RWC 2019 Pool Game 29: Reinach on fire as Boks run rampant

A devastating first half has helped South Africa towards a 66-7 dismantling of Canada in Kobe, the Springboks racking up 10 tries as they booked a place in the Quarter-Finals.

Scrumhalf Cobus Reinach scored the fastest hat-trick in World Cup history as they blasted to a 33-0 lead inside the first quarter, but they were helped somewhat by a soporific effort from the Canucks, with tackles at a premium in the face of an attacking onslaught.

But a red card just before the break actually steeled Canada’s reserve, and a terrifically determined second half brought with it a try, a vastly-improved defensive effort, and the respect of the Kobe crowd.

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Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus made 13 changes from the starting XV that helped dismantle Italy just a few days before, but it didn’t take long for the new combinations to click. Flyhalf Elton Jantjies put RG Snyman through a hole inside two minutes, and the towering lock bludgeoned a path within a couple of metres of the line. And when his fellow forwards arrived to soften the Canadian goal line defence, Jantjies was on hand again to fire it wide for Damian De Allende to cross for the opener.

The alarm bells were already ringing for Canada when they conceded a second after just five minutes. Throwing their big bodies at the opposition midfield, South Africa were already making easy metres in contact and playing with a speed that was hard to handle. Much of that added pace came from dynamic flanker Kwagga Smith, and it was his turn of pace that finished a period of dominant phaseplay with the final pass for S’Busiso Nkosi to dive for the corner.

If that try had been the result of a great team effort across the park, the third was an individual piece of brilliance. Working off a scrum feed on their own 10 metre line, halfback Cobus Reinach spotted a gap and put on the afterburners. Crossing halfway with one red jersey left in his path, he put up a perfect chip kick, raced through to regather the kind bounce, and gassed it all the way to the line.

The son of a former Springbok winger and national 400m champion, Reinach is one of the quickest player’s in the game. But he didn’t need to call upon those impressive genetics when he grabbed a second on 17 minutes, as South Africa racked up the bonus point before the end of the first quarter. Snyman was the catalyst again with another damaging surge into the 22, before Reinach was on the end of the ensuing recycle to dummy past his opposite no. Phil Mack and dive home.

He was in dreamland three minutes later, as a ruthless Springbok attack blew apart the hapless Canucks to go the length of the field for Reinach to claim the fastest hat-trick in Rugby World Cup history. A brilliant crossfield kick from Jantjies inside his own 22 kick-started the move, the ball landing in the arms of winger Warrick Gelant. He stepped inside DTH Van Der Merwe and raced over halfway before feeding De Allende, and the centre had Reinach on the inside for another sprint to the posts. Thrilling stuff.

The stats were damning. After 24 minutes Canada had racked up one carry, nine running metres, and enjoyed just 7% possession. Whenever they got the ball they knocked-on or were turned over, and when the Springboks had the pill they looked like scoring every time.

But no matter how much pressure you are under, and how much better your opposition is, there is one thing you should be able to control as a team and as an individual, and that is missed tackles, and Canada were adding a whole new level to the term ‘turnstile defending’. Another three soft efforts inside a five-by-five metre channel on the sideline were enough to gift Gelant try number six in the corner, after more fine work from Reinach and Jantjies off a scrum.

Now 40-0 down, the Canucks finally conjured something tangible on 33 minutes, Jeff Hassler dashing down the right flank, and a deliberate knockdown when they came infield giving them a penalty. From the resulting lineout, flyhalf Peter Nelson put up a kick to the corner for the flying Van der Merwe to try and score at his fourth consecutive Rugby World Cup, but a flailing arm from fullback Damien Willemse spoiled his dream.

They got the put in at a scrum for their labours, and a chance to go again. But just as they were gaining some much-needed confidence and time with the ball, their first half horror show took a significant turn for the worse, lock Josh Larsen smashing his shoulder into the neck of a static South African at the ruck, and receiving an inevitable red card.

One thing you don’t need to be doing a man down, is throwing an intercept pass straight to Frans Steyn just five metres from your own line. But that’s exactly what Phil Mack did after the half-time gong, the burly centre dotting down for number seven. Jantjies piled on the misery with his sixth conversion of the match to leave the Springboks a whopping 47pts to the good at the break – the most they have ever scored in the opening half of a Rugby World Cup match.

Staring down the barrel at a humiliating reversal, Canada returned with an admirable new-found resilience, and a determination to go down swinging, and incredibly, they were the next to score. Back-to-back penalties allowed Nelson to kick to the corner for a lineout drive, before Hassler burst through the Springbok line to get within a couple of metres, and the ball was recycled for openside Matt Heaton to power over. To say it was the most popular score of the night would be an understatement.

They continued to hold sway, a suddenly disjointed South Africa taking 12 minutes of the second stanza to get back inside the Canadian 22. But when they finally did, the outcome was inevitable. Jantjies had already gone mightily close off a snipe a minute earlier, but when the Boks ranged across the field for another assault with Canada on their own goal line, veteran hooker Schalk Brits put up a step that would make a winger proud, before carving his way through several red jerseys to find the chalk. What a player.

A brilliant offload from Nkosi almost opened the door for Gelant to grab a double, but good cover work from Hassler shut down the threat. And perhaps the biggest compliment you could pay Canada at this point, was that the fact they were a man down was barely noticeable given the efforts across the park of the 14 that remained.

Give any side in the world with a degree of attacking nous a numerical advantage however, and at some point they should be able to make it pay. And the Springboks did just that in the 65th minute, working a scrum infield for Gelant to attract defenders, and leave a simple case of through the hands for Willemse to cross for his first in the national jersey.

They made it 10 with eight minutes to go, the imposing frame of prop Frans Malherbe getting him through a tackle, and some impressive leg drive finishing the job. But while a final tally of 66-7 is not to be sniffed at, considering they had seven tries by half-time and only managed three more for a 19-7 scoreline after the break – against 14 men, I’m sure there are still a few work-on’s that coach Erasmus will want to review from this performance.

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SOUTH AFRICA 66 (Cobus Reinach 3, Damian De Allende, S’busiso Nkosi, Warrick Gelant, Frans Steyn, Schalk Brits, Damian Willemse, Frans Malherbe tries; Elton Jantjies 8 cons) defeated CANADA 7 (Matt Heaton try; Peter Nelson con) HT 47-0 at Kobe Misaki Stadium

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