Defending champions South Africa edged a titanic contest 29-28, with Eben Etzebeth’s powerful try in the 67th minute earning the Springboks victory in a match that delivered drama and intensity of the highest order.
Handre Pollard then extended South Africa’s lead with a penalty and although Thomas Ramos cut their lead back to one point, the holders broke France hearts as they held on to a thrilling victory.
The first half will go down as one of the greatest ever seen, with three tries apiece amid an unbelievable display of pace, physicality and skill from both sides.
But it was the Springboks who held their nerve in what was a battle for the ages, and they will now play England next Saturday after they edged Fiji in another dramatic quarter-final contest.
Follow all the reaction from Paris after South Africa knocked the hosts out of the Rugby World Cup
France suffer painful symmetry with Ireland as Springboks continue southern dominance
Ireland and New Zealand played out the greatest Rugby World Cup quarter-final of all time, which ended with 37 phases of Irish agony, and yet it took just 24 hours for that game to be bettered by France and South Africa.
It may not have been quite 37 phases, but France’s own final stand – desperately, fruitlessly searching for that decisive score to overcome the inevitable as the clock turns red – ended the same, heartbreaking way. French bodies dropped to the turf in despair, almost exactly mirroring their Irish counterparts from 24 hours earlier, and a southern hemisphere nation celebrated the ongoing World Cup domination over a northern hemisphere titan.
It’s safe to say that no stadium in history has hosted two better games of rugby in the space of one weekend than we’ve been treated to at the Stade de France. It’s also highly likely that no venue has ever witnessed two such incredible occasions, regardless of the sport, in as many days.
The history books will show that the Springboks triumphed 29-28 to seal a semi-final spot but the 80,000 people here will never forget the visceral thrill of watching perhaps as great a match of rugby as it’s possible for there to be. Nor will the majority forget the complete and utter devastation they felt as their home nation heroes came up agonisingly, excruciatingly short on the biggest stage.
Read Luke Baker’s full match report from the Stade de France below:
France 28-29 South Africa: Just 24 hours after Ireland endured quarter-final heartbreak in Paris, hosts France followed suit after an epic Rugby World Cup encounter
‘Hard to accept,’ says France fly-half Matthieu Jalibert
The French are still without a title and this failure will perhaps hurt more than any of the others, even the lost finals on foreign soil in 1987, 1999 and 2011. “We’re going to try to find something positive by saying that we have a lot of young players, a fine generation,” France fly-half Matthieu Jalibert said. “But the reality is that today we failed to get out of the quarter-finals of a home World Cup. That’s going to be hard to accept.”
England rugby fans dressed as Lord Nelson involved in chaotic fights during World Cup clash
A man dressed as Lord Nelson picked up another supporter and threw him down several rows of seats at the Stade Velodrome
Antoine Dupont slams referee after France crash out of Rugby World Cup
Antoine Dupont slammed the refereeing in the aftermath of the loss.
In a match decided by the finest of margins, Les Bleus captain Dupont – whose recovery from a fractured cheekbone suffered just 24 hours prior had dominated the build-up to the game –was unhappy with referee Ben O’Keeffe and let rip in his post-match press conference.
France captain Dupont was angry with Ben O’Keeffe’s decisions during the World Cup quarter-final defeat to South Africa
FULL-TIME: France 28-29 South Africa
Conflicting emotions at full-time:
Raphael Ibanez, French team manager, speaking after the game
“We are very sad tonight. I think we gave everything to win that game. We knew it would be a very tight game and we had to score every opportunity. We had some good opportunities, but unfortunately we couldn’t convert them into points.”
“We had our chances, they were pragmatic and sometimes we try and try our best with the support of the French fans.
“This is why we are sad tonight, we are sad for them. We have to get up and stand up and go for the next fight. We have other games coming, not in this World Cup, but we have to still believe in the team.”
South African lock, Eben Etzebeth, speaking to ITV
“An incredible Test match. It could have gone either way. We are obviously so happy and relieved that it went our way; I know the French must be broken so spare a thought for them but we will celebrate tonight and then prepare for the semi-finals against England which will be a massive game.”
On scoring after his sin-bin: “A bit of bad luck there [with the yellow card]. I never want to get a yellow card in such a tense game and just wanted to come back and give it my all like the boys were doing on the field. It was a massive team effort.
“We didn’t really whether to go for the points but it worked out great and got us into the winning position.”
Jacques Nienaber, South African head coach, speaking to ITV
“The result is massive. The French are a quality team and they’ve been consistent over the last few years. Playing them here, in Paris, was always going to be a massive challenge for us and credit to our team. I thought they stuck at it and the momentum shifted a lot in the game and that’s the benefit of having a lot of players that have been here before - the calm heads pulled us through.
On their second-half try: “We’ve been working on that for some time and looking for an opportunity to use it. We tried it one of the games but it’s something that we’ve worked on during the last couple of weeks.
On England: “From now on, it’s going to be tight. I followed some of England’s game on the bus on the way here and they had a healthy lead and then Fiji came back. That’s what World Cup knockout rugby is about. You are never comfortable.”
FULL-TIME: France 28-29 South Africa
Just how crucial was this charged-down conversion from Kolbe on Ramos in the first half? Those extra two points would have seen France through to the semi-finals.
The finest of margins.
Siya Kolisi, South African captain, speaking to ITV
“We knew how tough it was going to be against a French team at home and honestly I just want to say well done to them for all they achieved and how hard they worked. And to the supporters; it’s been an amazing tournament and they can be proud of what they have done.
“We really wanted it. Credit to the guys who came on they made the difference but most importantly the supporters of this team back home.
“They can’t afford to be here but the videos, the schools singing for us - that’s what we play for. We play for our nation - it’s not about us on this field but everybody back home and that’s what is driving us. Win or lose, you will see the same kind of fight.”
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