The decisive score from France, who let an early 13-point lead slip to trail 26-22 in the second half, came when tighthead prop Sipili Faletea burrowed over the line shortly after Deon Fourie was sent to the sin bin, leaving the Springboks defending with 13 men. France won 30 – 26.
Despite replays appearing to show Faletea making a double movement, referee Wayne Barnes lost communication with the TMO and awarded the try.
From there, Thomas Ramos slotted a penalty to extend France’s lead, giving the hosts enough of a buffer to see out a first victory against the Springboks since 2009 and extending their current streak to 12 wins.
France only went into the break 16-10 up, despite the Springboks losing flank Pieter-Steph du Toit to a red card in the 12th minute for a head-to-head clash with centre Jonathan Danty.
The world champs, who had planned to run the heavy French forwards ragged, adjusted well after falling 13-0 down and got on the board at an important time in the contest through Cheslin Kolbe’s penalty.
Captain Siya Kolisi then silenced the partisan crowd when he broke away from a maul unseen and dived across the line untouched, narrowing the deficit to just three points.
One of the positives for the Springboks to take from the match was the apparent resolution of their goal-kicking issue, with Kolbe, Faf de Klerk and Damian Willemse combining for a perfect record on the night.
The plan to keep the French forwards moving definitely paid dividends, especially in the second half when Les Bleus were on the back foot in the lead up to captain Antoine Dupont being red-carded for upending Kolbe under a cross-kick.
The Springboks next travel to Genoa to take on Italy, who earlier in the day stunned the Wallabies.
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