeth, Mostert, Kolisi (capt), Du Toit, Vermeulen.
Replacements: Fourie, Nche, Koch, Snyman, Smith, De Klerk, Pollard, Le Roux.
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)