Demolition man: Habana leads Boks’ 64-0 destruction of USA

It has been apparent for a while that South Africa were going to top their pool, despite the mind-blowing uncertainty thrown up by the opening-round defeat to Japan. Sure enough, they duly confirmed as much, completing their pool fixtures with the kind of unseemly route of a lesser team the World Cup can’t hope to rid itself of quite yet.

Bryan Habana was the principal beneficiary, registering a hat-trick in the first 20 minutes of the second half to draw level with Jonah Lomu’s record of 15 World Cup tries. 

Otherwise there was little by which this match might be remembered, despite another massive crowd at a famous stadium. The USA fielded what was essentially a second XV and were hopelessly overpowered. South Africa were brutal with them in defence, and if the Springboks’ precision in attack was less than impressive it hardly had to be. Having kept matters respectable up to half-time, the Americans were blown away in the second half.

This match formed part of a tight turnaround for both teams, the Springboks fielding much the same side as beat Scotland four days earlier, but the Americans inevitably prioritising their final pool match against Japan four days hence. Only three players remained from their previous game, against Scotland 10 days earlier.

Their brief was to tackle and tackle again and snatch whatever they could in between. Such a plan was compromised by two missed penalties within the first quarter of an hour, and a horrible lack of communication in defence in the seventh minute, when Damian de Allende was able to coast unmolested through the thick of their midfield to the posts for try No1.

As suspected, the South Africa scrum was far too powerful. Thankfully, Pascal Gaüzère remained sensible in the face of the annihilation, resisting the temptation to reach for his pocket, as a strict interpretation of World Rugby’s unforgiving – and unreasonable – laws in this department might have required. He settled for just the penalty try, when for the third time running the American scrum capitulated at a five-metre scrum just shy of the hour.

That score of 14-0 was how the score remained at half-time, which was a fairly remarkable achievement by the USA. Or was it more an indictment of South Africa’s skills in attack? The power advantage they enjoyed was not in question, and occasionally De Allende, Handré Pollard and/or Willie le Roux found a little space to run into, but the finishing left a lot to be desired, not that the USA’s scramble defence –Brett Thompson particularly impressive in that regard – should be dismissed as without influence.

South Africa’s frustrations reached their pitch just before the break, when Duane Vermeulen of all people became the latest to spill the ball with the line in his sights. Then Fourie du Preez – of all people – tapped the penalty awarded at that point and lobbed out a hopeful pass out wide, which Blaine Scully intercepted to lift the siege.

Not for long. In the first minute of the second half, Habana was on to Du Preez’s chip ahead for his first, and six minutes later Bismarck du Plessis notched up the bonus point with South Africa’s fourth, blasting over from close range. More power told for South Africa’s fifth, Francois Louw finishing off a lineout and drive before Pollard’s conversion of the evening made it 33-0 in the 53rd minute.

The USA were now starting to look lost, and so the artistic merit of the Springbok tries improved. The excellent De Allende was clean through the American defence again, off a lineout, to lay on Habana’s second, a mere two minutes before the latter drew level him with Lomu when the ball popped loose for him from a maul after Vermeulen’s break. Three further tries followed for the Springboks in the final quarter, another lineout and drive for Louw, a handsome score for Jesse Kriel on the switch off Morné Steyn and a breakaway try at the death for Lwazi Mvovo, despite a more than questionable grounding.

So South Africa march on to Twickenham now for a quarter-final on Saturday week against the loser of the match between Wales and Australia. It would appear that any talk of their demise was premature – certainly if their power quotient was ever in doubt. Talk of their winning the tournament, though, might be a touch premature too. There is plenty for them to tighten up if that is to happen, but they’re in good company there. Only a fool would rule it out. – © Guardian News & Media 2015

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertising

READ IT IN FULL: Ramaphosa’s address on the extension of...

This is the full address given by President Cyril Ramaphosa on April 9

Meet the doctor leading Africa’s fight to contain the coronavirus...

Dr Matshidiso Moeti’s father helped to eliminate smallpox. Now she’s leading Africa’s efforts against the coronavirus

Stella set to retain her perks

Communication minister will keep Cabinet perks during her two months of special leave

Covid-19 grounds Nigeria’s medical tourists

The country’s elites, including the president, travelled abroad for treatment but now they must use the country’s neglected health system

Press Releases

Rahima Moosa Hospital nursing college introduces no-touch facial recognition access system

The new system allows the hospital to enrol people’s faces immediately, using artificial intelligence, and integrates easily with existing access control infrastructure, including card readers and biometrics

Everyone’s talking about it. Even Kentucky

Earlier this year South African fried chicken fast-food chain, Chicken Licken®, launched a campaign for their wallet-friendly EasyBucks® meals, based on the idea of ‘Everyone’s talking about it.’

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world