Hats off to John Smit, says coach

2011-09-23 00:00

A REMARKABLE orgy of scoring — 49 points in just 20 minutes — carried the Springboks to an 87-0 victory over Namibia in their Rugby World Cup match in Auckland yesterday.

The Springboks, lacking control and composure in the first half, were still comfortably ahead 31-0 at the break and their fifth try after seven minutes into the second session stretched the lead to 38-0.

But in the final quarter, and with their lively replacements on the field, the Springboks ran in seven tries in 20 minutes for a crushing win.

All 12 tries were converted, six by Morné Steyn and six by his second-half replacement, Ruan Pienaar, for a victory that has all but sealed the Boks’ place in the quarter-finals.

Coach Peter de Villiers later tipped his hat to captain John Smit for the part he played in regrouping the Springboks after an untidy first half.

“We started too loose, but hats off to John for getting the guys together and getting us back on track,” said De Villiers.

“When we stuck to our guns and played our match, we actually scored more points. It just shows you that it is a team game, and if individuals get ahead of themselves, sometimes the team will lose out.”

The Springboks again defended well and they have leaked just one try (against Wales) in three outings.

The Springboks stuttered at the start, making mistakes in handling, losing a couple of lineouts and failing to protect either the ball, or scrumhalf Francois Hougaard, at the breakdown.

A grumpy De Villiers said at half-time that the Springboks were guilty “of not looking after the ball”, but the smile was back by the final whistle.

The strong Springbok scrum — one which won a penalty try and kept the Namibians under pressure — an hour of tackling by big men such as Willem Alberts, Danie Rossouw and Schalk Burger, and the energy of the Boks’ replacements turned the game into a rout in the final quarter.

The introduction of the composed Fourie du Preez at scrumhalf was certainly a factor, but so was the broken play running of Hougaard — after he switched to wing — and the incisiveness of replacement centre Juan de Jongh.

Smit, surprisingly, missed his jumpers on a couple of occasions, but his skilful offloading created three tries.

When a New Zealand journalist suggested a stronger team than Namibia would have punished the Boks in the first half, De Villiers bristled and said the nature of the contest had created the early problems.

“If it were another team we would have done things differently, so we can’t assume that another team would have punished us.

“You are talking about a perfect world and we are not in a perfect world. We are in New Zealand,” De Villiers pointed out.

Certainly critics and supporters should not read too much into the shoddy play of the first half or the positive rugby of the second. Namibia were willing but outclassed and, in the end, they suffered.

Smit also called for perspective after the win.

“A lot of analysis will follow a game like this,” he said. “It’s important that we keep being hard on ourselves. We have certain standards and goals that we want to achieve. We saw how Samoa played against Wales so we will have to improve on a few things before we meet them next week.”

Smit said he was particularly pleased with the scrummaging.

“CJ [van der Linde] dominated at tighthead, and that allowed myself and Gurthro [Steenkamp] to play well in the front row. Along with our defence, it is probably the area we’ve worked hardest on during the week.

“There will be bigger tests in future, but it was a step forward.”

The Boks move back to Taupo today before returning to the same venue to face Samoa in their final pool outing next Friday. The good news is that they did not pick up any fresh injuries and testing selection problems — at fullback, wing, inside centre, lock, and loosehead prop — lie ahead.

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