Defending champions South Africa knocked France out of the Rugby World Cup on Sunday evening after a 29-28 victory at the Stade de France.
Thomas Ramos’ penalty for France eight minutes from time turned the quarter-final into a nerve-wracking affair.
But despite a final push and frenzied support from the home fans, France were unable to break through the South African rearguard or force them into a penalty that could have resulted in a kick attempt for the winning points .
The French attackers finally lost the ball and with it the draw.
“I thought the match itself was an incredible match,” said South Africa captain Siya Kolisi.
“It was fluid and it was tough. It was physical. There was a lot of competition in the match.
“We knew it would take something special to win this game,” Kolisi added.
“We give all the credit to the French players and the French people who made this World Cup so special.”
France launched into the match. Cyril Baille opened the scoring in the fifth minute and Ramos converted the try to the delight of the supporters among the 79,500 spectators.
But South Africa responded with tries from Kurt-Lee Arendse and Damian De Allende.
Flyhalf Manie Libbok missed the conversion that would have given South Africa a 14-7 lead.
He would soon regret his inaccuracy.
Peato Mauvaka made it 12-12 after 23 minutes. But Ramos missed the chance to give his side the lead when Cheslin Kolbe charged in with his conversion kick.
A few minutes later, Kolbe turned on the afterburners to collect Jesse Kriel’s diagonal kick and cross the line.
But Baille scored twice and Ramos atoned for his previous blunder to level the proceedings at 19-19.
He converted a penalty following Eben Etzebeth’s yellow card tackle on Uini Antonio to send his team into halftime leading 22-19.
France started the second half the same way they started the match.
But they failed to exploit their individual advantage and only scored another penalty after Etzebeth’s return nine minutes into the second half.
Inevitably, he scored the try that brought South Africa within a point of the hosts.
Handré Pollard – replacing Libbok – added the conversion and a penalty which made it 29-25 for South Africa.
“Of course I’m sad about the result,” France coach Fabien Galthié said.
“But the players can be proud of what they achieved. We matched the South Africans physically. We have no regrets. We have the right to lose because we did everything we could to try to win. optimize our success.
“We had our chances and it was a game that was decided by one point.”
In Saturday’s second semi-final, South Africa will face England who beat Fiji 30-24 in Marseille.
New Zealand, who beat Ireland, will face Argentina on Friday.