South Africa bounced back from a month of Tri-Nations misery to secure a record 53-8 victory over Australia in Johannesburg on Saturday, with the Springboks outscoring the Wallabies by eight tries to one.
Rugby 365 reports that the 45-point victory margin surpasses the Boks’ previous biggest win over the Aussies – which was a 61-22 (eight tries to three) win in Pretoria back in 1997.
While the win means nothing in terms of the Teri-Natiuons tournament – Australia will face New Zealand in the decider in Brisbane on September 13 and the Boks will still finish last – it has managed to restore some pride in the team and lifted pressure off the Boks coaching staff.
Will somebody clever, please, sit down and explain in little words what happened between Dunedin and Johannesburg! The Springboks made a record in Dunedin and then their opponents made records against them in Perth, Cape Town and Durban – and then they came roaring back to smash the Wallabies in Johannesburg, winning by the biggest winning margin ever against Australia, bigger even than the All Blacks have ever managed, and in the process Jongi Nokwe became the first Springbok ever to score four tries in a Test against Australia.
As at Cana of Galilee, the best came last.
It was astounding, and it did not take all that long to become astounding. In the end it looked simple as the bouncing Springboks played the Wallabies to a standstill.
First of all the Springbok hands were magnificent. Mostly it was short, accurate passing and then occasionally there was the long, telling pass. There was a variety of passes as the Springboks showed that they, too, could be skilled, creative and innovative. The confidence after all the criticism was astounding.
Then there was a big difference was at the breakdown. In Perth and Durban the Wallabies won the breakdown and the match. Not this time. The Springboks protected their own ball, contested the Wallaby ball and came away with a two-all count at tackle steals. The line-outs started iffishly when they lost two of their first three, but in the end it was the Wallaby line-out that cracked as they lost five and threw in skew three times.
The Wallabies got little ball and it was their turn to kick a lot, often pointlessly, seldom with following chasers, whereas the Springboks chased. Bless that man Conrad Jantjes.
The Springboks also won the defence. To start with they made more tackles than the Wallabies did, but they made them. Then the Wallabies had to make more tackles and they did not make them all – as eight tries suggests. Eight tries! Eight tries to one – and there could have been more.
Matt Giteau kicked off and the Wallabies countered off a Fourie du Preez kick and settled to their patterened attacking. The Springboks lost their first line-out as the ball flew over their jumping pod and James Horwill was charging at the line. Matt Dunning and Benn Robinson was close but they opted to go wide where the Springboks set up firm defence till Butch James was grossly offside. Giteau goaled. 3-0 after five minutes. It would be 50 minutes before the Wallabies scored again.
After the Wallabies had fluffed a pass but seemed to get out of trouble the Springboks attacked. Jantjes kicked an up-and-under, chased and knocked the ball back. The Springboks attacked right and then came back left. It was two Springboks on four but Jantjes did a clever two-step that occupied the attentions of Cliffie Palu and Timane Tahu. Andries Bekker came sharply inside Stirling Mortlock – the lock outsmarting the smart centre – to take the pass and surge over. James converted. 7-3 after nine minutes.
After this the score kept mounting.
The Wallabies tried a clever drop-out and gave the Springboks a scrum. The Wallabies were freekicked at a tackle and Du Preez tapped going left for Jean de Villiers to give a perfect pass to Nokwe who wandered over for a try, showing no emotion at all as he did so. He must have known that that was just a prelude. 12-3 after 12 minutes.
The Springboks attacked again but a poor pass was snapped up by the Wallabies who broke out going left. They had Lote Tuqiri open on the left well inside the Springboks 22, but Tuqiri knocked on the pass. That may well have been a significant moment in the match in which the Wallabies became subdued lambs.
The Wallabies went through phases but then an Australian line-out went awry and Juan Smith raced ahead with the ball, giving to Pierre Spies who lost the ball forward in trying to ground it as Tuqiri and Tatafu Polota-Nau grabbed him.
The subsequent scrum was five metres from the Wallabies line five metres from touch. The Springboks destroyed them and won the ball. Smith was close and the Springboks bashed till they went wide and Adi Jacobs gave to Odwa Ndungane, over from the right wing. He tied up two defenders before sending Nokwe in for his second easy try. 17-3 after 26 minutes.
The referee penalised Sam Cordingley for being offside and James scored. 20-3 after 30 minutes, and several people in the crowd of 54 291 pinched themselves.
The Springboks attacked down the left with Jantjes and Smith prominent and then Schalk Burger grabbed an Australian line-out throw and gave to De Villiers. The ball went wide to the left and James landed a perfect long pass in the hands of Nokwe who had a dawdle in for his hat-trick try, the first hat-trick of tries by a Springboks against the Wallabies since 1961. James converted. 27-3 after 36 minutes.
That was the half-time score. There was still an element of doubt in the crowd. It was too good to be true. Would it all crack apart?
The Wallabies started the second half with their phase routine but the Springboks won a turnover and then came an exquisite try.
De Villiers, so strong and direct, went through a gap and gave to Jacobs on his left. The sticky scrum-capped centre skated through empty acres beat Peter Hynes with swerving ease and scored under the posts. 34-3 after 45 minutes.
The Springboks attacked down the right and Jantjes grubbered ahead into emptiness. Ndungane gathered in the rolling ball and as the defence came across he gave to left wing Nokwe who scored his record-making fourth try in Tahu’s tackle. 39-3 after 49 minutes.
Sadly Nokwe’s game was over as he was taken off on a stretcher with injured ankle ligaments.
The Wallabies thought they had a try when Giteau intercepted but the referee penalised Palu for being offside in midfield. But they eventually got their try when replacement George Smith, the world’s most capped flank. burst ahead on the right and the Wallabies went wide left for replacement Drew Mitchell to score. 39-8 after 55 minutes.
It did not signal a recovery. The Springboks hunted down the Wallabies too efficiently for that.
The Springboks threw into a line-out. Matfield rose high to take the ball and from way up there played it straight down to Ricky Januarie who played long to Ruan Pienaar, on at flyhalf for James. Long striding, jinking Pienaar raced inside George Smith, past Palu and then past Mitchell to score at the posts. Percy Montgomery converted. 46-8 after 69 minutes.
De Villiers broke on the right and the Springboks came left where Danie Rossouw broke past Palu and in Mitchell’s tackle got a pass to Ndungane who ran in for his first Test try which he celebrated with a the Sign of the Cross. 53-8.
From the kick-off De Villiers broke yet again and the Springboks were on their way to scoring when they knocked on and the referee blew no-side.
Man of the Match: It could only be a Springboks and any one of a number of Springboks when you think of how well Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, Schalk Burger, Tendai Mtawarira, Adi Jacobs, Jean de Villiers, the halfbacks, Conrad Jantjes, Bismarck du Plessis, Brian Mujati, Odwa Ndungane Andries Bekker and Victor Matfield played but really the day belonged to modest Jongi Nokwe who was our Man of the Match, the beneficiary of what the other Men of the Match had produced. He was the recipient on his team’s behalf.
Moment of the Match: There were several but our choice is that exquisite cut and break that led to the try by Adi Jacobs – just ahead of Conrad Jantjes’s two-step that made the try for Andries Bekker.
Villain of the Match: Nobody – not even Al Baxter.
For South Africa:
Tries: Bekker, Nokwe 4, Jacobs, Pienaar, Ndungane
Cons: James 3, Montgomery 2