VIDEO: Results don't define these Boks
REACTION: South Africa may be winless on their year-end tour, but they continue to back themselves to be a force at next year’s World Cup in France.
The Springboks, having lost 16-19 to the world’s top-ranked team Ireland in their tour opener in Dublin, suffered another setback in a closely-fought contest against France this past weekend.
France stretched their winning streak to 12 consecutive matches when they edged South Africa 30-26 In Marseille this past Saturday in a game where both teams lost players with red cards.
In fact, the Springboks were down to 13 men for the last 10 minutes.
The first red card went to Bok flank Pieter-Steph du Toit, who was given his marching orders in the 12th minute for a dangerous clean-out – with head-on-head contact at a ruck.
French captain and scrumhalf Antoine Dupont joined him in the naughty chair in the 48th minute, following his red card for playing Cheslin Kolbe in the air.
In the 79th minute, replacement Deon Fourie was issued with a yellow card for a cynical foul, collapsing a maul.
The teams scored two tries each, with French fullback Thomas Ramos sealing the win with 20 points – a conversion and six penalties.
South African flyhalf Damian Willemse played down the team’s losing streak, suggesting they are ‘making progress’ in the right areas.
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The game in southern France was just Willemse’s fourth Test start in the No.10 jersey, having mainly featured at fullback for his country.
Injury to first-choice Handre Pollard and the personal problems ruling back-up Elton Jantjies out has resulted in Willemse being shifted into a more pivotal role.
“It’s good to get the experience,” the 24-year-old said of his new role.
“The coaches have been backing me which helps a lot.”
Despite the obvious disappointment of back-to-back defeats on tour, the talented back says they will keep the faith.
“This result, and last week’s result, don’t define this group,” he said in his post-match reaction.
“We’re heading in the right direction, we’re just not getting the right results at the moment,” he added.
Next Saturday, Willemse’s side head to Genoa to face Italy, who beat Australia hours before the Boks’ loss to France, ahead of ending their year with a game against England on November 26.
“It’s going to be a tough contest.
“For now we need to re-group, look at the footage on Monday, and recover well,” he said.
“In World Rugby now, it’s really tight. Any team can beat any team.
“We’re going to prepare as best as we can for next week’s Test,” Willemse added.
The 25-times capped flyhalf also said it was “great” to experience a sold-out Marseille crowd on Saturday – ahead of next year’s World Cup.
The Webb Ellis Cup holders will play two group games, against Scotland and Tonga, at the Stade Vélodrome in less than 10 months’ time.
Before the defeat to France, they spent the week in the city of Toulon, 70 kilometres up the Mediterranean coast, where they will be based during the tournament.
“It’s a great stadium, it was great to play in front of the French crowd,” Willemse told reporters.
“It was great to get some experience under the belt. We loved it,” he added.