Rugby World Cup: South Africa 'scramble' to thrilling quarter-final win over France

France captain Antoine Dupoint left furious with the referee as hosts tumble out of tournament

South Africa players celebrate after their Rugby World Cup 2023 quarter-final victory over France. EPA
Powered by automated translation

South Africa captain Siya Kolisi praised his team for never giving up after the reigning champions came from behind to defeat hosts France on Sunday and book their place in the 2023 Rugby World Cup semi-finals.

South Africa trailed 22-19 at half-time and had Eben Etzebeth off the field for the opening eight minutes of the second half for a yellow card, but they prevented France from capitalising and eventually came back to win the match by the narrowest of margins.

"We scrambled a lot, especially when we were short of numbers," said Kolisi. "We talk about chasing lost causes. Don't stop until they put the ball down over the tryline. Don't do that and we'd be going home tomorrow.

"That's what we do as a team. Never give up."

The Springboks edged in front thanks to replacement fly-half Handre Pollard's second-half points, setting up a last-four meeting with England in Paris at the Stade de France on Saturday.

"It was an amazing game," said Kolisi, who was substituted early in the second half. "It flowed, it was tough, physical, the way both teams played outshone everything.

"The French have been building for four years and knew it was going to take something special."

The South Africa captain, who is looking to repeat the triumph of 2019, said the Boks had prepared for the noise and atmosphere of taking on the hosts in Paris by using speakers in training.

But he paid tribute to France, especially captain Antoine Dupoint who returned to the lineup after suffering a fractured cheekbone in the pool games to play the full 80 minutes.

"France can be proud. For their leader to be injured and come back and play like as if he had never been away was incredible."

Dupont, however, was furious with referee Ben O'Keeffe, claiming he should have penalised the Springboks for slowing down French possession when the home side were attacking late during the game.

"I don't want to be the bitter person who complains about the referee because I lost the game," Dupont said. "There's a lot of disappointment and frustration but we can't wait to see the footage again.

"There are clear things that should have been whistled. I don't think the refereeing was at the level of what was at stake today," he added.

France head coach Fabien Galthie backed his skipper's opinion but chose not to single out New Zealand match official O'Keeffe.

"I understand the players' frustration," Galthie said. "I understand there is lot of frustration, emotion, it's difficult to digest. I will accept it, as it's already happened, the decisions."

Updated: October 16, 2023, 5:33 AM