Sublime Boks mix muscle, verve

2011-09-17 11:27

Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – So dinosaurs can dance!

The Springboks have suddenly bared their teeth at the World Cup, the defending champions reminding the planet that even some of their older pairs of legs still have plenty of gusto left in them.

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South Africa served up a feast in Wellington on Saturday, overcoming Fiji by six tries to nil for an emphatic outcome many of us, let’s face it, had considered fairly unlikely after the tepid disposal of Wales and an unfortunate lead-up winter to RWC 2011 as well.

Perhaps we should get the tempering stuff out of the way first, and quickly: the Boks were playing a side ranked 12 places below them on the IRB ladder so maybe 49-3 was what they should have been looking for anyway.

But the international rugby arena seems to be getting more broadly competitive, especially judging by some early results at this tournament, and the truth is that no side could have seriously eclipsed the Springbok performance against foes who never ran up a white flag – the Fijians were certainly going toe to toe with John Smit’s troops in the first quarter of an enthralling game which was deadlocked 3-3 right on the 20-minute mark.

I mention the name of Smit because it is fitting to do so: I remain among those who believe Bismarck du Plessis should start the bigger World Cup games at hooker, but credit must also go where it is due; the big old bulldozer played his part as much as anyone in this encouragingly expressive – an overdue phenomenon -- Bok display.

Smit had probably as good a 54 minutes at No 2 as he has had for a while, and his presence in a brawny, even more heavyweight than usual Bok tight five helped lay some awesome foundations for this increasingly fleet-footed triumph.

The enforced absence of second row athlete Victor Matfield meant Bakkies Botha was paired with Danie Rossouw and this only added prime beef to the boiler room at scrum-time, which was as key a springboard to the Bok win as any other.

Now here’s a tricky little question: should lineout master Matfield’s return to the starting fray when ready to do so really be considered a fait accompli?

Rossouw, after all, had arguably the best game of his long Test life in all respects in Matfield’s No 5 shirt, and I felt he was an eminently sensible choice as man of the match, not just for doing his donkeywork with customary willingness but being an absolute demon as a ball-carrier throughout.

And speaking of seasoned Springbok warriors trying to snatch their places back, how is Jean de Villiers, that poor fellow with a World Cup hoodoo, going to displace Frans Steyn at inside centre now?

Steyn gave the Bok backline as a whole a notable rebirth in thrust and purpose with his decision-making, personal determination to make yardage and use of his great physical attributes in both a defensive and offensive capacity.

Indeed, you have to credit the Bok brains trust for bringing Steyn much closer to the action for the Fiji fixture; I had felt that his solidity at fullback against Wales was reasonable grounds to keep him there for the second RWC assignment.

But commentator Matthew Pearce so rightly observed the “relish” with which the Racing Metro player took to his string-pulling role, whilst Patrick Lambie was just another element of the tactical reshuffle to look extremely convincing, filling his shoes in the last line of defence.

Hello, and was that Morne Steyn, the perceived place-kicking dullard, popping refreshingly out of the proverbial pocket, taking gaps, varying his approach with some deft little touches and even getting over the whitewash himself?

Other aspects of the Bok selection that had raised some eyebrows, like Odwa Ndungane’s installation at wing, came up trumps: the Sharks man is no out-and-out speed merchant but he was as competent as anyone in the process of South Africa first doing the essential “subduing” and sticking to basics before they added the penetration factor to their equation in a major way.

It was a good move, too, as the Fijian resolve and stamina was gradually squeezed out of them, to replace Ndungane with that versatile, electric little eel off the bench, Francois Hougaard, who asked questions and then still more questions of the underdogs’ defence.

The fluidity and vibrancy of the Bok showing was picked up on by some New Zealand pundits during the second half, with former All Blacks scrumhalf Justin Marshall encapsulating their significant admiration: “The Boks have been clinical, ruthless and accurate in everything they’ve done.”

Make no mistake, plenty of bone-jarring, sweaty commitment was still required to mastermind this fine display, and a few eternally abrasive and industrious characters like Schalk Burger and Heinrich Brussow could probably do with some “feet up” time as the less menacing hurdle, with respect, of Namibia looms next for the buoyant Boks …


  • TheGreyOne - 2011-09-17 11:38

    Finally a performance worthy of champions. Lets just hope whe can do a repeat against Samoa. Danie Rossouw you beauty.No need for Habana, Hougaard must start on wing

      Really - 2011-09-17 13:14

      Remember that Fiji is no15 in the world, so was it really such a good performance?

