South Africa produced their best performance in 2013 to put Samoa to the sword in a 56-23 drubbing at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
The result means Heyneke Meyer’s team claim the silverware at the end of the four-nation quadrangular series involving Italy and Scotland, but more importantly, they bounced back from an under-whelming display in Nelspruit a week ago.
An impressive four-try effort saw the Boks lead 32-9 at half time as the home backline showed signs of attacking flair and cohesion rarely seen in recent years, with Willie le Roux and JJ Engelbrecht particularly prominent.
The second period was a more disjointed affair and the citing commissioner is in for a busy post-match review as a series of incidents – including a red card for Alesana Tuilagi – soured the last half-hour but the Boks were nevertheless able to add four more tries to their tally.
Bryan Habana rose above it all though, scoring his second try of the evening to become the first South African to reach 50 Test tries, while returning flank Francois Louw also crossed the whitewash either side of half-time.
Samoa also touched down twice after the break but failed to live up to their pre-game billing and will be disappointed with their poor discipline.
The Boks drew first blood with a Morné Steyn penalty for offside but Samoa full-back James So’oialo was able to kick the visitors into the lead by the quarter-hour mark as just reward for a long period of sustained pressure that should have seen resulted in a try, but Tuilagi held on when Alapati Leiua was open in acres of space.
South Africa would move back in front before the end of the first quarter though as a slick backline move saw Engelbrecht and Le Roux combine to put Habana over in the corner. Credit must be given to skipper Jean de Villiers for twice turning down a shot at goal in favour of attacking line-outs in the build up.
Steyn’s extras gave the Boks a 10-6 lead and Samoa where delivered a further blow shortly afterward when Johnny Leota was (literally) forced off the field following a head knock. It was all downhill from there.
The Bok pack rumbled over the line to give Louw his first try as the South Africans grew in confidence, taking the game by the scruff of the neck. Steyn slotted the conversion and at 17-6, the signs were ominous for Samoa.
Things went from bad to worse for the Islanders when prop Logovii Mulipola was sent to the sin-bin for entering the ruck from the side. So’oialo pulled three points back with a penalty but scrum-half Jeremy Su’a was lucky the ref didn’t spot his ‘footwork’ in the middle of a pile of bodies that saw Louw require medical attention to his head. The citing commission could well have a word to day.
Already enjoying a healthy lead, the Boks began to cut loose and Engelbrecht showed a great step and pace to race home for his team’s third try. The points kept flowing as Habana did very well to reclaim the ball after a kick ahead before it was quickly sent wide for Bjorn Basson, who turned on the gas to score in the corner.
Steyn’s conversion on the stroke of half time gave SA a 23-point lead – the result was as good as settled.
Samoa weren’t ready to go down easily though and scored first after the break as Teofilo Paulo crashed over under the sticks at the end of a movement that saw the charging Sakaria Taulafo knock Siya Kolisi out cold.
So’oialo almost got his clock cleaned by Adriaan Strauss after touching the Bok hooker in “an indecent manner” – to use the words of the TMO – at a ruck. He escaped a card but Tuilagi couldn’t say the same as he saw red for a terrible high hit on De Villiers.
Habana cashed in on the space left open on Tuilagi’s wing to score the 50th try of his international career before Steyn showed he is more than just a big boot as he darted for the line after a cheeky dummy.
The game lost all shape in the closing minutes and the Boks were guilty of shutting off slightly. Habana saw yellow for an unnecessary deliberate knock down and Junior Poluleuligaga profited from some terrible defence at a line-out for crash over.
Replacement prop Trevor Nyakane rumbled over in the last minute to add a cherry on top of a reassuring performance by the Springboks.
Man of the Match A mention for record-setter Habana but Francois Louw gets the gong for his two tries and tireless work at the breakdown.
Moment of the match: A few great tries to choose from but JJ Engelbrecht’s try was out of the top draw and really took the wind out of Samoa’s sails.
Villian of the match: James So’oialo – mate, only Adriaan Strauss’s Mrs should put her hands there!