Lood de Jager (Gallo Images)
Newcastle – The rumbling commitment, power and energy of South Africa’s pack paved the way for their clinical 34-16 dismantling of spirited Scotland at St James’ Park here on Saturday.
Before a crowd of almost 51 000, and what seemed a pretty even split between fans of these proud rugby nations, the Springboks have now firmly brushed aside their nightmarish start to the World Cup and will clinch a quarter-final berth by beating minnows the United States in London on Wednesday.
You have to suspect that, after losing to one unfancied side already, the Boks simply won’t allow lightning to strike twice at the Olympic Stadium, despite the obvious perils of a tight turnaround.
They have also produced overdue (for them) impressive back-to-back wins at last in 2015, considering the similarly polished disposal of Samoa just a week earlier – the rest of the world will increasingly be believing these twice-champions are building a proper head of steam.
Towering lock Lood de Jager was the official man of the match, and a sound choice even if virtually the entire Bok pack bristled with intent, with a niggle-carrying Schalk Burger also rising to the occasion with typical indefatigability.
The Cheetahs player is fast making it extremely difficult for long-serving Victor Matfield to reclaim his No 5 shirt, even if he is declared fit again soon after his latest hamstring mishap, and will put back on the table the argument that the 38-year-old is best used off the bench henceforth.
Here’s how I rated the Boks out of 10:
Willie le Roux: 6.5
The fullback made some early kicking errors, sometimes overdoing the policy or putting too much weight on his ‘dinks’. But he erased that trend as the game advanced, and was often well-positioned on defence and confident fielding aerial balls.
JP Pietersen: 6.5
Was always going to struggle to match his productive, hat-trick feat against Samoa; there simply weren’t as many attacking opportunities on his side of the park. But no lack of industry, including great, scrambling tackle on Duncan Weir just before Scots got their breakout try. Penalised for one borderline tip-tackle.
Jesse Kriel: 6.5
Not a lot of space to play with in his channel, but one of several youthful Bok players to exhibit healthy ‘BMT’ on the day. Wriggled into a half-gap every now and then.
Damian de Allende: 7.5
Probably not quite 100 percent after knee injury against Samoa, but that didn’t stop him bossing the inside-centre duel. Particularly sturdy on defence, an area sometimes questioned, and also won a precious turnover under pressure. Strong leg drive in tight spaces.
Bryan Habana: 7.5
Turning into a compelling third World Cup for this 2007 winner. Fantastic sense of opportunism, high work-rate and useful bastion of experience and calmness outside some callow fellow-backs. Fine high-ball claim early on, and deserved his late try.
Handre Pollard: 7.5
Maturing stealthily at this tournament; composed and intelligent display, including sound place-kicking and a deft dropped-goal which made amends soon after throwing intercepted pass that led to Scottish long-range try. Couple of drive-back tackles, too.
Fourie du Preez: 7
Led the Boks with expected unflappability and tactical astuteness. Has brought out so much more in Bok outside backs at RWC with stealth and assuredness of his service.
Duane Vermeulen: 7.5
Scottish forwards were well up for this engrossing game ... but discovered even that’s not always enough when there’s a slab of steel like Vermeulen in enemy ranks. Always at the fulcrum of things in tight-loose. Good lineout steal, though one over-fancy offload thwarted a Bok attack.
Schalk Burger: 8
Let Heyneke Meyer, speaking soon afterwards, explain: “He had an injury ... might not have played. At his age, to play like that ... unbelievable. He’s not just a basher; beautiful hands as well. Total package these days.”
Francois Louw: 7
The open-sider was not overly prominent for turnovers here, but greatly aided Bok pack’s ability to set up speedy, quality possession at breakdowns. Firm tackles, and piloted one awesome, steam-rolling maul.
Lood de Jager: 8.5
According to post-match sheet, 14 tackles and 13 carries ... premier Bok in both departments. Quite phenomenal industry for 74 minutes, even if he leaked a few penalties. Strong at lineout, including firm pressure on Scottish throw.
Eben Etzebeth: 7
Such a fierce shift against Samoa that it would have been hard to emulate it. Came close, though. Got stern competition (and a minor how’s-your-father) from Richie Gray, but fantastic endurance once again, including fierce last-quarter carries as Boks turned screws.
Jannie du Plessis: 6
Still the most endangered first-teamer: gets a reasonable rating on strength of some good Bok scrums, his core task, but yellow card for shoulder-charge will have stretched coach Meyer’s patience.
Bismarck du Plessis: 7
Looked pumped-up at the start, and proceeded to put in brutal shift in his 75th Test. Tons of grunt, but did spill one ball in contact.
Tendai Mtawarira: 7.5
Has had some tough one-on-ones with WP Nel at scrum-time in SA in the past ... but this wiped the slate clean. Imperious left shoulder, and must have regretted there weren’t more scrums. Regular ball-in-hand surges, too. One of his best games in a while.
Adriaan Strauss: 7
The mark of a good substitute is his ability to make an impression almost immediately ... and Strauss did that, even after a muscular Du Plessis showing for 56 minutes. Always on hand for a forceful cleanout or support for a carrier when needed.
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing. Rob is attending the Bok pool phase of RWC 2015 to provide news and analysis for Sport24 readers.