The Springboks overcame some dodgy TMO decisions and repetition of the indiscipline that has at times blighted an otherwise perfect tour to score an historic 19-10 win over France at Stade de France in Paris that effectively ends a 16-year drought against those opponents on their own soil.
The Boks led throughout the game and showed enough control through the 80 minutes to seldom have the win in doubt, but they were prevented from achieving the scoreboard dominance their onfield dominance demanded by two TMO decisions that denied the Boks tries and the South Africans would consider debatable.
But they still looked like they were cruising to victory when they led 16-7 going into the last 10 minutes, only for Morne Steyn to miss touch with what should have been a relieving penalty.
Florian Fritz, the French centre, then broke through and kicked ahead to transfer the pressure, and Francois Louw, for the second time on this tour, was then yellow carded for pushing his hands into the face of a prone opponent on the ground.
Replacement Jean Marc Doussian kicked the resultant penalty and suddenly it was just a six point lead to the Boks with that many minutes left on the clock and with them reduced to 14 men for the rest of the match.
Some poor lineout work then tripped up attempts to keep the French in their own territory, with two poaches in the space of three minutes.
Fortunately though for the Boks Morgan Parra, who will be remembered as the villain by the home crowd, then conceded a penalty, and with two minutes to go, replacement flyhalf Patrick Lambie kicked a penalty from almost in front to make the game safe and ensure that the Boks end the year having achieved their mission of finishing with a win percentage of more than 80%.
As that has only been achieved twice before since the ending of South Africa’s sporting isolation in 1992, that is something to crow about, as is the fact that the All Blacks are the only team to have downed the Springboks during the course of the calendar year.
The Boks, remembering what happened to the 2005 tourists here when they fell behind to an early Frederic Michalak intercept, had placed a high premium on making a strong start.
They got that, albeit fortuitously, as French scrumhalf Morgan Parra had a clearance kick charged down by JP Pietersen for the Bok wing to score his team’s first try with just over a minute and a half gone in the game.
Steyn’s conversion kick made it 7-0 after two minutes and 48 seconds, a very different scenario to the situation here eight years ago, when the South Africans were forced to play catch-up.
When France get an early strike in a game, their volatile, partisan crowd get in behind them and lift the players, but the Pietersen try denied the hosts that emotional and psychological lift.
The try was though scored off just about the only Bok foray into French territory in the first quarter of an hour. For most of that period the Boks were in their own half defending, with the French doing well in the early collisions.
However the quickly advancing Bok defensive line, pressing from the outside in, had their measure, and it was noticeable that the French looked jittery every time the ball was kicked onto their back three.
Although Willie le Roux dropped the first high ball hoisted on him, he recovered well from that to turn in another good game and the Bok back three were much safer, as well as more inventive, than their opponents.
There was a question mark over the Bok scrumming going into the game, with Coenie Oosthuizen making his first start at tighthead in the abence of the injured duo of Jannie du Plessis and Frans Malherbe.
They didn’t start that well on what could be given the title of yet another Night of the Long Scrums, and the French were awarded a free kick for early binding, but later in the game the Boks came good, and they thought they had scored a try soon after halftime off an impressive heel against the head set up by a big effort by loosehead Beast Mtawarira.
Jaque Fourie dotted down after skipper Jean de Villiers had burst through the French defensive line off a pass that came to him on the bounce from Steyn.
For those of us at the ground it looked good, and the big screen never gave us a view that suggested it would be disallowed, but Scottish official Iain Ramage did exactly that.
The Boks were denied another later on, with the same Mr Ramage decreeing that Yohann Huget, the French wing, had got downward pressure on a ball bouncing in his ingoal area before South African flanker Francois Louw came through to dot down.
Again it looked like nonsense to those of us there and doubtless many who saw it on television, but Ramage saw it otherwise.
By that stage of the game though the Boks looked like they were taking systematic control of proceedings after sustaining the blow of conceding a score on the stroke of halftime to let the French back into the game.
The Boks had stabilised the territory battle beyond the 15 minute mark, and although the lineout wasn’t at its efficient best, and the French managed to prevent the Boks' lineout maul from getting going, it was Steyn who was able to extend the lead to 10 points in the 27th minute, and again 12 minutes later to make it 13-0.
That was when the French profited from some good fortune, with Bok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar failing to spot a ball bouncing out of a ruck after the restart following Steyn’s second penalty.
The French picked it up and with the Boks looking half asleep it was right wing Sofiane Guitone who crashed over near the left corner flag.
Parra, who had missed a penalty from almost in front of the posts earlier to go with the charged down clearance he started the game with, made no mistake with the conversion from the touchline and instead of going into the break 13-0 up, they went in with a lead of just 13-7.
Conceding points just before the break is always a psychological blow to the side that gives them away, so full marks to the Boks for the way they came out early in the second half and took a stranglehold on the game with the way they dominated the collisions and territory from then on.
South Africa 19 – Try: JP Pietersen; Conversion: Morne Steyn; Penalties: Morne Steyn 3 and Patrick Lambie.
France 10 – Try: Sofiane Guitone; Conversion: Morgan Parra; Penalty: Jean Marc Doussian.