South Africa secured a bonus-point 49-18 win over Tonga and a successful return to action for flyhalf Handre Pollard at the Rugby World Cup today.
The Springboks scored seven tries in their final pool game and Pollard converted the first four for a 100% night with the boot in his first test in more than a year before he left after 50 minutes.
Manie Libbok came on for Pollard and kicked three from three conversions to ensure that, apart from the crucial victory, the defending champion also went some way to putting right the goal-kicking problems that were evident in a 13-8 defeat to Ireland in its last outing.
First-choice flyhalf Libbok came under pressure for his wayward kicking against the Irish and Pollard’s promising return from injury will give the Springboks options if they progress to the knockouts.
That’s not yet guaranteed, though.
The result took South Africa to the top of Pool B but only by a point ahead of Ireland’s showdown with Scotland in the final set of pool games next weekend, which will decide which two go through to the quarter-finals.
An Ireland victory will send the Irish and the South Africans through. A Scotland victory could make it complicated and it might come down to points difference.
Scrumhalf Cobus Reinach set South Africa on its way in Marseille with a quick tap and try that caught the Tongan defense snoozing in the fifth minute. Center Canan Moodie benefited from a lucky bounce off Springboks prop Vincent Koch’s shoulder for the second, and Deon Fourie marked his first test start as hooker with a third.
Tonga captain Ben Tameifuna bashed over for 21-8 at halftime.
The Springboks got their fourth try and a crucial bonus point through replacement back Jesse Kriel. Willie le Roux and replacements Marco van Staden and Kwagga Smith added the fifth, sixth and seventh tries, with Smith going under the crossbar after the final hooter.
Tonga had two second-half tries and never laid down. Wing Fine Inisi was put over by a pass from flyhalf William Havili after Tonga showed outstanding patience to work South Africa’s defense until the gap appeared.
Replacement Patrick Pellegrini broke away for Tonga’s third in the 73rd minute before Smith scored South Africa’s seventh.
Get full coverage of the Rugby World Cup.