Springboks finish with a flourish
AUCKLAND, 22 Sept. - South Africa overcame an error-ridden first half to finish strongly and rack up the tries in an 87-0 victory over Namibia at North Harbour Stadium on Thursday night. The Springboks ran in 12 tries, half of those coming in the last 20 minutes, after wing Bryan Habana had become their all-time leading try-scorer when he crossed in the opening half of the Pool D match.
"The first 40 minutes we had a few bad habits which happens as you often get different types of opposition at the World Cup," admitted Springbok captain John Smit. "It was a good chance for us to refocus at half-time and we had better shape in the second half and got more rewards "We are making progress. Tonight was a good run out."
Habana's try in the 23rd minute took his tally to 39, pushing him clear of Joost van der Westhuizen.
Wing Gio Aplon, second-half substitute Juan de Jongh and scrum half Francois Hougaard scored two tries apiece as South Africa cut loose. Morné Steyn chipped in with a try, six conversions and a penalty and his replacement, Ruan Pienaar, matched him with six from six conversions.
These two African countries had met only once previously, with South Africa notching a 105-13 result in a warm-up match on their way to becoming champions at RWC 2007. Namibia, however, had shown great fighting spirit when losing to Fiji (49-25) and Samoa (49-12) in their two appearances before this match.
The Springboks were quickly on the board soon after their number 8 Pierre Spies charged down a kick from Theuns Kotze, but the bounce was not kind enough for him to regather.
Pressure exerted at a scrum paved the way for Morné Steyn to land a straightforward penalty after just four minutes and soon after wing Gio Aplon scampered over after Namibia had been dispossessed.
Quick hands created the overlap out wide on the right and Steyn converted to put South Africa 10-0 up.
But, for a spell, the Springboks were then kept in check by a combination of handling errors and a lively Namibia, who were not afraid to test young full-back Pat Lambie under the high ball. Namibia continued to have their moments, with Tinus du Plessis racing 40 metres downfield from a lineout.
But South Africa extended their lead to 17-0 after 23 minutes when Habana grabbed the try to put him in the record books.
Namibia were struggling with the force of the Springbok scrum and, seven minutes later, they conceded a penalty try, their forwards overwhelmed with the big men of South Africa bearing down on the line. Steyn converted and, with a 24-0 advantage, the world champions were in the driving seat and looking ominous.
Jaque Fourie then crossed by the posts after a neat pass from Frans Steyn and, at 31-0 up, South Africa were starting to look unstoppable. Aplon came close to scoring his second try minutes after the break but was ruled not to have had control of the ball. Scrum half Hougaard took a quick tap, which eventually led to their fifth try, with Frans Steyn finishing off the easiest of moves.
Namibia did well to momentarily repel a sustained onslaught from their rivals midway through the half but it was inevitable that they would eventually break, this time Morné Steyn crossing and adding a sixth conversion from as many attempts.
Juan de Jongh then scored from the restart and the Springboks were finding holes in the defence at will.
By the time they had finished, the South Africans had posted 12 tries, seven of them coming in the last 30 minutes.