South Africa’s campaign to become the first back-to-back world champions gathered momentum when they recorded their largest Rugby World Cup win with an 87-0 victory over Namibia at North Harbour Stadium on Thursday.
The Springboks scored 12 tries in total, including eight after the break against a tiring Namibian defence struggling to back up from their physical encounters with Fiji and Samoa.
Namibia coach Johan Diergaardt believed a lack of possession was at the heart of his side’s laboured defensive performance after the break.
“You cannot play rugby without the ball and you cannot tackle for 80 minutes without getting tired,” he said.
South Africa coach Peter de Villiers’ assessment of the Namibian performance, which included 15 penalties and 26 missed tackles, was more blunt.
“Some of them (lower-ranked rugby nations) will come out fighting in the first half, and then 10 minutes and 20 minutes into the second half; and then sometimes they realise that the task is just too big and they will give up,” he said.
South Africa raced out of the blocks to lead 31-0 at half-time but the lead could have been significantly more had the Springboks not wasted several attacking opportunities with 10 first-half handling errors.
“There will be some questions asked about our play in the first 20 minutes,” captain John Smit admitted.
“But full credit to the boys - they tightened their straps in the second half and we managed to capitalise on the opportunities we created.”
While South Africa’s handling was unreliable at times, their aggressive forward play was consistently dangerous against their African neighbours.
Their rolling maul marched its way downfield, with infringements from Namibia seemingly the only way to stop it, while Springbok dominance at scrum time resulted in a 30th-minute penalty try.
Outside centre Jaque Fourie said the way his team improved throughout the match was reflective of the way they saw their World Cup campaign progressing.
Honour and privilege
"It's all been about building because when we hit those big games we want all guns blazing,” he said.
It was a memorable night for Bryan Habana, who surpassed Joost van der Westhuizen to become the leading South African try-scorer.
The fleet-footed wing had to wait 21 minutes for his record-breaking 39th Test try but touched down after receiving a perfect cut-out ball from Danie Rossouw on the counter-attack.
"To pass someone like Joost van der Westhuizen, who gave so much to South African rugby, is a real honour and a privilege,” Habana said.
With one eye on the quarter-finals, South Africa will enjoy an eight-day break before taking on Samoa at North Harbour Stadium next Friday.
The road ahead does not get any easier for Namibia, though, who will need to quickly regroup for their final match against Wales in New Plymouth on Monday.