Sport Rugby

Saturday 22 July 2017

Australia leave Springboks looking flat-footed

Mike Averis

Australia bounced back from the indignity of losing at home to Samoa, scoring five crisp tries in their opening Tri Nations game against South Africa. However, seven weeks out from the World Cup, where that leaves the Wallabies on the global stage is anyone's guess.

With more than 20 candidates for World Cup places left at home, this was a Springbok 'B' team at best and, of the starting XV, only two, Morne Steyn and the captain, John Smit, are likely to be around when the world champions begin the defence of their crown against Wales in Wellington on September 11.

In fact, had their coach Peter de Villiers not already nominated his captain for the tournament, it would be hard to see Smit beating Bismarck du Plessis to the hooker's shirt.

Yesterday, the 33-year-old was rendered horribly flat-footed by Australia's inspiration, Will Genia, one of seven changes to the team that started against Samoa.

The scrum-half seemed to take special delight in running at, and around, Springbok forwards in general, and Smit in particular, as the Wallabies rushed to a 12-point lead in less than 10 minutes and then wrapped up the match with a fifth try, and a bonus point, only five minutes into the second half.

At 39-6, that was game over, effectively, although a rash of substitutions cost Australia their rhythm and, with it, a few more tries.

The Springboks did not even have the consolation of their customary supremacy in the tight. The lineout looked shaky and the scrum creaked.

However, the worst aspect of Springbok play was more than two dozen missed tackles and a hatful of turnovers.

Such generosity gave Australia's talented backs all the ammunition they needed.

Quade Cooper side-stepped out of his 22, Kurtley Beale cruised 60 metres up the right and the prop Ben Alexander found himself part of a two-man overlap on the left for the first try.

A minute later, the other part of the overlap had managed to score the second, Genia running around Smit to release the wing Digby Ioane.

By the time Cooper had released Adam Ashley-Cooper to run through Steyn's timid tackle, things were starting to look embarrassing -- and with the All Blacks to come in Wellington next week before De Villiers has a chance to rethink his strategy and call for the cavalry.

He will no doubt point to the two second-half tries that made the scoreline less lopsided. Others might suggest the replacement of Steyn with the 20-year-old fly-half Patrick Lambie added much-needed snap to the South Africa attack before Smit scored his face-saving try with a dive from a metre out.

Scorers -- Australia: O'Connor 4 cons, try, 2 pens; Alexander, Ioane, Moore, Ashley-Cooper tries. South Africa: Ralepelle, Smit tries; Steyn 2 pens; Lambie 2 cons

Australia: K Beale (P Cowan 71); J O'Connor, A Ashley-Cooper (A Fainga'a 63), P McCabe, D Ioane; Q Cooper, W Genia (N Phipps 63); B Alexander, S Moore (S Fainga'a 60), S Kepu; J Horwill (N Sharpe 56), R Simmons; D Pocock (M Hodgson 64), R Elsom (S Higginbotham 56), B McCalman

South Africa: G Aplon; B Basson, J de Jongh, W Olivier (A Jacobs 66), L Mvovo; M Steyn, R Pienaar; W Kruger (C Ralepelle 57), J Smit, D Greyling (CJ van der Linde 6 (Greyling 33 (Van der Linde 57)); J Muller, F van der Merwe (R Kankowski 33); D Rossouw, D Stegmann, A Johnson (J Deysel 51)

Referee: C Pollock (New Zealand)

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