Time will tell whether the 87-0 romp the Springboks enjoyed over poor Namibia here last night did them any good. It certainly didn’t do much for the Rugby World Cup.
What we might term ‘Massacre at North Harbour’ was essential viewing only for the sadistic. The crowd was apparently bored after just 10 minutes when they started the first ‘Mexican Wave’.
After the intensity of the Ireland v Australia match last weekend, a compelling spectacle even though there wasn’t a try in sight, there were 12 by the South Africans in this Pool D match, every one of them converted. Yet it was all hugely unsatisfying; indeed, largely boring for most of the time.
Ireland v Australia was a real, truly competitive game of rugby. South Africa v Namibia was a farce.
The grossly one-sided spectacle taught us nothing except that mismatches of this nature merely undermine the Rugby World Cup. It was proof, if ever proof were needed, that there are four too many teams at this tournament – just as there always have been.
The likes of Namibia, Romania, Russia and Georgia might bring some colour to the scene. But they add little in serious rugby terms at this level. All these one-sided slaughters do is diminish the reputation of the competition.
The Springboks were always too fast, too powerful and too professional. Well, they were always going to be. At one point, Namibia brought on a club player and with the best will in the world, a World Cup is really not the venue for such a player.
In my view, the annihilation of the Namibian scrum was a cause of considerable concern. Any scrum that hurtles backwards at such a pace is in danger; it was fortunate that no-one was seriously injured as they went into fast retreat and then collapsed. You winced with fear every time it happened.
All Springbok scrum half Francois Hougaard had to do was the feed the scrum as it went past him. Even by World Cup standards, it was a joke yet a dangerous one at that.
The Namibians bravely did their best. But best in this case was woefully inferior and the fact that South Africa scored a ridiculous 49 points in the last 20 minutes against opponents who were out on their feet after an hour, merely confirmed the disparity in standards.
This wasn’t Namibia’s fault, you couldn’t blame them. The people who allow these total mismatches just to stretch out the tournament, are the ones responsible.
It is always difficult to draw any worthwhile conclusions from such a romp. But perhaps one Springbok player showed that he is making serious progress, not so much as a Test match player (he was always that) but as an inside centre.
Francois Steyn’s raw power was valuable wherever he played. But at No. 12, his strength in taking the ball into contact and off-loading skills under pressure, as demonstrated perfectly in the try he made for Jaque Fourie in the first half, surely represented a clear threat to Jean de Villiers’ place in the side when he is fit again.
The real heroes of this game were the 26,839 people who paid good money to turn up. They knew they were never going to see a contest, yet they arrived in good heart, with babes in arms and young children, and threw themselves into the occasion. Credit to them for doing so and having fun.