South Africa. . . . . .41
DISFIGURED though last night's game at Stade Velodrome was by as bad an outbreak of fighting as the bloodthirsty voyeur could ever wish to witness, the Springboks still put together easily their most conclusive and satisfying performance of a troubled tour.
With the first Test in Lyon only four days away, it was perfectly timed to lift confidence after two unconvincing wins and a defeat, and did no harm to the prospects of those - most of last night's team - in with a chance of Test selection. These boys can play rugby as well as fight.
Games in this part of the world are always simmering and need only a few drops of petrol to explode into complete conflagration, and so it came to pass as an increasingly bitter first half exploded into unrestrained violence. Half an hour was all the sides' patience with each other could stand.
By then it was hardly surprising that players should lose control. The really astonishing thing was that so many of them should have chosen, quite deliberately, to get involved, turning a standard punch-up - if there is such a thing - into a brawl which involved virtually everyone.
On it dragged for a full minute, which seemed an age. Hugh Reece-Edwards, not some bruising forward but the tourists' full- back, for heaven's sake, charged in from 40 yards away just to throw some punches - and so it went on until order was restored with a penalty against the Springboks and a warning to their acting captain, Heinrich Rodgers.
Trouble had broken out in the first half-minute when the opposing wings - yes, wings - Deon Oosthuizen and David Jaubert started thumping each other. The Frenchman was deemed the transgressor and Reece-Edwards landed the penalty.
The French retorted with a superbly struck drop goal from 45 yards by Eric Berdeu after Reece- Edwards, impeded by the referee, had missed touch. A short pass by Knoetze to Muller put Ian MacDonald away for an excellent try, which was converted by Reece- Edwards, and before the bust-up Patrice Tesseire pulled back a penalty for Provence.
Tempers having cooled over half-time, the 'Boks got on with the rugby in the second half. Tries by Botha Rossouw and Jacques Olivier pushed them comfortably clear and they were in rampant form by the time Pieter Muller and Hennie le Roux added another two. It had been a liberation.
Provence-Cote d'Azur: Penalties Tesseire 3; Drop goal Berdeu. South Africa: Tries MacDonald, Rossouw, Olivier, Muller, Le Roux; Conversions Reece-Edwards 5; Penalties Reece-Edwards 2.
PROVENCE-COTE D'AZUR: E Berdeu (Nice); P Tesseire, J-C Repon (Toulon), E Artiguste (Nice), D Jaubert; Y Delaigue (Toulon), J-E Piazza (Chateaurenard, capt); M Perie, E Dasalmartini (Toulon), C Barriere (Nmes), G Orsoni (Toulon), T Devergie (Nmes), L Loppy (Toulon), E Melville (Toulon), G Castello (Nimes). Replacements: J-M Monie (Chateaurenard) for Jaubert, 40; M Pujolle (Nice) for Melville, 63; M de Rougemont (Toulon) for Barriere, 63.
SOUTH AFRICA: H Reece-Edwards (Natal); D Oosthuizen (Northern Transvaal), F Knoetze (Western Province), P Muller (Natal), J Olivier (N Transvaal); H le Roux (Transvaal), R du Preez (Natal); H Rodgers (Transvaal, capt), A Truscott (N Transvaal), K Andrews (W Province), A Geldenhuys (Eastern Province), S Atherton (Natal), P Pretorius (N Transvaal), B Rossouw (Western Transvaal), I MacDonald (Transvaal). Replacement: A Richter (Northern Transvaal) for MacDonald, 71.
Referee: P Thomas (Drome-Ardeche).