France extended their impressive winning run to 12 games when they tamed South Africa 30-26 at the Stade Velodrome in a nail-biting contest on Saturday.
Les Bleus had scrumhalf Antoine Dupont sent off in the second half after the world champions had also been reduced to 14 men following Pieter-Steph du Toit’s early exclusion.
But a strong finish, with a late try by forward Sipili Falatea and a last-gasp penalty by Thomas Ramos, earned Fabien Galthie’s side another win a week after they edged out Australia 30-29 in Paris.
South Africa were always close thanks to penalties by Cheslin Kolbe, Siya Kolisi and Kurt-Lee Arendse but France were just a cut above, less than a year before they host the World Cup.
“We went for it. We wanted to win. It was a very peculiar scenario but we were always going forward,” said France coach Galthie.
“This is what we’ve been working for. This is the kind of game the players wanted to play when they started playing rugby. We’re on the right path. We have found our way.”
The Springboks were reduced to 14 men after 12 minutes when Jonathan Danty, vulnerable on the floor, was hit in the head by Du Toit and they were to crack in the finale following Deon Fourie’s yellow card 10 minutes from time.
Flanker Du Toit was shown a straight red card and France went on to double their advantage after Ramos’s second penalty.
Les Bleus were 13-0 up after Cyril Baille stretched his arm over for the first try but South Africa fought back with a Kolbe penalty and a try by Kolisi who touched down from a maul.
A 30-metre penalty by Ramos gave France a breather before the interval.
The fullback restored the six-point lead after Kolbe’s early penalty in the second half as Galthie’s side stayed in control.
But Dupont was shown a straight red card after bringing down Kobe while his opponent was in the air.
Arendse put the Springboks in front after his try, following a powerful driving maul, was converted by Faf De Klerk.
Both teams traded penalties and headed into a suffocating finale, in which France got the upper hand.
Penalties by De Klerk and Damian Willemse put South Africa four points ahead but, backed by a raucous crowd, France eventually prevailed.
They kicked for the corner on a penalty and after three phases, Falatea crashed over the line to give the hosts a one-point lead with six minutes left.
Ramos’s penalty in the 79th minute sealed it for Les Bleus as it left South Africa with the almost impossible task of scoring a try with the last kick of the game.