France 26 South Africa 20: White laments slow start as France capitalise

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The Independent Online

A mess of a match and a scrappy sort of performance from both sides. That was not how the South Africa coach, Jake White, wanted to see his Springboks end their rugby year.

If ever one team looked mentally fit for a game, this was it. The Springboks made so many errors in the opening half-hour that any chance of a meaningful, successful game after that was made impossible. South Africa resorted to playing catch-up rugby for the remainder of the match. It might have looked close on the scoreboard by the end, thanks to Jaque Fourie's 74th-minute try, but out on the field there was only one team running this game. The other one was running about in a completely disorganised fashion.

To succeed against the French you must play a tight, structured game in which you do not make the kind of howlers that White's men made inside the first nine minutes on Saturday night. By then, France were 12-0 up and ready to enjoy themselves. Game over.

White admitted: "The one area I am hugely disappointed about is the way we started... Suddenly, we were 15 points down and you don't come back from that."

The French were erratic, enigmatic. The home team led 15-3 at half-time and thereafter did enough to keep their noses in front. They accepted the win, but knew far higher standards will be required leading up to the 2007 World Cup here.

France: Tries Szarzewski, Michalak, Rougerie; Conversion Elissalde; Penalties Elissalde 2, Michalak.

South Africa: Tries B Botha, Fourie; Conversions Montgomery 2; Penalty Montgomery, Bosman.

France: T Castaignède; A Rougerie, F Fritz, Y Jauzion, C Heymans; F Michalak (Y Deliague, 74), J-B Elissalde; R Martin, J Bonnaire, Y Nyanga (T Lievremont, 74), J Thion (capt; G Lamboley, 14), L Nallet, P de Villiers, D Szarzewski (S Bruno, 54), O Milloud (S Marconnet, 51).

South Africa: P Montgomery; B Paulse, J Fourie, J de Villiers, B Habana; M Bosman (De Wet Barry, 74), M Claassens; J Cronje, J Smith, S Burger, V Matfield (A van den Berg, 70), B Botha (Rossouw, 67), C J van der Linde (G Botha, 77), J Smit (capt), O du Randt (E Andrews, 66).

Referee: S Young (Australia).

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