RYAN VREDE watched the Springboks decimate Namibia 87-0 at the North Harbour Stadium in Auckland.
The Springboks negotiated this assignment with an ease that utterly embarrassed those that had predicted a tough night, running in 12 tries. So completely dominant where they the Mexican Wave, the universal symbol for mass disinterest, began just 12 minutes into the contest, played out on the most perfect of evenings on the North Shore.
Namibia, while rabid, were mostly rubbish, and were bullied by the Springboks, who built this victory on archetypal brutal attack and another imposing, discipline and organised defensive effort. Initially their dominance at the gainline set the platform on attack and defence, and in the final quarter, galvanised by a flood of reserves, they scored at will, running in an incredible 52 points in that time.
It would be remiss not to note the vast improvement they’ve made in their defensive play. They’ve conceded one try in 240 minutes of World Cup rugby. Perspective needs to maintained – Fiji and Namibia are not noted for their attacking prowess – but it is a notable feat nonetheless.
Namibia resorted to cynical tactics when their misplaced posturing gave way to the realisation that they were pitted against vastly superior opponents (they conceded 15, the majority at the breakdown) and this further sullied their already poor contribution to what masqueraded as a rugby duel. It was a rugby education, and the World Cup not the stage for such a public schooling.
What would the Springboks have extracted from this mismatch? Not much. There were incidents were fundamental handling errors stunted the development of promising moves, and at times the ease with which they were dismantling this mob encouraged enterprise when patience was required. They also continued a disconcerting trend of slipping first time hits (14 in total) that better opposition would exploit. But it would be unfair to latched onto those moments in a performance that was largely clinical, particularly in an attacking sense.
Bryan Habana’s record-breaking try 23 minutes into the match was a highlight. The winger has looked a shadow of the man who dominated
this tournament four years ago, and we can only hope that becoming the leading try-scorer in South African history will somehow prove to be a catalyst for him to escape the maze of mediocrity that traps him. It is unlikely. That try was his only notable moment in an otherwise sterile performance, and Francois Hougaard’s late cameo on the wing further underlined why he, not Habana, should start.
Habana’s was the third of four first half tries, two of which were birthed from turnovers and one from first phase which featured an excellent offload from Frans Steyn to Jaque Fourie. They led 31-0 at the break, and Steyn turned beneficiary of some excellent phase play and slick passing shortly after the restart.
Complacency conspired to rob them of the edge for a period thereafter, but they snapped back into life in the final quarter with a thrilling, expansive game that Namibia had no rebuttal to.
By Ryan Vrede, at the North Habour Stadium, Auckland.