It was another brutal performance that saw the Springboks salvage some pride and claim a 31-8 win over the Wallabies in Pretoria. The Springboks dominated every facet of the game, as they proved far too good for the Australians, ensuring they never really fired a shot.
And it could have been so much more had the Springboks' kickers' radar been more accurate. Sixteen points went begging as Ruan Pienaar and Johan Goosen combined to miss six kicks, making just three in a statistic that was reminiscent of two weeks earlier in Dunedin.
But the dominance of this Springbok team ensured this make a great deal of difference, handing the Wallabies precious few chances and taking their own well to score five tries to one.
It wasn’t just that they were scoring tries either, it was the way that they were scoring them. Finally, they have made use of what is a deadly back line, and looked dangerous doing it. They looked to move the ball, playing with width and chancing their arm with a handful of offloads. It was this, along with a dominant forward pack, that gave the Wallaby defence so many problems and finally showed that South Africa don’t have to rely on kicking to win them games.
The forwards brought a physicality to their game that the Wallabies simply couldn’t match and ensured they had good ball to play such an expansive game. This could be seen directly by the high injury toll experienced by the Australians, as they were forced to finish the game with just 14 players after having run out of substitutions. It is hard to play rugby on the back foot, but it is made even harder when the team is continually being changed the way the Wallabies were having to. They weren’t able to get any flow on, and only Kurtley Beale ever looked like threatening in the back line.
Bryan Habana was the star of the show, touching down for three tries and hustling around the field. After a drop in form in 2010 and 2011, he is finally getting back to his best, and over the past month has reminded us why many once considered him to be the best winger in the world. Indeed, on current form you would be hard pressed to find one better.
But it was the men inside Habana that provided the grunt and the spark that enabled him to shine. The forwards operated well, as the set piece provided the backs with good ball, and they were generally too strong at breakdown time. Francois Louw was the best of them, as he fought for possession well at ruck time whilst also proving a valuable ball runner, scoring a try and setting up Habana for the final try.
Adriaan Strauss was strong too, whilst Willem Alberts was adept at getting his team on the front foot. Both locks were also outstanding, winning lineout ball and getting through plenty of work.
The nine-ten duo of Ruan Pienaar and Johan Goosen operated well in their first start together. Pienaar controlled the game well and kicked well, whilst Goosen was the playmaker of the back line and ran well. Out wide, Zane Kirchner showed what a dangerous runner he can be, and was perhaps unlucky to be dragged as early as he was.
For the Wallabies there was little to write home about. Kurtley Beale looked dangerous at times and kicked well but struggled behind a forward pack that was beaten up. Outside him, no one impressed, as the back line never really fired a shot, being met by the brick wall that was the Springbok defensive line.
Both teams will now look ahead to next week as they play their final games in the Rugby Championship for 2012. The Springboks will host the All Blacks in a game that will be a war in every sense of the word should they bring the same physicality they brought to this game. Meanwhile, the Wallabies will travel to Argentina where they will take on a Pumas side hungry for their first win.