The Springboks suffered their second heaviest defeat in Test history when they were thrashed 49-0 by the Wallabies on Saturday. The home side led 30-0 at the break.
Vodacom Tri-Nations defeats don’t come more humiliating than this. The Wallabies scored six tries to nil in slippery conditions, enjoyed 70% of possession and at times treated the match like a light-hearted training run.
Not since the Boks were smashed 53-3 by England in 2002, has the green and gold jersey taken such a brutal beating.
The Wallaby pack, heavily criticised after last week’s defeat to the All Blacks, more than held their own against the Springboks. Twice, tighthead prop CJ van der Linde was penalised for dropping his shoulder in the scrum – the first resulted in Jeremy Paul’s try, the second saw the Boks lose possession 5m out from the Wallaby tryline early in the second half.
Among the backs, George Gregan and Stephen Larkham were allowed to turn back the clock, while Matt Giteau and Stirling Mortlock threatened the Bok defence whenever they touched the ball.
The Bok defensive effort was woeful, with poor communication between Jaco van der Westhuyzen and Wynand Olivier giving the Wallabies massive holes to exploit.
The Boks are missing the likes of Bakkies Botha, Schalk Burger and Jean de Villiers, but injuries are part of international rugby and can no longer be offered as an excuse. White’s reluctance to tamper with the side that won him the 2004 Tri-Nations and give fringe players a taste of Test rugby (read Schalk Brits, Luke Watson and Ruan Pienaar) has now come back to bite him. God knows what would happen if captain John Smit, who hasn’t missed a Test in two years, was ruled out too.
In saying that, Bok debutants Akona Ndungane and Pierre Spies were very ordinary. The No 8 opted to kick three times instead of keeping the ball in hand, while the winger was subbed 15 minutes into the second half having just been rounded by Lote Tuqiri.
You knew it was going to be Australia’s day when Larkham brought back memories of the 1999 World Cup semi-final by slotting his second drop-goal in Test rugby early in the game.
It was a 50/50 call from referee Paul Honiss that saw the Wallabies’ claim their first try. The Springboks had shoved the Australian pack backwards near the halfway line, yet Van der Linde was penalised for collapsing the scrum. Chris Latham found a superb touch 5m out from the Bok tryline and the Wallabies set up the maul from which Paul scored.
Percy Montgomery then knocked on near his tryline when trying to take the mark. The Australians were awarded a penalty soon after which Mortlock kicked for a 13-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Wallabies struck again five minutes later when Larkham took the flat ball from a line-out on the halfway line and rounded Ricky Januarie before offloading to Gregan, who put prop Greg Holmes away for the try.
Things soon got worse for the Boks when Victor Matfield was yellow carded for a blatant professional foul as the Wallabies looked set to score again. Mortlock kicked his second penalty to extend the lead to 23 points.
With half-time approaching, Giteau took advantage of poor rush defence from Van der Westhuyzen and Olivier to grab the Wallabies third try. Danie Rossouw then hobbled off the field with a leg injury and was permanently replaced by Albert van den Berg.
Instead of going for the jugular, the Wallabies allowed the Boks back into the game in the second half. The South Africans spent 15 minutes in Wallaby territory, yet never really looked like getting over the tryline.
However, the Australians finally got things back on track when Giteau’s cross kick found Tuqiri on the left-hand touchline. The winger lost his footing, but threw a brilliant inside pass to Latham, who scored the bonus-point try.
The Wallabies went over again when substitute winger Clyde Rathbone raced down the right-hand touchline, and kicked infield just before being tackled into touch. The ball sat up perfectly for Giteau who scored his second try.
With five minutes to go, a quick throw-in on the halfway line saw Rathbone break away again and replacement Mark Chisholm score the Wallabies’ sixth try.
Australia - Tries: Jeremy Paul, Greg Holmes, Matt Giteau (2), Chris Latham, Mark Chisholm. Conversions: Stirling Mortlock (5). Penalties: Mortlock (2). Drop goal: Stephen Larkham.
By Simon Borchardt