Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Springbok's World Cup crash-bash-kick plan pays off

South Africa 49

Fiji 3

South Africa's Frans Steyn attempts to break the tackle of Fiji's Waisea Luveniyali and Seremaia Bai. Photo / Mark Mitchell
South Africa's Frans Steyn attempts to break the tackle of Fiji's Waisea Luveniyali and Seremaia Bai. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The supporter's banner said it all. Pale Toe Bokke - no, not a beer brand or a dodgy ailment but the favoured war cry of the Springbok fan. It literally means 'go for the poles', emphasising the typical crash, bash then kick for goal approach of South African rugby teams.

Last night was different. There was still plenty of the above but also a lot of enterprising back play among the men in green. It is too early to talk about a renaissance but the Springboks are gaining collective confidence after looking lacklustre just weeks ago.

Fiji brought plenty to the Rugby World Cup contest with their rampaging runs and clever ball handling but were worn down by pure physical attrition.

The scores were locked at 3-3 after an even first quarter before South Africa put on 46 points in the last hour. The statistics reflected the Fijian effort as possession and territory were almost 50-50 but the scoreboard told a different story.

The Islanders remain wonderful to watch; players from one to 15 pulled out sidesteps and they looked dangerous from first- and second-phase play. But they struggled in contact and recycled ball was rarely quick enough as they gradually tired from the physical strain as the game went on.

While the Fijians tried to bring the carnival, the South Africans were simply clinical.

They smashed into the breakdown, ensuring quick ball as their back rowers in particular caused carnage running wide.

There was plenty to entertain the bumper crowd of 33,262. Fijian left winger Naipolioni Nalaga smashed Fourie Du Preez and made a couple of slashing runs while forwards on both sides tried chip kicks.

One of the more curious sights was Morne Steyn attempting two tackles in a row, after he had resembled a turnstile last week against Wales.

Frans Steyn, who knocked over a long range penalty, makes kicks at goal entertaining. There is none of the interminable waiting of a Grant Fox, or the elaborate procedure of a Jonny Wilkinson. Steyn barely measures out as he steps back and slams the ball with impeccable timing.

For Fiji, blindside flanker Dominiko Waqaniburotu was immense, while second five Seremaia Bai always looked dangerous.

The entire Springbok pack were impressive and centre Jaque Fourie was the standout in their backline.

Hulking prop Gurthro Steenkamp showed great strength to barrel over rival prop Deacon Manu and score the first try in the 26th minute, after Fiji had dominated possession.

A rampaging run from fellow front rower Jannie Du Plessis set up the next try to Jaque Fourie seven minutes before the break. Frans Steyn grabbed their third try in the 49th minute.

Morne Steyn benefited from a lovely Schalk Burger offload to squeeze over in the 63rd minute, before the No 10 set up Tendai Mtawarira four minutes later. Danie Rossouw, who ran for over 140m, was rewarded with the final try in the 76th minute.

South Africa: 49 (G. Steenkamp, J. Fourie, F. Steyn, M. Steyn, T. Mtawarira, D. Rossouw tries; M. Steyn 5 cons, 2 pens, F. Steyn pen)

Fiji: 3 (S. Bai pen).

Halftime: 21-3.

- Herald on Sunday

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