Springbok speed clinches victory
Pierre Spies and Bryan Habana produced moments of pure magic in the second half to spur the Springboks to a 55-22 victory over England in their rugby international played at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
Spies and Habana showed why there is so much excitement about the state of South African rugby by each scoring two scintillating tries but, in truth, the scoreline flattered a disappointing Springbok side.
England had shocked the Boks and silenced the crowd by taking a 19-17 halftime lead, after wing Dan Scarborough had scored a runaway interception try, with a much stronger showing compared to the first test in Bloemfontein.
The English worked hard to close down the Springboks’ space and by being more aggressive at the points of collision managed to throw John Smit’s men out of kilter.
After their comfortable canter in Bloemfontein the Springboks lacked structure, intensity and discipline and by being too individualistic played into the hands of an England side lying flat and intent on disruption.
Body positions were wrong, there was little appetite for doing basic construction but far more alarming was how the Boks struggled in the scrums; CJ van der Linde being given a torrid time by Kevin Yates.
In the end the Boks’ victory said more about the limitations of the tourists than the excellence of the home side.
After the frenetic last few weeks most of the team have been through plus the ease with which the English were dispatched in the first test a measure of complacency was to be expected but coach Jake White will doubtless crack the whip over the flaws in his team’s set pieces ahead of sterner challenges against the Wallabies and the All Blacks.
With the Boks struggling to construct any effective build-ups it seemed the match would develop in a similar way to the first test -- the Boks lackadaisically going through the motions with the English gradually being ground down by the size, strength and speed of superior opponents.
Percy Montgomery set the scoreboard turning over with a penalty, soon canceled out by Jonny Wilkinson, and then luck favoured Ricky Januarie as he scored the first of the Boks’ eight tries.
The scrumhalf’s chip over the top of the shallow England defences seemed too deep but a wicked bounce beat the covering Jamie Noon and deposited the ball straight into the hands of Januarie for a gift of a try which Percy Montgomery converted. (10-6)
Wilkinson’s second penalty kept England in touch but the massive victory most had expected started to take shape as the Boks’ first decent scrum provided the momentum for Schalk Burger to pick up and force his way over.
Montgomery added the extra two points to make it 17-6 and there was a sense that more scores would inevitably follow against an England side frazzled by all kinds of problems.
Perhaps the Boks thought so too because instead of going up a gear they allowed their concentration to slip even more and in the space of six minutes England hit back to take the lead.
Wilkinson hit his third penalty, Bryan Habana was yellow-carded by French referee Joel Jutge for deliberately slapping down a pass to break up a promising England move, and then the Boks indulged in some aimless passing that resulted in Spies throwing the ball straight to Scarborough who sprinted half the field for an interception try.
Wilkinson slotted the conversion and suddenly it was England who were ahead (19-17) when the halftime whistle sounded.
The second period got off to an unpromising start with Victor Matfield failing to secure the kick-off and Gurthro Steenkamp having to fall back desperately to gather the ball on his own goal line -- but then the green machine got going again to construct a superb try for Bakkies Botha.
The Boks took the ball strongly down the left-hand touchline, with CJ van der Linde and Wynand Olivier running forcefully, and then switched it to the right; John Smit and Victor Matfield making superb long passes to send Botha pounding over, putting the Boks 22-19 in front as Montgomery’s conversion swung away.
There was still no urgency however and soon Wilkinson made it even stevens (22-22) with his fifth penalty.
There were 30 minutes left to play and every indication that England would hold out -- but just for a minute or so before the dam burst.
Spies had his home crowd in raptures as he broke four tackles in a devastating charge from 30 metres; Habana produced his trademark interception try and Montgomery cut back to score a try that would have been good in touch rugby and the contest was over.
Montgomery goaled all three conversions as the Bok score leapt to 43-22 and, even though the England frontrow would claim bragging rights by winning a tighthead, Habana and Spies combined to apply the coup de grâce.
Habana scored a superb solo try as his sheer pace bamboozled the defenders and Spies got the eighth, and last, as he burst onto a ball popped up by Bob Skinstad as the Boks scored 33 points in the last 30 minutes to claim an aggregate 113-32 victory in the two-test series.
South Africa (17) 55: Tries by Ricky Januarie (22 min), Schalk Burger (30 min), Bakkies Botha (43 min), Pierre Spies (53 min), Bryan Habana (55 min), Percy Montgomery (66 min), Habana (73 min), Spies (76 min). Percy Montgomery kicked five conversions and one penalty and Butch James a conversion.
England (19) 22: Try by Dan Scarborough (40 min). Jonny Wilkinson kicked a conversion and five penalties.