It was South Africa night on the North Shore on Thursday night as the Springboks clinched their place in the World Cup quarterfinal round with a crushing 87-0 whitewash of Namibia.
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There was a real South African flavour to the 26 000 crowd that turned up to watch the match between the two African nations, with the Mexican Waves that swept across the ground at stages of the match expressing what the many travelling fans and expatriates thought about their team and the World Cup.
Let’s be honest -- the win was no more than would have been expected, and looked like being a lot less lop-sided than it eventually turned out before an orgy of scoring in the last quarter pushed John Smit’s world champions to the highest tally of the World Cup so far.
While the size of the win underlined the superiority of the Boks there were still areas of concern, not the least of those being the fact that while the South Africans continue to keep the try-sheet of the opposing team’s blank, there are still players who miss too many tackles. Namibia broke nine tackles in the first half, which considering how little ball they had was quite a lot.
But it would be churlish to concentrate too much on the negatives when a team wins by nearly a three figure score, and some sloppy lineout work in the first half, when some untidy play on possession that was secured was also accompanied by three balls that went against the throw, did not off-set the positives.
And the biggest positive on the night would again have been the confidence that hit an upward trajectory against Fiji last week and which, after flattening for much of the first hour, continued to climb further in that last 20 minutes when it seemed the Boks were scoring almost at will.
Francois Hougaard, switched to wing later in the game after doing well at his starting position of scrumhalf in the first three quarters of the match, scored twice when in his retreaded position, but not before Bryan Habana had settled one of the big speculative points of the pre-match build-up.
It seems an inordinately long time now that we have been waiting for Habana to finally surpass Joost van der Westhuizen’s record for number of tries scored for his country. Surely he was going to do it against the lowly Namibians, and do it he did, with Schalk Burger and Danie Rossouw putting in some accurate flat passes which created the space for Habana to run almost 40 metres for his 39th try in the Bok jersey.
That was in the 21st minute, it was the second try of what eventually turned out to be 11 tries and one penalty try, four of those coming in the first half as the Boks built up a 31-0 lead.
As anticipated, the Namibians were physical at the start, but the Boks were on the board after just three minutes through a Morne Steyn penalty as they themselves started with the sort of intensity that immediately precluded any realistic thought of the complacency that would have been necessary for it to be a competitive match.
In the sixth minute they created their first try, Gio Aplon running 40 metres for the first of his brace of tries as the two Steyn’s, Morne and Frans, passed the ball quickly through the hands to the right to put him in down the touchline. The first two tries would have been almost identical if they did not come on the opposite side of the field.
If the Boks weren’t always perfect in the lineouts they were always comprehensively superior in the scrums, and that was where their penalty try came from as they took their lead to 24 points after half an hour. Jaque Fourie burst through near the posts for the fourth try three minutes before half-time, and then Frans Steyn rocketed in nine minutes after the break as the Boks took complete control.
With the lead so big, Bok coach Peter de Villiers was able to ring the changes, and players like Ruan Pienaar and Juan de Jongh revelled in the opportunity to play a role at this World Cup and get some all important match practice just in case they are required in the knockouts.
Hougaard was the most elusive of all the South African players though and although the opponents were only Namibia he is in good enough form to come into contention for a starting place on the wing. Of course he could also be in contention at scrumhalf, where he was sharp and was a constant thorn to the Namibian defence.
But it was the forwards who paved the way for this annihilation, with big Willem Alberts, Schalk Burger and Danie Rossouw taking turns to smash through the middle of the Namibian defence. The Namibians were hopelessly outgunned and a measure of how unequal this contest was always going to be was the fact that the losers chose to do a lap of honour after the final whistle.
South Africa - Tries: Gio Aplon (2), Bryan Habana, penalty try, Jaque Fourie, Frans Steyn, Morne Steyn, Juan de Jongh (2), Francois Hougaard (2), Danie Rossouw. Conversions: M Steyn (6), Ruan Pienaar (6). Penalty: M Steyn.
Namibia - None