30 September 2013
The Springboks outplayed the Wallabies 28-8 in the penultimate round of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday, but missed out on scoring what could be a crucial four-try bonus point.
While the men in green and gold crossed for three tries, the All Blacks dotted down four times, with their last coming in the last movement of the match, to defeat Argentina 33-15 in La Plata, which gives the New Zealanders a five-point lead over South Africa in the standings heading into the showdown between the world’s two best teams on 5 October at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
That position leaves the Springboks needing to beat the All Blacks and score a bonus point, without conceding one, to win the Rugby Championship.
Unfortunately, it once again focuses attention on the effect of a rescinded red card that forced Bismarck du Plessis from the field for 50 minutes in the Boks’ 15-29 defeat to New Zealand in Auckland on 14 September, which included a four-try bonus for the Kiwis.
Springbok coach Heynecke Meyer and Jean de Villiers downplayed the incident after it happened, but were no doubt fuming inwardly, and it was never raised after South Africa’s win on Saturday. The matter of a bonus point at Newlands was hardly mentioned too.
“We have beaten the Wallabies with a record margin for Newlands, a field where one doesn’t score that many tries,” Meyer said afterwards.
‘Some great rugby’
“We played some great rugby in that first 20 minutes. We realised their defence was hanging back, so we could attack with ball in hand.”
After running up a 23-3 lead after 31 minutes, though, South Africa lost Flip vand er Merwe to a yellow card and later had Duane Vermeulen sin-binned. “The two yellow cards then hampered us, but we are not going to argue those as the referee is always right,” Meyer added.
“This was a great win for us and shows the progress we are making. It is most pleasing that we are scoring tries and we have beaten the Wallabies by 20 points. It was a great achievement.”
Captain Jean de Villiers said the Springboks had achieved a number of goals they had set for the match.
‘We can still win’
“We wanted to put ourselves in a position where we can still win the championship. We did that.
“We wanted to improve in certain areas, we did that.
“We wanted to be in a position where we can challenge the number one ranked team in the world in front of a sold-out Ellis Park to win the Rugby Championship. We did that.
“We have now scored seven tries to one in the two test matches against Australia, which shows that we are doing something right on attack,” he concluded.
An opportunity slipped
Although the Springboks won handsomely and by a record margin over the Wallabies at Newlands, they would surely feel that they let an opportunity slip given that they scored only a try after leading 23-3 after only 31 minutes.
Before losing Van der Merwe just before half-time, the Boks had dominated the Wallabies, crossing for two tries, by Andries Strauss and Zane Kirchner, while the reliable boot of Morne Steyn made the visitors pay further when they conceded penalties under pressure.
During the week, coach Meyer had said he felt the faster pace of rugby in Japan had helped scrumhalf Fourie du Preez’s game and the number nine’s wonderful speed of service, distribution and pinpoint tactical kicking from the base of the scrum was again mightily impressive.
The 2007 World Cup winner was the best player on view in Cape Town and with him at scrumhalf in Johannesburg, coach Meyer, whose history with Du Preez goes back a long way, will surely feel quietly confident his charges can upset the number one ranked All Blacks on Saturday.
He should also be encouraged by the trouble New Zealand had in the scrums with the Pumas. The Springbok pack was more solid in its two outings against Argentina, but in Auckland was robbed of Bismarck du Plessis, who had been the star of the game until he was sent off.
It is almost always about the forwards when it comes to the Boks and they will believe they can edge the All Blacks at Ellis Park. With Fourie du Preez backing them up, that belief will be greater, and the job will become a little less difficult.
The clash between the two long-time rivals in Auckland was developing into a classic before the sending off of Du Plessis. That decision has raised the pressure for the Joburg battle that lies ahead and made it into the most eagerly awaited rugby test anywhere this year.
And one thing that is known about Springbok team for the game is that Bismarck du Plessis will be in the South African starting fifteen.
For supporters of the two teams and for the rugby neutral, a can’t-miss contest awaits.