South Africa played some fine rugby in downing Australia 31-8 at Loftus Versfeld, with it being the first performance all season where the Springboks’ various limbs got their act together (mostly) to create an organic team that reaped the rewards on the scoreboard.
While goal kicking still remains a problem, something the Springboks’ kicking gurus will be frantically attempting to decode, handing Johan Goosen the No 10 jersey had the desired effect of bringing the entire backline closer to the gain line.
While Frans Steyn’s injury was unfortunate, it allowed Jean de Villiers, who hasn’t had a great international season, to play in his preferred position of inside centre. It offered fans the opportunity to size up Jaco Taute as a potential answer to the vexing question of outside centre. It has been a question that has required answering since Jaque Fourie headed off to Japan. Juan de Jongh could feel aggrieved for being leapfrogged by the Lions player, but it allows for the development of depth.
Francois Louw had a sterling match, as did Bryan Habana. The forwards, led by the irrepressible Eben Etzebeth who is fast becoming indispensable even though this is his first Springbok season, fought the Australians at the ruck and gave Goosen and co momentum, something which makes the Springboks a scary prospect for any opposition.
While it was pleasing to see South Africa trounce their old enemy, a pinch of salt needs to be taken. Devastated by injury, Australia are not at the peak of their powers with coach Robbie Deans facing the axe probably depending on what happens in Argentina next weekend. Quade Cooper has been tweeting up a storm stating how the Wallabies are a toxic environment (the irony?), while the absence of Will Genia, the world’s best scrumhalf, leaves Australia way below their best.
However, what the victory does do is set up a mouth-watering match in Soweto where the All Blacks, fresh from their drubbing of Argentina (whose inclusion in the Southern Hemisphere showpiece has added extra life to what had become a meandering Tri-Nations), will take on the Springboks in arguably the biggest game of the year.
It will be a performance that will let the Springbok faithful know the most about the progress of Heyneke Meyer’s Springbok team.