Boks hit target with win

2009-08-31 00:00

IT was Bryce Lawrence, the pedantic New Zealand referee, who succeeded where the Wallabies failed in breaking the Springboks’ momentum in the Tri-Nations international in Perth at the weekend.

The Springboks came away with a 32-25 victory over the Wallabies and it was Lawrence’s pernickety handling of the scrum that broke the South Africans’ rhythm and prevented them running to a record win on Australian soil.

In spite of Lawrence, the Springboks still hit their principal target, a win with a bonus point for four tries, to show the rugby world that they can run as well as kick and chase.

With four successive wins, the Springboks now need one bonus point from their remaining two internationals — against the Wallabies on Saturday and the All Blacks in Hamilton a week later — to take the Tri-Nations title.

The Boks, when their set piece was working, were in a rampant mood on Saturday and it was only when their scrum started to creak and then transgress — in the eyes of Lawrence — that they lost their structure and momentum.

This allowed the Wallabies to hold a 60% advantage in territory and possession and score the two late tries to transform a lopsided 32-13 scoreline going into the last quarter into a seven-point defeat.

The penalty count was 15-4 in favour of the Wallabies — along with a host of free kicks — and most were awarded around the scrum.

It was baffling. The Wallabies were heavily penalised at the scrum by South African referees Craig Joubert and Jonathan Kaplan when they played the All Blacks in recent Tests; on Saturday the Boks were judged the guilty party.

“The scrum penalties were frustrating. It was quite bizarre and it definitely debilitated our momentum,” captain and tighthead prop John Smit said after the game.

”It was a bit of a lottery and unfortunately the numbers didn’t come up for us,” Smit added with a smile.

Fortunately, the Boks were comfortable winners and he could afford to be diplomatic.

Smit’s coach was also confused about the scrums.

”We didn’t have the base we wanted and we were nailed in the scrums, and I don’t understand why,” Peter de Villiers said. “We will have to go look at the tape and see if we really were that bad. We did well with the scraps we had.”

Wallabies captain George Smith could also not settle the confusion.

“I guess in the scrums we did things to the liking of Bryce,” was all he could say.

Smit said the Boks were not swayed by being labelled “boring” by the Australian media in running more with the ball and gaining the first bonus point of the competition for four tries.

“It was always the Boks’ plan to do what is necessary to win and we had the opportunity to play more expansively in this Test.”

And while it was a superb team effort, scrumhalf Du Preez, in his 50th Test, was in compelling form. His slick service, positional play, tactical kicking and catching of the high ball was faultless. He scored the opening try from a quick tap penalty and created two more — both for wing Bryan Habana — the first with a perfectly-weighted kick and the second with an impeccably-timed pass into the midfield where the Bok wing ran through a yawning gap.

The Wallabies should not be blinded by their late revival and the 12 points scored in the last few minutes when De Villiers again cleared the bench of his reserves.

Coach Robbie Deans admitted his team had played badly.

It is an indication of the Bok striking power that they had only three minutes in the Wallabies’ 22 metre area for four tries while the Australians’ three tries followed nearly 10 minutes in the South African quarter.

“There’s no doubt the Boks are a very confident side,” said Deans. “That belief spreads through their ranks and they turn half-chances into full chances. We’re doing the opposite.”

The difference, as Deans pointed out, was that the Springboks were ruthless in scoring their points while his Wallabies had to work for their field position and points. Even with the help of Mr Lawrence.

More Boks, scorers and standings: page 18.

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