Habana's double earns Boks a high-speed draw

South Africa 30 France 30 (Half-time: 13-13)
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The Independent Online

They played Bach at the start of this Test and wow, how this game flowed. Johann Sebastian would have been proud of such vibrancy, brio and movement.

They played Bach at the start of this Test and wow, how this game flowed. Johann Sebastian would have been proud of such vibrancy, brio and movement.

Sunlight dappled the ABSA Stadium but it was these two sides who really lit it up. All things considered, a draw was the fairest result. Both teams were in their pomp at times, thrusting violently on attack, while at other moments they were hanging groggily on the ropes as their opponents smashed at them.

Who needs a boxing match when two teams slug it out like this?

Yet it was far removed from a heavyweight, forward-dominated affair. At times, the excitement and attacking ambitions of both teams ran away with them, creating a plethora of mistakes, errors, ill-directed kicking and wrong option taking.

But to criticise overtly would be churlish. Punters who pay good money want entertainment and that was what they got. Players like Bryan Habana, Fourie du Preez, Jean de Villiers, Frédéric Michalak, Yannick Jauzion, Marius Joubert and Yannick Nyanga painted the scene with vivid colour, showing touches as deft as the brushwork of Claude Monet. Given the weather, it could have been Normandy in summer and the French played like it.

What was most surprising was that the South Africans entered into this contract of danger, playing the French at the kind of loose game they love and at which they excel. Most thought the Springboks would play a far more structured game, and they may well have won if they had tempered their bold attacking intent with a little pragmatism. Such tactics played into French hands, although they also created an absolute feast of running rugby. At times it was more akin to sevens than 15-a-side.

The first half was generally scrappy, with both sides caught up in the whirl of movement and overly ambitious attack. France scored first when Jaco van der Westhuyzen threw a pass straight to the centre Florian Fritz, and he sent the impressive flanker Nyanga over.

But Habana, who is rapidly becoming one of the most lethal finishers in world rugby, finished a superb, flowing move for South Africa's first try and a series of kicks tied it at 13-13 at the interval.

The second half was only four minutes old when Habana got his second try, scooting over after the scrum-half Fourie du Preez's clever chip kick turned the defence. Back came France with a Pascal Papé try, the lock crashing over to make it 20-20.

The French scored again three minutes later, Cédric Heymans getting away up the left, Nyanga and the elegant Jauzion taking it on and the No 8 Julien Bonnaire scoring wide on the right from Michalak's neat cross kick. Jean-Baptiste Elissalde's conversion struck a post, making it 25-20 to the visitors.

The next Springbok score, which regained the lead, came after France had almost got over themselves. Du Preez was again instrumental with a clever kick, the full-back Julien Laharrague was caught in deep defence and the wing Jean de Villiers snatched the loose ball to score. Percy Montgomery's conversion made it 27-25 and his soaring drop goal made it 30-25 with 16 minutes left.

With both sides enjoying plenty of possession, often from turnovers, France responded when the wing Julien Candelon crossed on the right after a breathtaking series of raids and passes at high speed by backs and forwards alike. Alas for the French, Dimitri Yachvili's conversion rebounded from the far post and although both sides again went close, neither could squeeze a final, decisive score.

South Africa: P Montgomery; J de Villiers, M Joubert, DW Barry, B Habana; J van der Westhuyzen, F du Preez; O du Randt, J Smit (capt), E Andrews (CJ van der Linde, 55), A van den Berg, V Matfield, S Burger, J Cronje, D Rossouw.

France: J Laharrague; C Heymans (N Brusque, 80), F Fritz (D Traille, 65), Y Jauzion, J Candelon; F Michalak, J-B Elissalde (capt; D Yachvili, 70); O Milloud (P de Villiers, 60), S Bruno (W Servat, 60), S Marconnet, R Millo-Chluski (G Lamboley, 54), P Papé, Y Nyanga (R Martin, 78), J Bonnaire, O Magne.

Referee: A Lewis (Ireland).

Attendance: 50,000

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