      Axiom - 2011-09-17 14:00

      Against the B team. Sublime. I ask you.

      Rossman - 2011-09-17 14:04

      Fiji was more or less 12 places below SA in 2007 as well and we all know how close THAT quarterfinal was. In a world cup it doesn't matter where in rankings you are. On the day you are on the field playing against the team on the field with you. Rankings mean Jack.

      Mike@CapeT - 2011-09-17 14:27

      A far cry from our win against the Welsh......congratulations! More purpose, more enthusiasm and more passion. Mention ought to be made of Steenkamp, Brussow and Burger....and quite frankly, I have never seen Rossouw play better! Smit played his best game in a long while. In the back line, M. Steyn surprised, F Steyn was superb and J Fourie was phenomenol. How good is Hougaard....when he came on!? Spies' game was far better than last week.....but he still remains invisible for large patches of the game. Finally, we shouldn't take this game as being a resurgence of Springbok rugby afterall, the Fijians are a largely unstructured combination and, against a more clinical team, we may find ourselves wanting. I still need to be convinced that we have what it takes to go all the way.

      Spyker May - 2011-09-17 16:59

      @Really.., Sigh of relief... One voice of sanity. Teams < no 6 on the rankings are in those positions, to a greater- or lesser extent, due to inconsistent on-field performance. During the RWC they often play one game as if it is the last in their lives (and to many it is/was on a world stage). This is what Fiji did, during the '07 RWC, while SA was still basking in the 1st win over England - they knew SA was vulnerable, plus Jake White had a rare "PdV-moment" and selected a completely inappropriate team.

      anfield - 2011-09-17 19:20

      get real. Fiji entertain via seven a side rugby, but the 15 game is 'a little bit different?' remember wales, whom i'm not partial too, but they ran you ragged. champions performance? will save this blog and apologize if you reach the semi's. though if that happens, we'll probably see another referee decision going your way! slam another castle beer can against your forehead

  • Joshua Austin - 2011-09-17 11:40

    I'm glad the writer mentioned the fact that Fiji are 12 places down from South Africa's position in World Standings but it was still a good performance from South Africa. Frans Steyn and Jaque Fourie in the midfield are the perfect combo - Jean De Villiers has been dismantled and the De Villiers-Fourie center pairing will have to make way if commen sense prevails.

      Juan More - 2011-09-17 13:13

      Couldn't agree more. But PDV and common sense don't go hand in hand

      Joshua Austin - 2011-09-17 13:47

      Yes but he has been showing quite a lot of it recently. Must be Rassie's influence. The Bokke can win this world cup.

  • darkwing - 2011-09-17 11:45

    The important thing is not where the opposition is placed in the rankings, but that the Boks played much better than they have for a long time. There were fewer handling errors and they looked like they wanted to play and had a plan. This will boost their confidence greatly.

      Axiom - 2011-09-17 14:07

      And therein lies the threat. All we need is for them to think they are in great shape.

      StaalBurgher - 2011-09-17 17:56

      I think few SA fans suddenly think we are a shoe-in to win the tournament based just on this performance, or any string of performances. But it does give us hope that when facing Australia, and hopefully the ABs afterwards, the match odds are a more reasonable 50/50. The road and odds are still long but if we are going to be successful this is the direction we need to move in whether it was no.12 ranked team or not.

  • Jamal - 2011-09-17 11:47

    I have been reading the same people who said Fiji could beat the Boks are nowhere to be found or trying to play down the Boks performance by saying its only Fiji, so typical...

      sipholess - 2011-09-17 11:58

      Spot on Jamal, the boo boys are lost for words and will be hiding away for a while.

      Ya Beauty! - 2011-09-17 13:14

      Johny come lately are just so typical bunch of morrons they see nothing but the bad.......unfortunately thats how they live their lives too....Boks played so well so glad so glad i will be in NZ to see them play in a few weeks........Divs should not be picked at center any more much better play in the backline today....

      RandomDude - 2011-09-18 02:11

      First off the IRB rankings are almost totally useless , especially in a WC . In WC competitions what's more important is how motivated the team is on the day . Ireland -Aus, USA -Ireland , Scotland - whoever the played , FR - JPN ?? To our NZ friends, please remember that Tonga, just 2 places higher than Fiji, outplayed #1 ranked NZ *at home* in the 2nd half of their match .

