Bryan Habana (AP)
London – It all looked a little clumsy and just too forward-orientated for a while, but the Springboks will be happy to have found multi-dimensional mojo as they waltzed their way into the World Cup quarter-finals here on Wednesday.
Although the painful limitations of their opponents were also laid bare along the way, the Boks getting 10 tries against the United States at the Olympic Stadium in a 64-0 scoreline still took a bit of doing after the short turnaround from Newcastle; they enter a 10-day break to their first knockout assignment in sound fettle.
Many respected pundits believe with conviction the Boks are building a proper head of steam after that tournament-opening debacle in Brighton, and with their ever-burgeoning forward mastery and all-round physical relish, few other teams will look forward to the possibility of running into them from here – especially if the weather only gets more wintry.
Lack of precision and some poor handling and option-taking slightly marred the first half against the initially plucky USA, but with a foundation being so firmly, progressively laid in the pack, eight dot-downs were registered in an altogether more vibrant second period.
A razor-sharp Bryan Habana was the major beneficiary, his hat-trick between the 41st and 62nd minutes earning him the distinguished milestone of drawing level with Jonah Lomu for RWC tries (15).
But there were other Bok standouts, with the official man-of-the-match mantle going to Damian de Allende and the likes of Duane Vermeulen and certain other “seniors” in the ranks producing rousing rugby.
Here’s how I rated the Boks out of 10:
Willie le Roux: 6.5
The fullback was responsible for a few decent exit kicks and some dodgier ones, tackled with welcome gusto and looked slippery with ball in hand, even if he also went up a couple of blind alleys.
Bryan Habana: 8.5
Goes from strength to strength at this tournament ... and his trio of tries here came hot on the heels of his hints to Sport24 this week that he might not be ready to quit internationals after the World Cup. Rewarded on the score-sheet for sheer appetite, awareness and devotion to duty against the US, and also competed fiercely in the air.
Jesse Kriel: 6
Some naivety, but also one of the more callow players singled out at the post-game press conference by Heyneke Meyer for staunchness of his defence. Also came within inches of first-half try, before earning one late on anyway. Fine strength on feet.
Damian de Allende: 8
If the first half was not without its attacking sloppiness, De Allende was one back who could largely be exempted. Sliced US defence wide open for Boks’ opening try, and continued to be creative and clever. Dropped one quite straightforward pass in the second half; no train smash.
Lwazi Mvovo: 7
Worked willingly, and was purposeful even when trying to escape tight spaces. Dubiously awarded Boks’ last try at death after a fumble as he placed the ball, but pretty much deserved it for footballing skills in lead-up.
Handre Pollard: 6.5
Some poor tactical kicking initially, and considering strength of his passing game there were some wayward ones. But tackling contribution rosy once again -- including one alert track-back hit on Blaine Scully -- and a lovely break from a once off pass from the “Beast”.
Fourie du Preez: 6
Hadn’t played any rugby for many months ... then three Tests within 11 days! Perhaps that caught up with him a tad. Still some magic, but also indifferent options and misdirected grubbers and the like. Led unflappably, again.
Duane Vermeulen: 8
Always seriously muscular in contact, and showed his stamina qualities by only getting more and more prolific and ferocious in carries (11 of them in total) as the game wore on. Assured at lineout time, too.
Schalk Burger: 7
Pinged for early high tackle, and went down heavily once after a slip. But got up with typical tenacity, and put in energetic stint for 48 minutes in his 17th RWC game, equalling John Smit for SA.
Francois Louw: 7.5
Reasonably mundane start to the game, but another seasoned trooper who picked things up a notch as the game developed. Plenty of tackles (12) and rewarded with two tries from rumbling Bok charges.
Lood de Jager: 7.5
Simply a machine this year – and the trend continued. Made strong early statements, was robust in mauls and imperious at the lineout; also led the Bok tackle count with 16.
Eben Etzebeth: 7.5
This game only underlined that his alliance with De Jager is the second-row combo of tournament so far ... and by a fair distance. Drew short straw of being the lone Bok tight forward asked to do “full 80” again after demanding date with Scotland, but clearly no complaints from the bruiser!
Frans Malherbe: 7.5
May well have done enough to push his way to the head of tighthead pecking order in Bok squad. Forceful right shoulders as Bok scrum seldom went anywhere but forward, and rather fast. Some good hold-up tackles as well.
Bismarck du Plessis: 7
Very busy at both tackle and breakdown area, including one or two brawny, trademark turnovers from a standing position.
Tendai Mtawarira: 6.5
Another Bok front-fiver for whom such a fast turnaround was going to be a challenge. Still, helped a purring Bok scrum and once nearly put Pollard in from a deft pass.
Willem Alberts: 7
First “orthodox” substitute infusion to the fray in the 48th minute, the Bone Collector got the necessary, significant shift he required to prove his fitness and extend his stay at the tournament. Several strong surges, and one excellent kick-off claim.
*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.