Saturday, September 15, 2007

World Cup Rugby: England Bloodied By Boks

Springbok victory over defending champ puts them in pole position (RSA 36 ENG 0)

What was immediately obvious during Friday's match between defending World Cup champs, England, and their southern hemisphere rivals, was the amount of English blood.

The South Africans played aggressively against a team that seemed to lack assertiveness, and were simply overpowered by Bok brawn.

After only five minutes South African JP Pietersen stormed down the right flank after a lineout. He passed to Fourie du Preez, his scrum half, and du Preez passed to Juan Smith, who crossed the line for a try.

Shortly after, ex Grey College youngster Francois Steyn belted white leather 48 metres to add 3 more points. Mike Catt was unable to return the fsvour, when England won a penalty shortly after.

Winger Pietersen scored shortly before half time, putting the Boks into a decent 20-0 lead.

The carnage continued in the second half with England seeming to struggle under constant pressure; game maker Jason Robinson was forced to leave the field after pulling his hamstring. Brian Habana, the superfast South African, left the field for five minutes to treat a facial cut.

Fourie Du Preez, who set up many of his teams best moves, scored the third try in the last fifteen minutes. The Boks lost momentum , easing down a gear or two, as a constant stream of fresh players were substituted. This sideshow of putting various players through their paces was the backdrop to arguably the most confident and powerful side in this World Cup.

SA coach Jake White has said before: "A world champion team has the best defence." The Boks have proved to be virtually impenetrable. The struggling English side made several runs against the solid green hedge, only to emerge with bloodied white jerseys, and bleeding faces.

Percy Montgomery rounded off the game with a penalty, bringing his tally to an all match total of 47: Monty is now the highest point scorer for the tournament thus far. Fourie du Preez was named Man of the Match.

England must face and overcome another physical side - the Samoans - to reach the next round. But will they? After Friday's performance, this is by no means a certainty. And even if England do beat Samoa, they will probably face Australia in an equally bruising Quarter-Final.

Meanwhile Tournament favourites, and Tri-Nations champs, New Zealand must be biting their nails at the prospect of taking on the Boks in France. This is an almost certain destiny now for both sides.

Coming up soon:
New Zealand vs Portugal
Wales vs Australia
Ireland vs Georgia.

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