A gladiatorial Springbok forward performance laid the platform for a resounding 56-23 victory over Samoa on Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI at Loftus Versfeld.
The nature of the fixture demanded a shift in mindset for the Boks, as the Samoans are renowned for a physical approach that often borders on kamikaze.
In this respect, the Boks brought not only the necessary aggression to the battle at the gainline, but a determination at the breakdowns that allowed them plenty of quick ball.
Indeed, the first-half scoreline of 32-9 would suggest that it was a romp from the outset, but the Boks were able to run in those four tries thanks to the efficiency of their pack.
The scrum was always expected to prevail against a technically weak Samoa eight, but the lineout, commanded by new No 5 Flip van der Merwe, was nothing short of outstanding. The Boks were dominant at the set pieces, and this in turn impacted on their potency at the collisions and breakdowns.
The return of Francois Louw and Willem Alberts also had the desired effect. Alberts was in that sort of mood, an absolute wrecking-ball on attack and a stonewall on defence. Louw made a nuisance of himself at the breakdown and also made plenty of metres with ball in hand. It was thanks to these two that the Boks were able to generate such terrific momentum, and the Samoans battled to manufacture any of their own.
While, initially, the Boks battled to finish, their structure and game plan were well adhered to. The forwards provided the platform, and Morné Steyn tested the Samoa back three with that trademark garryowen. Bryan Habana and Bjorn Basson were excellent in chasing these kicks, and on more than one occasion, the Boks scored after reclaiming a kick.
What was impressive to see was the decisiveness shown after such turnovers. The Samoa defence was always on the back foot, but credit must still go to the Bok backs for making inroads and in some instances crossing the tryline.
Willie le Roux weighed in with some galvanising contributions. The Bok fullback started the match poorly, but grew in stature as the game progressed. The timing and accuracy of his passing ensured that the Boks finished two of their early attacking surges, and it was good to see that Le Roux's early fumbles didn't affect his confidence.
Samoa did well to concede only seven points while yellow-carded tighthead Logovii Mulipola was off the field. They also fought back strongly at the beginning of the second half, and managed to take advantage of some poor defence around the fringes to score.
But reputation or not, they were physically outplayed. This may have led to some frustration on their part, and that frustration may have been what forced them to resort to illegal tactics. Fullback James So'oialo was given a stern talking-to at one point after he had grabbed Adriaan Strauss in the crotch.
This outrage seemed to spark new life into the Boks. They had threatened to fizzle out in the early stages of the second half but after this incident, the hosts approached the collisions with renewed vigour.
Samoa didn't back down either, but their determination would again manifest in foul play. Wing Alesana Tuilagi stiff-armed Bok skipper Jean de Villiers, and after consulting with the TMO, referee Pascal Guazère showed Tuilagi a red card.
The Boks capitalised on the one-man advantage, setting the driving maul once again. Ruan Pienaar attacked the blindside, and Bryan Habana collected his second try.
The game was over as a contest even though 20 minutes remained. The Boks continued to apply the pressure, and even though they would lose Habana to the sin bin nine minutes later, they added further tries through Steyn, Louw, and replacement prop Trevor Nyakane.
Louw was involved prominently in the build-up the last two tries. He so nearly got his hat-trick, as the ball was knocked backwards out of his hands as he was reaching for the tryline.
An alert Nyakane grabbed the rolling ball, and dived over for his first Test try. The big prop was all smiles after the try was awarded, as was the rest of the Bok squad when they realised they'd not only won the game, but surpassed 50 points.
Springboks – Tries: Bryan Habana (2), Francois Louw (2), JJ Engelbrecht, Bjorn Basson, Morné Steyn, Trevor Nyakane. Conversions: Steyn (3), Pat Lambie (2). Penalties: Steyn (2).
Samoa – Tries: Teofilo Paulo, Junior Poluleuligaga. Conversions: James So'oialo, Paul Williams. Penalties: So'oialo (3).
Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Juandré Kruger, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.
Samoa – 15 James So'oialo, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Paul Williams (c), 12 John Leota, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Tusiata Pisi, 9 Jeremy Sua, 8 Taiasina Tuifua, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Ofisa Treviranus, 5 Daniel Leo, 4 Teofilo Paulo, 3 Logovii Mulipola, 2 Wayne Ole Avei, 1 Sakaria Taulafo.
Subs: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Census Johnson, 18 James Johnston, 19 Kane Thompson, 20 Junior Poluleuligaga, 21 Brando Vaaulu, 22 Seilala Mapusua, 23 Alafoti Faosiliva.
Photo: Manus van Dyk/Gallo Images
Dobson strengthens Stormers case
John Dobson has earned the right to be seriously considered for the Stormers' head coach gig, writes RYAN VREDE.
Duane never backs down
Duane Vermeulen, who continues to impress as a player and a leader, is on the cover of this month's SA Rugby magazine.
Bismarck back to brilliant best
Bismarck du Plessis provided the good-news story for South African rugby this past weekend, writes MARK KEOHANE in Business Day.