The Sprinboks beat France 29-26 thanks to a dramatic last-minute try in torrential rain at the Stade de France on Saturday.
Replacement hooker Mbongeni Mbonambi’s touchdown after 85 minutes allowed the Springboks to celebrate a win which followed narrow losses to New Zealand and England.
The result also extended the Boks’s nine-year unbeaten run against France and restored some confidence for coach Rassie Erasmus with less than a year to go until the start of the World Cup in Japan where his team face world number one side the All Blacks in the group stages.
“We were rewarded for our work. Clearly it wasn’t a perfect match but we learnt to manage the pressure,” Erasmus said.
France coach Jacques Brunel was left to rue a number of errors.
“We allowed them to keep in touch with us because of little mistakes.
We lacked control,” he said.
French scrum-half Baptiste Serin scored the first points of the game with a penalty goal and he added a second on 12 minutes.
Fly-half Handre Pollard opened the visitors’ account with his own effort on 13 minutes to cross the 300-points barrier in Test rugby.
The Springboks drew level with a quarter of the match played with the outside half’s second penalty goal.
Pollard put the visitors into the lead for first time after 28 minutes with an effort from 45 metres.
Camille Lopez pulled the teams level once again with a well-struck drop goal, his first in 16 Tests.
France captain and hooker Guilhem Guirado crossed for his team’s first try after breaking away from a maul to dive over the Boks’ line for the final points of the first half.
Centre Mathieu Bastareaud grabbed France’s second try and Serin added the extras to extend their side’s advantage to 23-9 after two minutes of the second period.
The score came when Erasmus’ back-three couldn’t deal with a Lopez up-and-under and Bastareaud swept up the loose ball to slide over.
Seconds later lock Sebastien Vahaamahina dropped Pollard’s restart and it was the visitors who made the most of the greasy ball as winger Sibusiso Nkosi crossed in the corner.
Pollard added his fourth penalty to close the gap to four points with less than half an hour to play.
He brought his side within a point ten minutes later after French flanker Arthur Iturria was penalised for a dangerous tackle.
Serin added his fourth three-pointer of the evening to regain a four-point advantage for Jacques Brunel’s side.
However, with 85 minutes on the clock, a clean South African line-out on the French five-metre line was followed by replacement Mbonambi’s unopposed break to the right of the set-piece to secure victory.
The Boks play Scotland in Edinburgh next Saturday while France host Argentina in Lille.
© Agence France-Presse