  • Sheriffff - 2011-09-17 11:50

    excellent article, not much more you can say

  • Buffalo - 2011-09-17 12:07

    Excellent Springboks! Wish that I could have watched it! All we receive out here are snippets and the occasional photo. On photos: why is it that every photo featuring a Samoan, Fijian, Tongan or Kiwi engaged in tackling a Springbok, is that tackle always high. One arm always over the shoulder, around the neck, strangling the ball-carrier - keep em down you head-hunting b4st4rds.

  • George - 2011-09-17 12:16

    What an excellent display of rugby from both sides. Well done Bokke and Fiji for the best, most action packed and cleanest game I have seen in this World Cup so far, and to add the cherry on the cake "NO SERIOUS INJURIES ON EITHER SIDE".

      Lance - 2011-09-17 13:18

      Yep...lets hope Flouw, Aplon, de Jongh and CJ get some game time against the Namibians...Rest our in-form guys for Samoa please!

  • Neo - 2011-09-17 12:23

    Well done P Divvy and the Boys!!!

  • Clark Kent - 2011-09-17 12:33

    Really lets put the bok performance in perspective July 20111 All Blacks 60 Fiji 14, June 2005 All Blacks 91 Fiji 0, June 2002 All Blacks 68 Fiji 18. June 1997 All Blacks 71 Fiji 5. May 1987 All Blacks 75 Fiji 13 Reall makes the Bol effort look pathetic ,and if the Boks can get past the Ausssies now All Blacks dhould beat them by 30 points, bye bye suckers

      EDI2000 - 2011-09-17 12:41

      WOW dude you should really lay off the TIK its affecting what little brain cells you were born with.....

      brinjal - 2011-09-17 12:50

      Clark Klunt, Go play at Silver Fern, maybe you'll get some attention, you box.

      Jeff Toms - 2011-09-17 12:52

      must be another sheep sha@@er.........

      johan.joostesnr - 2011-09-17 12:53

      The All Blacks will be beaten up front by the Boks and Ireland, no doubt - Ireland demolished the Wallabies up front today. The Boks will get better also, they have too much depth.

      maverix - 2011-09-17 13:13

      really,Clarkie - 2005? 2002? 1997? 1987? oh, that's right - you do have to delve back into history for when the All Blacks were last successful at a World Cup... and i think you mis-spelled your surname - it should start with a C and a u...

      Biobuddy - 2011-09-17 15:25

      Ireland wins "Ossie" Old [est team] wins the young [est team] AB's won wayback last in 1987 What do you mean by stating the wins of the AB against Fiji?? Does not mean a thing!!

      StangV2_0 - 2011-09-18 02:03

      lets put NZ rugby into perspective.. 1987 Champions (No South Africa Playing) 1991 Uhm.. 1995 Sry, Uhm again.. 1999.. huh?? 2003 Oops 2007 WTF loose to france? haha.. 2011 Semi Final exit after loosing to SA.. South Africa has the best win ratio against NZ. No other team can pitch up and beat the AB like SA. Does it upset you? Does it make bit your nails in your sleep? And further more, SA has the highest win ratio in the WC of any team. Like it or not you cannot deny that the boks are a serious threat to the NZ team. If you cant accept that then do so at your own peril. becasue it will hit you like afreight train in the Semis.. And to be honest we really dont care about a little NZ prize prick running around on these pages running his mouth. thats cause we, the Springbok fans, are relishing this moment.. We believe in our team, 100%...!! And oh ya, what does it feel like knowing that your coach cannot decide what his best team is? 2 matches away from the pool stages and he is still tinkering with the team.. He did that as well in 2007 you know. The team that lost to France had only a few players in it that won their previous game.. Anyway, just something for you to think about..

      RandomDude - 2011-09-18 02:23

      Clark .. Tonga, *2* places higher than Fiji in the rankings , outplayed #1 ranked NZ *at home* in the 2nd half of their match . And please explain to me how is what happened in 2005 and before relevant ? I know you as a NZ fan won't like to hear this but the IRB rankings are totally meaningless , we've seen it in this WC and in many prev WCs .

  • FJ2 - 2011-09-17 12:38

    Where's all those who had Fiji bumping off the Boks by at least 20 now? And having the mighty Australia taking Ireland apart? Kudos to all the loyal Saffas who have so far supported the green-and gold. It's still a long way to go, but we will soldier on gamely, playing to our strengths and not being as naive as to let others dictate to us as to what our style of play should be. What? Not so boring after all?!

