Courageous Boks see red and come up short against France in Marseille thriller

If there is such a thing as glory in defeat, this was it by the Springboks. But in the cold light of day, the result — France 30 (16), South Africa 26 (10) — means that the tour is turning into a rugby disaster.
The Springboks played against France with 14 men for 67 minutes and with 13 for a further 10 of those minutes. They came back from 13-0 down to lead, only to fall short to a dubious try in the final five minutes of this captivating, courageous and utterly brilliant contest.
If this is what the World Cup has in store 11 months from now, it can’t come soon enough.
France were, as expected, excellent. The Springboks were, slightly surprisingly, excellent in most of the areas where they were so poor a week before when losing 19-16 to Ireland. They landed six out of six goal kicks with three different kickers, and the rolling maul caused France problems.
They did lose three of their own lineouts in the first half, as hooker Bongi Mbonambi seemed to be out of sync with his jumpers. It didn’t help that lineout linchpin Lood de Jager was out through injury.
Even the Boks’ execution of chances was better, because they had fewer opportunities at a frothing Stade Vélodrome in Marseille than a week earlier, and converted two of them into fine tries.
Captain Siya Kolisi emerged from the centre of a maul close to the line to score on the half-hour, which dragged the Boks back into the match after it looked as if it might dissolve into a damage-limitation exercise after Pieter-Steph du Toit was red-carded in the 13th minute.
Du Toit entered a ruck dangerously and made direct head-to-head contact with France centre Jonathan Danty. There was no intended malice, but it was reckless and referee Wayne Barnes had no other option but to issue a red card.
Poor Du Toit cut a distraught figure on the touchline, knowing that an already tough assignment — to stop France’s 11-match winning streak reaching 12 — had just become almost impossible.
French fullback Thomas Ramos had already put the home side 3-0 up with a penalty early on. He landed another soon after Du Toit’s exit, before prop Cyril Baille smashed over for a try on 20 minutes. At 13-0 down, the Boks looked to be in serious trouble.
Collective effort
But they showed tenacity and no shortage of nous to stay ...