Instead, the Lyon crowd was treated to a classic, a match which had a titanic forward struggle and expansive and exciting rugby. Both sides wanted to throw the ball around and it made for a wonderful spectacle.
The only downside for the Boks was the loss of their scrum-half Joost van der Westhuizen with a torn groin muscle which will rule him out of the remainder of the tour.
"The intensity of the match and the standard of the play was something I have never experienced before," said the French captain Philippe Saint- Andre.
The conclusion was breathtaking as the French, down 36-15, threw everything at the South Africans and scored three tries in the final 12 minutes.
France have some thinking to do over their half-back combination second Test in Paris on Saturday and the decision to pick Fabien Pelous and Olivier Brouzet, two No 8s, at lock also backfired.
France: Tries Merle, Califano, Glas; Conversion Lamaison; Penalties Lamaison 5. South Africa: Tries Muir, Montgomery, Rossouw, Dalton, Small; Conversions Honiball 4; Penalty Honiball.
FRANCE: J-L Sadourny; L Leflammand, S Glas, C Lamaison, P Saint-Andre (capt); T Lacroix, F Galthie; C Califano, M dal Maso, F Tournaire,O Brouzet, F Pelous, P Benetton, L Cabannes, A Benazzi.
SOUTH AFRICA: P Montgomery; J Small, A Snyman, D Muir, P Rossouw; H Honiball, J van der Westhuizen; O du Randt, J Dalton, A Garvey, M Andrews, K Otto, R Erasmus, A Venter, G Teichmann (capt).
Referee: D Bevan (Wales).Reuse content