      Clark Kent - 2011-09-17 12:54

      Would be nice if the boks had some style they can only score trys against third world countries bye bye boys

  • Jack - 2011-09-17 12:40

    Danie played like he did in the 2007 final. What a guy!

  • Ntokozo - 2011-09-17 12:44

    Well done Bokke!!!!!

  • Gazzo - 2011-09-17 12:50

    Great performance today - was especially good to see them going for a final try after the hooter! I hope that the Boks will attempt to play this type of rugby against the bigger teams as well - we looked superb with ball in hand, and showed that we can be effective without resorting to the 'kick and chase' style that most teams seem to expect from us these days!

  • ProudBok - 2011-09-17 12:55

    Top performance by our bokkies. Extremely impressed. No mention of the work horse that was Jacques Fourie in this article? I guess you cant expect anything less from a world class player of his stature. Top notch South African rugby. Good job boys!

      ProudBok - 2011-09-17 13:12

      You couldn’t read into the fact that I am praising his exceptional rugby skills, and that WE couldn’t expect anything less from him. He performs game in, game out. He deserves every bit of respect.

      Lance - 2011-09-17 13:27

      @ Clark...You have so much to say about how bad the Boks are....I dont hear much about you boasting how good "your team" is ? Scotland maybe ? Romania ? or maybe sitting this world cup out ?

      RandomDude - 2011-09-18 02:29

      No Clark we have high expectations.. we're accustomed to winning the WC

  • frans.mosia - 2011-09-17 13:01

    This is a very strong message from the springboks to other competitors in this tournament to remind them why they are the world champions.Beating Fiji like that, really the springboks deserves credit.

      Clark Kent - 2011-09-17 13:06

      Wow All Blacks beat them by 70 points in July this year what did you beat them bye again. Im sure the All blacks must be absolutely terrified now of the Bok hahahahahah what a joke

      BryanJhb - 2011-09-17 13:25

      Well Clark Kent the All Blacks have never won a RWC (their victory in 1987 was without us playing) and even if you count that as a RWC win and, furthermore, EVEN if they win this year, they would only have been able achieve their RWC victories on home soil. The Boks hav won (proper) WC's both at home and abroad.

      Kleinboet - 2011-09-17 14:00

      Come to think of it, we are the only team who could win the World cup twice since we enetered the competition. The Ausies won their first cup in 1991 when we did not play!

      BobbyM - 2011-09-17 15:24

      @ Clark Idiot Actually according to your own boast they beat them by 46 points (60 - 14) - same as SA today.

  • Bok Fan - 2011-09-17 13:21

    Danie Rossouw has never been my favourite player. But I may have to change that opinion. This guy is peaking at exactly the right time and is bringing his game up to an incredible standard. Man, those massive Fijians were BULLIED today. Superboks

      Malcolm - 2011-09-17 14:02

      Agreed Bok Fan. I have been critical of Rossouw in the past but today he forced me to re-evaluate my opinion of him. Great performance and deserved MOTM!

  • Phillip Carlisle - 2011-09-17 13:22

    Just brilliant, I would like to see hougaart @ 9. FDu, still looks a little slow and rusty, no more quick runs?? But glad he is not kicking everything away. Glad to face Oz in the 1/4s, the sooner the better. Go bokke!!!

  • patrickb - 2011-09-17 13:22

    Boy is this "Clot Clunt" fellow irritating.................. All these silly little chirps make one think of an over bearing mosquito that just won't go away. We get it, you don't like us, get over yourself!

  • Phillip Carlisle - 2011-09-17 13:25

    @ Bok Fan, best game of Danie's life, not one knock on, he always knocked on. Good game for Spies too. Defense 100%.

      WHAT - 2011-09-17 15:43

      aag ou filli as ouens soos jy meer regte rugby kyk sal jy sien di' ouens wat jy so probeer afbreek is nog altyd ysters, dis net losers soos jy wat nou probeer snert praat.

  • Phillip Carlisle - 2011-09-17 13:28

    Clark, you going to eat your words mate. Over confidence and arrogance get rewarded with a plate of word stew. We deserve to be proud, like the Irish, or are their expectations too low too?

      Lance - 2011-09-17 13:33

      Bottom line folks is that Superman is fearful of the Boks...he knows that come christmas time the rails of Superman suits will be full at Toys R us...Only Boksuits will be selling like hotcakes..I know I have put my order in for an "Incredible Schalk Suit" for my kid or maybe"Bashful Bismarck Suit"...over 15 choices available...

