Scrumhalf Cobus Reinach scored the quickest hattrick of tries in the history of the Rugby World Cup as the Springboks ran rampant in the first half to set up a one-sided 66-7 win over Canada in their final Pool B fixture at the Kobe Misaki Stadium on Tuesday night.
Reinach eclipsed a record previously held by Wallaby Chris Latham by completing his three try haul by the 20th minute of a match where the Boks, certainly in the early stages, showed good handling and finishing touches. That should have pleased their coach Rassie Erasmus as he now turns his attention to the play-off phase of the tournament.
The former Sharks No 9 was just one of several individual players who on the night would have boosted their own confidence, and the Bok stocks in their positions, by turning in strong performances.
Erasmus demanded a performance of high intensity to match that produced by the first choice team against Italy last week, and for the most part he got it. There was a slight loss of scoring momentum in the second half of the first half, and there should be concern that the Boks could only manage another 19 points after halftime when Canada were down to 14 men.
Perhaps though it is to be expected that a team that starts with such sizzle and such precision to their game early on would lose some momentum given the way the ball tends to become slippery as the humidity takes its toll on the game once it has gone beyond the 25 minute mark. At one point it seemed the humidity might not be a factor in this game but that changed quite quickly midway through the first half. There is a tendency to be more over-elaborate in your attacking game when you are well ahead than you would be if the scores were close.
Otherwise Erasmus had plenty to be pleased about and maybe a few additional headaches too as he considers his selections for the games that lie ahead, starting with a quarterfinal against one of Japan, Ireland or Japan at Tokyo Stadium in 12 days time.
MAKE HAY WHILE THE SUN SHINES
Erasmus has consistently said that the conditions in the first quarter of the game aren’t bad and you can play normal rugby then. The message is that the time lay a platform and get points on the board is in those early minutes, and that is exactly what the Boks did. They scored five tries in the first 20 minutes, and two more in the rest of the half to make it a total of seven as they went to halftime 47-0 up.
There was another red card that impacted on proceedings, but as was the case in the Italy game, when Canada reserve lock Josh Larsen was sent off for a reckless and dangerous challenge on Thomas du Toit the game had already long since been won and lost.
It took just two and a half minutes for the Boks, who bristled with intent from the kick-off, to put their first points on the board. The try, rounded off by Damian de Allende who looked threatening at outside centre, was set up by a strong run through the Canadian midfield by RG Snyman, who featured prominently as a ball carrier early on.
He featured again in the second try, making a similar run to unsettle the Canadian defence, with fellow forwards Francois Louw and Kwagga Smith also playing important roles in setting up the try for Sbu Nkosi.
That made it 12-0 after just five minutes, and it didn’t get any better for Canada, who were undone a few minutes later by some individual brilliance from Reinach, who used his pace to make the initial break and then used it again as he chased his own kick, gathered and scored.
That made it 19-0 after 11 minutes and it was clear the Canadians were struggling to cope with the blend of skill, pace and power that the Boks brought to their performance. In those early minutes there was some deft handling and skilful linking play that should surely have elicited a tick from the coaches afterwards when it came to them assessing whether there has been an improvement in the team’s overall attacking game.
One little pick up near his toes from hooker Schalk Brits was nothing short of stupendous while Snyman, Louw and Smtih all handled the ball with assurance and passed decisively. It was Snyman again to the fore with the hard yards in the creation of Reinach’s second try as the Boks went 26-0 up after 18 minutes.
JANTJIES FOUND HIS CONFIDENCE
It is amazing how when a plan comes together it can lead to the individual’s confidence growing, and nowhere was that more the case than with flyhalf Elton Jantjies. It was Jantjies who put in the pinpoint cross kick that Warrick Gelant took near the Bok 22 before bringing De Allende into the game on his inside and Reinach was able to run off him to score his hattrick try.
In the early minutes Jantjies had produced two poor field kicks and had failed with his second conversion attempt, but as the game endured he grew with assurance and soon he wasn’t putting a foot wrong in either his game execution or his kicking for posts. He was on target with all but one of this nine attempts and many of them were from acute angles.
That’s another tick, and an important one, for the Boks need Jantjies to be confident should he be required in an emergency during the play-off phase. On that note, it was interesting to see Erasmus bring on Handre Pollard as an inside centre playing outside Jantjies in the last quarter.
Another individual who should be pleased with himself was Gelant, who still had quite a bit of work to do when he received the final pass in the set up for the second try. The other wing Sbu Nkosi also showed good touches in his less familiar position of left wing, and one little flick pass when the ball was slippery was particularly skilful, while Damian Willemse gained in confidence through his first appearance at this World Cup.
Schalk Brits, as he was against Namibia, was all over the field before he limped off late in the second half. Playing his more regular position of hooker, Brits capped his performance with a second half try.
OUTGUNNED CANADA SHOWED GUTS
The result means that the Boks are through to the play-offs with some comfort. Canada started poorly but might feel emboldened ahead of their big Pool game against Namibia with the way they hung in during the second half, even scoring a try through flanker Matt Heaton.
That is not something that happens to the Boks against tier two opposition every day, and what made it even more remarkable was that the Canadians were down to 14 men by that point. In the final analysis though this was a game that the Boks won in the first 20 minutes.
South Africa 66 – Tries: Cobus Reinach 3, Damian de Allende, Sbu Nkosi, Warrick Gelant, Frans Steyn, Schalk Brits, Damian Willemse and Frans Malherbe; Conversions: Elton Jantjies 8.
Canada 7 – Try: Matt Heaton; Conversion: Peter Nelson.