Match Centre: Rugby World Cup Quarter-Final: France 28-29 South Africa

Handre Pollard of South Africa kicks their side's fourth conversion during the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against France
Handre Pollard of South Africa kicks their side's fourth conversion during the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against France
©Photo by Justin Setterfield - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

France 28-29 South Africa, Quarter-final, Stade de France

South Africa have kept their hope of defending the World Cup title alive as they edged out hosts France with a 29-28 victory in the quarter-final at Stade de France on Sunday.

They now face the finalist of the 2019 edition England in the semi-final while France's 18-game winning streak at home comes to an end despite a remarkable comeback from skipper Antonie Dupont from a fractured cheekbone.

France were brimming with confidence following their unbeaten run in the group stage as it reflected in their start as Damian Penaud fed Cyril Baille for the opening try inside four minutes following a maul and Thomas Ramos landed a tricky conversion to give them an early 7-0 lead.

South Africa though were quick to respond as Eben Etzebeth's power was at display forcing an error on Gael Fickou allowing Kurt-Lee Arendse to touchdown in the 8th minute. Young Manie Libbok made no mistake with the conversion as the scores were levelled.

The trend continued again as Libbok’s diagonal kick allowed Damian de Allende in the 18th minute to provide South Africa a five point lead but the Les Bleus levelled the scores by the 23rd minute with Peato Mauvaka barreling over the corner. Ramos' conversion was charged down brilliantly by Cheslin Kolbe as the scores remained levelled at 12-12.

South Africa continued to keep the crowd on the edge as Jesse Kriel's diagonal ball was collected by Kolbe, who ran unopposed to complete their third try and this time Libbok made no mistake with the conversion to make it 12-19 but Baille crashed over to complete his second after a French line out around the half-hour mark. A Ramos conversion meant the teams were levelled at 19-19 in the first half-hour of the game.

The Boks' momentum took a beating as Etzebeth was yellow carded for a head-on-head tackle on Uini Atonio and Ramos kicked a penalty goal which provided France a slender 22-19 lead at the end of a very competitive opening half.

South Africa had a huge relief starting the second half with Etzebeth's card not upgraded to red and despite being a player down in the early stage after the break, they held their defence well not to concede a point. With both the coaches opting for strength from the bench, France struck the first blow in the second half as Ox Nche was penalised for going on his knee and Ramos landed the three-pointer to make it 25-19.

With 13 minutes left in the game, South Africa made a dramatic comeback as Faf de Klerk made a perfect offload for the towering lock Etzebeth, who went past three players to dot down and the experienced Handre Pollard kicked the conversion and followed with a penalty goal to ensure South Africa had a 25-29 lead heading into the final 10 minutes.

However, France ensured they remained alive in the game as Ramos made it a one-point game with a nerveless penalty kick in the 72nd minute. However, the Springboks showed all their experience and ensured there were no slipping up sealing a thrilling one point victory shattering France's World Cup dream.

Match Reactions:

France team manager Raphael Ibanez rued missed opportunities costed them their World Cup dream.

"We are very sad tonight," said Ibanez. "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 Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber expressed delight over the victory and credited France for taking the game to the wire.

"Massive. I think it’s going to be a nice challenge," said Nienaber. "In knockouts anything can happen, like tonight I followed the England game when we were on the bus here.

"They had a healthy lead and then Fiji came back and then they also pushed it right to the end. I think knockouts are going to be small margins right to the end."

"Credit to the French. We knew it was going to be this tight. I think everybody knew it was going to be a big battle. Two good teams and unfortunately, or fortunately for us, we were on the right side of things."

Team line up:

France: Ramos; Penaud, Fickou, Danty, Bielle-Biarrey; Jalibert, Dupont (capt); Baille, Mauvaka, Atonio, Woki, Flament, Jelonch, Ollivon, Alldritt.

Reserves: Bourgarit, Wardi, Aldegheri, Taofifenua, Cros, Macalou, Lucu, Moefana.

South Africa: Willemse; Arendse, Kriel, De Allende, Kolbe; Libbok, Reinach; Kitshoff, Mbonambi, Malherbe, Etzebeth, Mostert, Kolisi (capt), Du Toit, Vermeulen.

Reserves: Fourie, Nche, Koch, Snyman, Smith, De Klerk, Pollard, Le Roux.