What an enjoyable Saturday late afternoon, bar the ridiculous 3G Internet signal at Loftus Versfeld, of course!
The Springboks totally dominated and comprehensively outmuscled and outplayed a very ordinary and injury ravaged Wallabies side, with the Springboks eventual winners by 31 / 8, after also leading at the halftime break by 14 / 3.
I guess 5 tries to 1 tells the story, with Bryan Habana scoring a hat-trick on the day to increase his Springbok all time record to 46 Test tries.
Where does one start… well, let’s first of all start at the selections of the side this week.
There was the inclusion of rookie Johan Goosen in his first run-on Test, who was clearly so proud and so emotional when the National anthem was sung, sporting some happy tears. Then there was young Jaco Taute on debut at outside centre, the lock pairing of Eben Etzebeth and Andries Bekker restored to the starting lineup in a horses for courses approach, and of course Elton Jantjies and Patrick Lambie on the bench.. and no Morné Steyn in the overall match 22.
The rookies showed some early nerves, with Jaco Taute knocking the ball on first touch and with Johan Goosen missing his first 2, and only 2 opportunities at goal (a long range attempt and an attempt from an accute angle).
Jaco Taute soon overcame these early jitters with a strong defensive effort on the night and all in all carrying the ball well from the No 13 position.
Personally I think Johan Goosen’s goal kicking abilities were still being hampered by the left heel injury he suffered from last week in the run-up to the Test, but the massive positive impact he had in positioning himself flatter on attack, threatening the Wallabies line and defenses, his sniping ability to break and his sound judgement calls and crisp distribution far outweigh a couple of wayward goal kicks. Johan adds so much to the Springbok attacking armoury and with experience in Ruan Pienaar and Jean de Villiers on his inside and outside respectively, this call was as refreshing as it was spot-on.
A bruised heel can recover, kicking to posts can be honed again, but natural opportunism and flair is much harder to nurture or garnish. Well done Johan, long may it last… not flawless, but very, very good.
The first 20 minutes was the usual parry, thrust, parry… early game situation, with both sides eyeing the other out for weakness, the Springboks identifying the glaring Wallabies deficiencies well in this period. With the Springbok forwards slowly taking control and the Springbok loose trio getting more and more into the game, the Springboks enjoyed a golden 40 minute middle section of the game, let’s call it a golden 20 minutes either side of halftime.
Zane Kirchner scored the first try for the Springboks and lets continue by saying he had a good game overall, also coming close to scoring a second time (just denied by Adam Ashley-Cooper who knocked himself out cold with a try-saving tackle, having to be carted off and taken to hospital). The first try was a team try though, the forwards mauling strongly, getting good lineout ball and then placing the Springboks on the front foot and within close range to the goal line, after which crisp passing delivered the ball to Kirchner to score.
The Springboks were immediately back on attack, a sniping break and long run by Johan Goosen, tackled centimetres from the Wallabies line follwed, the TMO was called in and ruled that Johan Goosen was guilty of a double movement, the result being a defensive penalty to the Wallabies 5m from their own line.
The second Springbok try followed, after multiple phases, well executed by the Springboks, great linking and interplay between forwards and backs and with Johan Goosen passing at the correct moment to Bryan Habana,who ran in to score his first of 3 tries on the night. How fantastic to see Bryan Habana back to his glorious best, under the guidance of his guru, Heyneke Meyer.
At this stage the Springboks were up 14 / 0 and it took a 35th minute penalty slotted by Kurtley Beale to break the Wallabies duck, after the 2 Springbok props, Jannie du Plessis and Tenzai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira were penalized for not rolling away at the tackle.
There was more to come from the Springboks before the break though, with Zane Kirchner almost scoring in that fateful movement resulting in Adam Ashley-Cooper out cold before hitting the ground, having had his head on the wrong side of the tackle, but saving the try as Zane’s one boot barely touched the whitewash of the touchline. Adam Ashley-Cooper was stretchered off via the motorised golf-type stretcher verhicle and immediately dispatched to hospital. Ashley-Cooper was ruled to be concussed and will definately be out of the next game for the Wallabies.
