The Springboks scored five tries as they beat Italy 44-10 in Durban on Saturday. The visitors, coming off their best Six Nations campaign to date, had a poor first half in particular against the Boks, who fielded a slightly new look side with five new caps.
Shooting out to a 20-0 lead at the break, the Springboks switched off and Italy got back into the game, competing well in the second half and scoring a try of their own through Alberto Sgarbi.
Three tries to the hosts in the final fifteen minutes inflated the final scoreline and gave the home crowd, who were frustrated at times, more to cheer about in the end.
Backs JJ Engelbrecht, Bryan Habana, Jean De Villiers and Bjorn Basson all scored, adding to hooker Adriaan Strauss’ try in the 14th minute.
“We had a slump in the middle of the game but come back strongly in the latter part of the second half. I think it was a character test for us and we got through it nicely,” said captain De Villiers.
Willie Le Roux, Jano Vermaak, Arno Botha, Jan Serfontein and Trevor Nyakane all made solid debuts, pleasing coach Heyneke Meyer. An encouraging sign for fans will have been the form of Le Roux, the Cheetahs outside back who has had a great Super Rugby season.
“Suddenly there’s a lot of pace in the backline,” said Meyer. “We really want to up the tempo of our game, we really want to score tries.”
Man of the Match Habana played a big role in igniting the backs, which seemed to surprise Meyer.
“I don’t know what the situation is with Bryan. What amazes me is that sometimes I watch him play Super Rugby and he looks really ordinary, but then he pulls on the Bok jersey and he’s a different player. I thought he was awesome tonight.
“I was surprised to see his pace at one stage, but when Bryan plays well, the team plays well. He’s always played great rugby for me and I’m very thankful for that.”
Unfortunately scrumhalf Vermaak picked up a bad hamstring injury, and is likely to be out for the rest of the series. He has been replaced in the squad by Cheetahs halfback Piet Van Zy.