Although the Springbok Women fought bravely and defended with massive heart for most of the match, the gap between the sides – the French are ranked fourth in the world and South Africa 13th – meant Stanley Raubenheimer’s side were up against a big challenge at the Stade de la Rabine.
Forced to defend for most of the match, the South Africans tackled well, and when they managed to get their hands on the ball, they attacked with intent and grew into the game, performing much better in the second half.
Unfortunately, they failed to make it count as handling errors and a lack of patience, as well as France’s experience, meant they kept the Springbok Women at bay and pinned in their own half.
The foundation for the French victory was laid upfront, with their pack dominant especially in the scrums, which gave their dangerous backs a superb platform from which to attack, as well as territorial advantage.
The South Africans were also on the receiving end of a number of penalties as their discipline let them down at crucial times during the match.
As a result, the Springbok Women’s defence was properly tested and Raubenheimer would have been happy with his players’ tackling for most of the match.
But playing on the backfoot is not ideal and the hosts capitalised as their hard-running No 8, Emeline Gros, scored two tries in the first 20 minutes. The first was off the back of a dominant scrum and the second after a period of sustained attack in the SA half.
Caroline Drouin (flyhalf) converted both and added an earlier penalty goal for the French to take a 17-0 lead halfway through the first half.
With 30 minutes gone, the French scored their third try when scrumhalf Laure Sansus sniped over from a strong driving maul to increase their lead to 22-0.
Shortly before the break, French lock Safi N’Diaye finished a superb team try with some slick handling and interplay between forwards and backs to increase the hosts’ lead to 27-0 at half-time.
N’Diaye scored a maul-try early in the second half after the Bok Women were penalised for a high tackle and the hosts set a brilliant drive. Drouin, who missed the third and fourth conversions, made no mistake this time to increase her team’s lead to 34-0.
Heavily under attacking pressure from the hosts, the Springbok Women managed to hang on and defended like Trojans, but still conceded too many penalties and in the 56th minute, English referee Sara Cox had little option but to send Eloise Webb to the sin bin for repeated infringements.
Five minutes later the extra player paid dividends as Caroline Boujard (wing) raced over in the right-hand corner for France’s sixth try to stretch their lead to 39-0.
Melisande Llorens (replacement wing) got her team’s seventh try in the 73rd minute after France sent the ball wide quickly and she had too much pace for the cover defence. Morgane Peyronnet added the extras from right in front.
The Bok Women finished strong and had the hosts under pressure late in the half, with Jakkie Cilliers (replacement flyhalf) ensuring they didn’t leave Vannes empty handed when she slotted a late penalty goal.
France Women 46 (27) – Tries: Emeline Gros (2), Laure Sansus, Safi N’Diaye (2), Caroline Boujard, Melisande Llorens. Conversions: Caroline Drouin (3), Morgane Peyronnet.
Springbok Women 3 (0) – Penalty goal: Jakkie Cilliers.