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How the rugby world responded to South Africa's ultimate flex against France

By Josh Raisey
France's scrum-half and captain Antoine Dupont looks on as a scrum forms during the France 2023 Rugby World Cup quarter-final match between France and South Africa at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, on the outskirts of Paris, on October 15, 2023. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

South Africa’s epic 29-28 World Cup quarter-final win over France on Sunday had a lot going on. From a charged down conversion to a backwards penalty kick, it was a match that seemed to have it all.

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But one thing that is rarer than either of those two things is calling a scrum off a mark, so much so that many fans out there were not even aware that it is allowed. Opting for a scrum from a mark is so seldom seen that it would only really take a team like South Africa with all their scrummaging strength to go for it. Not many would expect them to do so in such a high-stakes game against a French pack who are not exactly pushovers.

When the Springboks’ fullback Damian Willemse received the ball in his own 22 with a few minutes of the first-half remaining, called for a mark and then called for a scrum, it caught many off guard. But then for the Boks to go on and actually win a penalty from the resulting scrum is one of the greatest signs of a team’s confidence in their own ability the game has ever seen, not to mention quite a flex.

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WATCH as Springbok captain Siya Kolisi explains to @king365ed about who he regards as the ‘real heroes’ of their one-point win over France this past Sunday

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WATCH as Springbok captain Siya Kolisi explains to @king365ed about who he regards as the ‘real heroes’ of their one-point win over France this past Sunday

Fans, pundits and players took to X as soon as the Boks pulled off this feat, and here are some of the responses:

“Scrum from a mark!? Penalty won! Know your strength and back it. Super from The Boks.”

“So Damian called for the mark, then took the option to scrum which resulted in a scrum pen. Talk about flexing your muscle!”

“One big takeaway from last night in particular: the Springboks have kept the faith of scrummaging even when it wasn’t being rewarded. They even called a scrum off a mark last night. And last night, they were rewarded for some brilliant scrummaging. The faith was justified.”

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“Imagine calling a mark and taking the scrum. The sheer audacity of it.”

“Didn’t even know you could call a scrum from a mark. Never seen it and then they demolished the French scrum.”

“Winning a scrum penalty after opting for a scrum off a mark is vintage South Africa.”

“Calling for a scrum after that mark is pretty cocky. Is there a play coming from this set piece.”

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“The SA team are incredible. The call for a scrum from the mark is the biggest show of attitude, confidence and dominance I can ever remember seeing.”

“Never seen a scrum called from a mark. Unbelievable clarity from a team that knows what they’re about and how they want to achieve it.”

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