Jacques Brunel took heart from France’s spirited showing against South Africa but lamented the ‘cruel’ sting in the tail that befell his side as they suffered last-gasp heartbreak on Saturday.
The final play of the game proved the home side’s undoing as the Springboks’ Bongi Mbonambi slipped off the visitors’ driving maul and went over with 85 minutes on the clock to condemn France to a 29-26 defeat in the opening match of their autumn schedule.
Earlier, Brunel’s troops had led by 14 points and the France head coach bemoaned an opportunity missed as South Africa stretched their unbeaten run over Les Bleus to nine years.
“It’s difficult. The scenario is cruel,” said Brunel.
“We lacked control and lucidity but we need to take away the positives – the team was generous and enterprising.
“They matched the Springboks, one of the best teams in the world.
“We needed more control and more patience at the end. We rushed and got isolated.”
Guilhem Guirado and Mathieu Bastareaud both went over for France in the first period while Baptiste Serin kicked 13 points from the tee, Camille Lopez also landing a drop goal.
But South Africa were indebted to Handre Pollard’s fearsome 19-point haul from the tee, as well as the mix-up between Lopez and Sébastien Vahaamahina that allowed Sibusiso Nkosi to bag the visitors’ first try of the game four minutes into the second period.
Lack of control tells
France boss Brunel said: “We started the game well. We had a good first half, where we showed initiative, tried to find solutions, and put them under pressure.
“We opened up a lead and unfortunately, from the restart, there was a misunderstanding. They took advantage.
“Overall, we allowed them to stay in touch by chipping away and in the final minutes, we weren’t able to see out the game.
“The first half is not a reference point for us because I’ll find places where we gave up points far too easily.
“They hardly came into our half. There was one scrum all that time, and from that, they made it 6-6.
“We spent a lot more energy to score our points – we can’t give up points that easily.”