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September 14th, 2007
The prophecy of an England pummeling came to pass when South
Africa secured a 36-0 whitewash in St Denis.
With only two pool matches remaining against the USA and
Tonga, the Boks are certain to top Pool A. By beating
England, they have secured an easier path to the
The way South Africa began it appeared as if a 50-pointer
was on the cards. After the initial exchanges, JP Pietersen
broke down the blindside off a line-out and found Fourie du
Preez in good support. The Bok scrumhalf lost his footing
but was still able to set up flanker Juan Smith for a well
What followed was an all out assault on the England back
three. South Africa dominated the line-outs and the ball
never went further than first-receiver, where one of Butch
James, Frans Steyn or Du Preez would send it into orbit.
Their accuracy was telling, with the likes of Jason Robinson
often caught out by the Bok chasers. Du Preez also showed
some great vision when kicking infield off a penalty,
finding space and Jaque Fourie collecting off the run.
Unfortunately, the centre lost the ball just before he tried
to place the ball over the line.
England were rudderless without Jonny Wilkinson, with Andy
Farrell and Mike Catt producing poor efforts in clearing
from the flyhalf channel. The number of mistakes the duo
made in this position was also unacceptable, be it through a
misdirected kick or spilled ball, it just served to heap
more pressure on an already battered English defence.
Victor Matfield provided the platform from the line-out,
while his second row partner Bakkies Botha got through an
exemplary amount of work around the park. The South African
scrum were also strong at scrumtime even though they
received little opportunity to attack.
Wikus van Heerden was a worthy understudy to Schalk Burger,
carrying the ball up strongly and pilfering a few balls off
the deck. His cleaning around the rucks was also integral to
quick ball, as this enabled the South African kickers to
drive the English back into their own half.
Du Preez was in masterful form from the base, be it with
ball in hand or with his formidable boot. He created the
first try for Smith and then sparked the second just before
half-time, stepping past a rushing defender and surging
upfield. He drew the last man superbly before freeing up
Pietersen, who raced in unopposed and ensured the Boks went
to the break with a 20-0 advantage.
England persisted with their tight tactics but the poor
attack evident in the World Cup warm ups was once again the
inhibitor. Catt never challenged the Bok defence and Farrell
was equally impotent. Anybody who expected a surprise in the
department would have been bitterly disappointed. But
conventional wisdom would suggest this group wasnít
England scrapped, but South Africa never allowed the play to
become scrappy. They continued to pin the Poms back in their
own half, and the killer blow was delivered in the 64th
minute through Pietersenís second try. Du Preez was the
orchestrator once again, benefitting from a great forward
platform to race round the blindside and direct a simple run
in for the South African right winger.
The gap between the two sides was gigantic, but South Afirca
never shifted from third gear. They cruised to this win and
at the same time ensured England suffered the ultimate
humiliation by never securing a point.
For all his magic, Du Preez will be a concern for the Boks
after clutching his troublesome shoulder late in the second
half. He was duly substituted and the South Africans will
hope there is not further damage.
England may not be so lucky, with Robinson pulling up with
looked to be a serious hamstring injury. Although Wilkinson
and Olly Barkley should be fit for the playoffs, the loss of
the veteran should hit England just as hard. Jamie Noon was
also stretchered from the field in the dying minutes and
could also miss the deciding game against Samoa.
If this game confirmed anything it was that the Webb Ellis
Trophy will change hands by the end of this tournament. The
big question for England is whether they can surpass Samoa
and qualify for the playoffs. On this sort of effort, even
the most ardent English fan may be in doubt.
South Africa - Tries: Juan Smith, JP Pietersen (2).
Conversions: Percy Montgomery (3). Penalties: Francois Steyn,
England - None.
By Jon Cardinelli | Keo.co.za