Bad blood between SA and Samoa boiled last night at Loftus as home side takes trophy.
The Springboks scored eight tries to two to smash Samoa, but the reverberations of an at-times repugnant match will be felt long after the Islanders return to their home bases.
After a slow start, in which little of the fire that arked previous encounters between the two sworn enemies of world rugby was apparent, the occasion was marred by a succession of ugly incidents as the Samoans resorted to the nefarious tactics for which they have become infamous.
With the Springboks settling into a good rhythm and the score mounting, the rough stuff started when prop Logovi’i Mulipola was yellow-carded by French referee Pascal Gauzere for blatantly trying to kill the ball in an off-side position.
The big prop’s period in the sin big resulted in the score ballooning to 32-9; effectively ending the sporting contest but sadly giving rise to the foul play that too often becomes an issue when Samoa are involved.
The Samoans had made a good start to the second half by scoring their second try but they were not enjoying the hard, direct driving and tough tackling of the Springboks and their discipline unravelled in a despicable series of incidents.
In the 52nd minute fullback James So’oialo was extremely lucky not to be sent off after being caught on camera assaulting Adriaan Strauss in a vile way – the TMO called it “inappropriate” but in rugby terms it was what is somewhat indelicately referred to as “bag snatching.”
A furious Strauss struck out at his assailant and the referee should perhaps have taken stronger action immediately.
However just five minutes later Alesana Tuilagi hit Bok skipper Jean de Villiers late and high in the type of tackle that is too often associated with the Samoans and this time Monsieur Gauzere reached for the red card.
Next replacement prop Mulipola was again at it – kicking out at Coenie Oosthuizen – after being tackled hard but fortunately the Boks managed to regain their focus and responded in the best way possible – by scoring more tries, topping the 50 points mark and emphatically winning the Castle quadrangular series.
The Springboks, as is their custom, were diplomatic when asked about the incidents which sadly soured a match that should have been remembered for Bryan Habana scoring his 50th try in the green-and-gold jersey.
Skipper Jean de Villiers maintained the incidents had not been malicious and management refused to be drawn on the questions of citing – team manager Ian Schwartz saying only that the team were aware that the citing commissioner was deliberating and that Strauss had been asked to make a statement.
Asked whether Strauss had been injured De Villiers even managed a joke, saying “you know, he played his balls off!” But he did add he was relieved Strauss had not suffered any serious damage.
Heyneke Meyer praised the Springbok pack, saying they had been “awesome, perhaps the best I’ve seen (since I’ve been in charge).”
The Springboks deserved praise for keeping their focus given the provocation but their overall performance was still a long way short of what might be needed in the forthcoming Rugby Championship when they’ll cross swords with the All Blacks, the Wallabies and Argentina.
Flip van der Merwe did outstandingly at No5 lock, the lineout went well but Meyer will be concerned that the Boks’ driving play lacked the necessary explosiveness with Samoa able to withstand the rolling maul they like to employ.
There will also be a question mark over the backline as there was often the impression that the three-quarters are still in two minds about the approach they can follow. Some plays were tentative and the alignment was often awry.
Yesterday the struggling Pierre Spies was subbed by Siya Kolisi, only for the young loose forward himself to be stunned in making a tackle, and Ruan Pienaar’s service is still not quick or assured enough.
On the plus side the coach can feel well pleased by how some of his newer caps, the like of JJ Engelbrecht, Willie le Roux, Piet van Zyl and Trevor Nyakane, have taken to test match rugby.
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