France lament ‘catastrophic’ start

Marc Lievremont believes France’s poor first quarter in the Test against the Springboks cost them the match.

An evenly contested and physical encounter was expected heading into Saturday’s clash at Newlands earlier in the week. Both teams didn’t disappoint in terms of physicality and intensity, however it were the Boks who delivered and beat France convincingly in their second Test of the season.

France head coach Lievremont believed that their errors at the start of the game created their downfall. They trailed 17-0 by the first quarter after the Boks scored two early tries through No 8 Pierre Spies and wing Gio Aplon while flyhalf Morne Steyn added two conversions and a penalty.

‘It is difficult to find a word to describe our performance today. We knew it was going to be physical and we came to South Africa with great expectations,’ Lievremont told keo.co.za. ‘However, our first 20 minutes were catastrophic. When we gave the Boks the lead it was always going to be difficult to come back. We did not plan a poor start like that.

‘I believe we were physical enough and we had moments of interesting play, but the Springboks were opportunistic in their approach from the outset. They did well to capitalise on our errors in the first 20 minutes and there was not much we could do to get back into the game. The game was sealed when the Boks scored the intercept try [Aplon's second] in the second half.’

Skipper Thierry Dusautoir was just as critical about his team’s start to the match.

‘I don’t think there were any problems with our rhythm, it was just the first 20 minutes that cost us. The Boks exploited our errors we committed early on,’ said Dusautoir.

‘I don’t think the new law interpretations had a big effect as well. At one point, I didn’t realise we were playing under new law interpretations. The only difference was at the tackle point where we had to roll away after the tackle. The Boks did well to co-operate with the referee.’

While the French were mainly humble after their defeat to the Boks, there were some complaints from Lievremont.

‘There was difficulty in preparing for the match with the World Cup being hosted in South Africa. It was also tough after a long season for the French players, especially achieving the Grand Slam and with two French clubs making the European Cup final. This made things tough,’ said Lievremont

‘I appreciate what my players did today as they produced a quality performance. I think we corrected some things at half-time. The Bok forwards were very physical but they did us some favours by giving us possession after several kicks.’

France now head off to Argentina where they will play an invitational XV next weekend. Lievremont’s men will have another Test against Argentina on 26 June.

‘It is a tough start to our tour but I believe we will recuperate for our matches in Argentina in the next two weeks. We will take those games with great seriousness,’ said Lievremont.

By Gareth Duncan, in Cape Town