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Habana runs wild at Loftus

Sat, 29 Sep 2012 17:04
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It was without doubt the Boks' most accomplished performance under new coach Heyneke Meyer
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South Africa ran rampant at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, scoring a deserved 31-8 win over Australia in their Rugby Championship match.

Almost 45,000 spectators saw the Springboks outscore the hapless Wallabies by five tries to one in Pretoria in what may well be the dawn of a new era for the men in Green and Gold.

Record-breaking wing Bryan Habana took his SA record of tries to 46 in 82 Tests, as he scored a rare hat-trick at Loftus.

It was without doubt the Boks' most accomplished performance under new coach Heyneke Meyer, who made some noteworthy changes in the leads-up to the Test.

Newcomer Johan Goosen had a nervous start, missing his first two kicks at goal, but once those duties were handed to Ruan Pienaar, the 20-year-old rookie settled down and put on display a sublime performance of world-class off-loading that often put other players into space. He may be a little rough around the edges, but as debut go, this was right up there with the best.

What was more important is that he gave the Boks the ability to play wide and expose the defensive line of the visitors, without cramping the wings.

It saw South Africa create several line-breaks against a normally sound Wallaby defence, in the process scoring the first four-try bonus point of this year's competition.

As is often the case with Northern Hemisphere referees, the breakdown was a lottery, while a few other questionable calls also went against the home team.

However, the Boks soon realised that they could get away with more on the ground and started winning a few crucial turnovers.

For Australia, who lost Scott Higginbotham shortly before kick-off, the mounting injury count saw Adam Ashley-Cooper, Digby Ioane and Radike Samo sidelined during the game.

It got so bad in the latter stages of the second half that the Wallabies ended up playing with 14 men for the last 10 minutes - after they made seven replacements and Saia Fainga'a was injured. It reduced the game to a farce - uncontested scrums and the Aussies playing a man short.

Berrick Barnes did not exactly have the start he had hoped for, hacking the ball into touch just outside his 22 - instead of finding a decent touch downfield. However, his poor start was matched by Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, who threw two shockers inside the first couple of minutes - both resulting in turnovers to the Wallabies.

The first scoring opportunity went to the Wallabies - with Francois Hougaard ruled to have been offside after a kick ahead by Ruan Pienaar. However, Barnes was well wide of the mark.

Within a minute a great tackle by Eben Etzebeth on Radike Samo allowed Francois Louw to come in and win a penalty. Rookie Johan Goosen, from just over 50 metres out, was also wide of the uprights.

Another breakdown penalty, almost straight from the restart, gave Goosen a second shot at goal. This time, from 30 metres on the angle, he hooked the shot at goal.

The first score came at the end of the first quarter - fullback Zane Kirchner getting the opening try. It was a strong maul that resulted in a penalty and another line-out, from which some quick phase-play opened the space for the fullback. Goosen's nervous kicking display earlier saw Ruan Pienaar take the shot and goal and the scrumhalf added the extras - 7-0 after 22 minutes.

Almost immediately the Boks were back on the attack, with young Goosen showing his brilliance by cutting the Wallaby line and then being stopped right on the line. The call went to the TMO, who ruled that there was two movements and the penalty went to the Australians.

It wasn't long before the Boks won another breakdown penalty, with Pienaar having a shot from over 50 metres out - hooking it past the left upright.

It wasn't long before the Boks did score - wing Bryan Habana extending his South African try-scoring record to 44 touchdowns in his 82nd Test. It came after the Boks again took the ball through multiple phases, with sublime interplay between forwards and back before a great off-load by Goosen opened up the Wallaby defence. Pienaar added the conversion - 14-0 on the half-hour mark.

Australia finally got another shot at goal in the 35th minute, when Jannie du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira were penalised for not rolling away in the tackle. Kurtley Beale took the kick and slotted the penalty to put the visitors on the board - 3-14.

Again the Wallabies were penalised almost immediately afterwards, for obstruction, and Pienaar (from 40 metres out) hit the upright.

That did not stop the free-running Boks from opening up the Wallaby defence again. Zane Kirchner - after another sublime offload by Goosen that put Jean de Villiers into space - touched down in the right corner. The TMO ruled that the Bok fullback had stepped into touch before grounding the ball.

It coincided with Adam Ashley-Cooper leaving the field on a mobile stretcher, after getting his head on the wrong side of the tackle in his attempt to stop Kirchner. The Wallaby midfielder was out cold before he hit the deck. Mike Harris, a late addition to the bench after Scott Higginbotham failed a fitness test, then took to the field. Ashley-Cooper went to hospital for a check-up.

The Wallabies continued to transgress at the breakdown at an alarming rate and while they got away with some, prop James Slipper was eventually yellow-carded in the 53rd minute - as the Boks were pushing heard for their third try.

And from the resulting penalty the try did come - the Boks setting up a maul that became fractured, but flank Francois Louw peeled around the edge and going over for the five-pointer. Pienaar couldn't add the extras, but at 19-3 it left the Wallabies with a mountain to climb to get back in the game.

Habana took his try-scoring record to 45, through a quick throw to Adriaan Strauss, who returned the ball to the Bok wing. He sprinted away from the cover to score under the uprights for the first four-try bonus point of the competition. Pienaar's conversion made it 26-3 with just under 20 minutes left on the clock.

Australia eventually got a consolation try in the 65th minute - when Francois Hougaard was caught out on defence and Mike Harris went over in the right corner. Harris couldn't add the extras - 8-26.

There was a first cap for Elton Jantjies, who eventually took to the field in the 75th minute.

Juan de Jongh, one of several Bok replacements in the last 10 minutes, was millimetres short of the line as South Africa looked to rub salt into those festering wounds.

Habana completed his hat-trick in the 79th minute - coming after Jantjies showed he too can off-load and create scoring opportunities in the Green and Gold. Pienaar couldn't add the extras - 31-8.

Man of the match: Nerves may have got the better of Johan Goosen, forcing Ruan Pienaar to take over the goal-kicking, but the rookie's distribution skills caused all kinds of problems for the Wallabies. Bryan Habana was all over the park, scored a great try by running a great angle and another through a quick-throw, eventually completing the hat-trick. He even managed to win a turnover at the breakdown. Francois Louw was an absolute menace at the breakdown and showed why Heyneke Meyer was correct in bringing him back from Bath, despite some uninformed pundits still punting for smaller men like Heinrich Brüssow and Keegan Daniel. Louw wins our award.

Moment of the match: There were plenty of great moments, five stunning tries, but for sheer exhilaration it goes to the third Bryan Habana try - showing that the Boks can kill off the opposition.

Villain of the match: This one goes to the Australian team management for messing up the substitutions so badly that they were left to play the last 10 minutes with 14 men.

The scorers:

For South Africa:
Tries:
Kirchner, Habana 3, Louw
Cons: Pienaar 3

For Australia:
Try:
Harris
Pen: Beale

Yellow card: James Slipper (Australia, 53 - repeated infringements at the breakdown)

The teams:

South African: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Marcell Coetzee, 20 Elton Jantjies, 21 Juan de Jongh, 22 Pat Lambie.

Australia: 15 Berrick Barnes, 14 Dominic Shipperley, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Radike Samo, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Nathan Sharpe (captain), 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Liam Gill, 20 Brett Sheehan, 21 Mike Harris, 22 Anthony Fainga'a.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Greg Garner (England)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

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