  • eddie grant - 2011-09-17 13:31

    No matter what, i think the Figians took the kitchen sink and much more at us, with their perfoemance today they would have klapt a few good teams. go bokke its about time!

  • Dane October - 2011-09-17 13:35

    Actually Clark Klunt, NZ beat Fiji by 46 points in July this year. We did exactly the same thing today, only we were more convincing and we didn't let them score any tries unlike NZ.

      Ruck'n Punt - 2011-09-17 14:27

      Actually it was the All Black B team if you recall but don't let facts get in the way of a good story. Oh and by the way the NZ public were very critical of the All Black B teams result. Go figure

      Ruck'n Punt - 2011-09-17 14:46

      Almost forgot to mention, the All Black B team used that game as a practice run to experiment combinations and tactics. Why are the Bok fans acting as if they beat a first tier team. Most if not all Bok fans are saying how amazing the Boks played with that mediocre performance against a very average Fijian team.

      Twakprater - 2011-09-17 16:27

      Do you think that was Fiji's A-team that was beaten by the AB's?

  • saburger - 2011-09-17 13:38

    Congratulations Boks! Your best display this year of rugby and for first time you look motivated and able to win the world cup. Be careful for Northern hemisphere teams this year - their forwards had the upper hand in this competition against Southern hemisphere teams at this stage.

  • Spioen - 2011-09-17 13:39

    O en Gurtro Steenkamp het ook 'n massiewe wedstryd gespeel! Welgedaan!!

  • wozlocksley - 2011-09-17 13:39

    @edì2000 - very very nice. i like it a lot. @ clarke kent - you are an idiot. you sound a lot better with your mouth shut.

  • Kleinboet - 2011-09-17 13:53

    I am the biggest critic of John Smit, believing he should never have had the privilege to go to the RWC. However, once he was picked I also said that I will support him as a member of the squad. Today he did not quite close my mouth but he did, at long last, play a decent game for which I will give him credit. Seems as if he is slowly starting to get fit and may be totally fit in another couple of weeks. In any case, the others played so well that we would have won even without him. Danie Rossouw was a thorn in the Fijian side with excellent play. I hope they will keep him at lock no matter who else is fit to play there. Frans Steyn was excellent in combination with Jacques Fourie. Gurthro Steenkamp, Schalk Burger and Heinrich Brüssow played out of their skins; even Morné Steyn suddenly was more than just a kicker. Perhaps the biggest compliment should go to Nienaber who has done wonders with the defence of the Bok-team, which is now near impenetrable. The best game of our Bokke for a long, long time! I enjoyed it even more than the Ausie disaster that followed. Go, Bokke, moer hulle! And now for the WP game …

      Theo - 2011-09-17 15:00

      Can you imagine what the score would have been if Bismarck had started.

  • Brent - 2011-09-17 14:41


  • Mack - 2011-09-17 15:02

    Something interesting i noticed was. The win against the head (scrum) in the closing minutes had john smit @ tighthead prop. i know it's fiji but he could still lift the cup in the #3 jersey.....

  • Whoa Dude! - 2011-09-17 15:33

    Playing like the world champions we are. A fantastic performance. If anybody underestimates the Boks' ability, desire and flair, do so at your own risk.

  • Pussy - 2011-09-17 17:04

    Lose of FORM is only temporary...but CLASS is permanent...and that is what this Springbok squad has!!! GO BOKKE!!!!

  • Pussy - 2011-09-17 17:11

    Now for the Province 3rd team to teach the Bulls 1st team a rugby lesson...perfect end to the day!!!! PRRRRROOOOOOOOVINCE!!!!!!

      rob.horneman - 2011-09-17 19:18

      hahah pussy prooooovinnnceee --my ass! licking your openwound now mmm? arrogant Wp moer!

  • Christo - 2011-09-17 21:23

    Asseblief John smit staan terug vir Bismark.Terwille van SA se aanslag.Jy is net nie goed genoeg nie.

      Kalkheuwel - 2011-09-18 20:20

      This first time the scrum collapsed Bismark was in the middle, the first skew throw Bismark was in the middle, add in a couple of knock ons to the equation and I'd hazard a guess that JS brings a lot more to the party than that which is immediately seen. Yes, Bismark is great in the loose play, just maybe there is room for both in this side. JS will retire after this RWC and Bismark will have the berth to himself.

  • DAMAINMAN - 2011-09-18 12:39


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