At the break, the score then, Springboks 14 / 3 Wallabies.
After halftime the Wallabies dicipline cost them as repeated infringements eventually cost them a Yellow Card to James Slipper, replacement prop for the Wallabies, around 52 minutes into the game. At this stage the Springboks were pushing hard for their next try and they were rewarded with the 3rd try after the Yellow Card penalty saw them claiming a lineout close to the Wallabies line, whereafter the Springboks mauled close before Franclois Louw broke through for a wonderful score.
At this stage of proceedings the Springbok looseforwards were reigning supreme, with Francois Louw having a sublime game on the ground and linking forwards and backs and carrying the ball well, Duane Vermeulen excelling at the breakdowns and stealing ball and Willem Alberts knocking the stuffing out of the Wallabies with bone-crunching hits…. he is not called “The bone collector” for nothing!
With just more than 20 minutes remaining on the clock, a “woerrie-warrie” kick by the Wallabies out to touch was grabbed in touch by Habana, who fed Adriaan Strauss with the quick lineout feed whereafter Adriaan ran and drew the defenders before deftly passing back to Habana for the speed merchant to cut the Wallabies to shreds and scoring his 2nd try of the night (his 45th test try for the Springboks). At this stage I was going positively nuts in the overcrowded Press Box, but heck who the hell cares if the whole world knew at that precise moment that my blood was bright, unadultered green!
With the conversion over, the Springboks led by 26 / 3 with only a quarter of the match to come and the Wallabies looked out of sorts and injury riddled.
Credit to the Wallabies, the mix-and-match bunch, motlet crew which remained, bit the bullet and started attacking with ball in hand, Kurtley Beale doing sterling work at pivot.
With a trademark sideways shimmy, Kurtley Beale took Hougaard by surprise, who slipped the tackle and a well timed pass sent replacement Mike Harris in for a score in the far corner. Harris failed to convert his own try and the score was 26 / 8 in favour of the Springboks after 65 minutes played.
In the last 10 minutes Juan de Jongh took the field as a replacement and eventually Elton Jantjies earned his first Springbok cap in the 75th minute.
Juan de Jongh came very close to scoring before Bryan Habana rounded the match off with his 3rd try, his 46th Test try, in the last minute of the match, with brilliant off-loading skills displayed by Jantjies. The conversion was missed but the Springboks rounded off the match with this try to a comprehensive 31 / 8 win.
All in all, not a faultless performance by the Springboks, but good signs of what they are capable of and had they converted all their goal kicking opportunities to posts, the score would have been over 50.
The 3 clear missed tries was rued by Heyneke Meyer after the match and he feels that the Springboks can and should still improve, due regard and respect given to the All Blacks who await the Springboks next weekend in Soweto.
The After Match Press Conferences of the Springboks was a happy occasion, but also one tempered by the message that the Springboks would now have to refocus and work hard this week, whist keeping their feet firmly planted on terra firma.
Robbie Deans, the wide-eyed Nathan Sharpe, Michael Hooper and Pat McCabe attended the Wallabies Press Conference… maybe the only Wallaby players left standing after their injury riddled game. Deans was clearly miffed and not a happy camper and upon a question from me regarding the fact that the Wallabies had to play with 14 men for the last 8 minutes (due to the fact that 7 substitutions had already been made), he explained that with the hooker going off, they had asked if he could be subbed, the initial clearance was given until the decision was changed and no substitute was allowed to come on or continue. Well Robbie, you and your management team need to learn to count… that’s how it goes!
The Wallabies, reeling from injuries before this match already and having 5 crucial injuries in this match is clearly considering flying replacements in from Australia… but this morning’s headache is exactly which players would have visas sorted out for Argentina, in time to play the next Test, not an easy task in the context of what needs to happen before they face the Pumas in Rossario.
Audio of the After Match Press Conferences:
Springbok After Match Press Conference:
Wallabies After Match Press Conference: