Reigning champions South Africa made it two wins out of two in the defence of their World Cup crown with a comfortable 49-3 victory over a misfiring Fiji on Saturday.
Having beaten Wales 17-16 in their opener, the Springboks gave an improved performance as they dispatched a Fijian side that started well but whose preferred ball-in-hand game badly fell apart the longer they were unable to break the tough South African defence.
Led by their inspirational flankers Schalk Burger and Heinrich Brussow and lock Danie Rossouw, the Boks effectively wrapped up the game with 18 unopposed points in the final 20 minutes of the first half.
South Africa scored tries through outstanding centre Jaque Fourie, Gurthro Steenkamp, Frans Steyn, Morne Steyn, Tendai Mtawarira and Rossouw, allied with 14 points from Morne Steyn’s boot and a Frans Steyn penalty.
Seremia Bai scored a sole penalty for Fiji, who had seen off Namibia 49-25 in their opening match.
“It was a better performance,” Bok captain John Smit said in reference to his side’s win over Wales last weekend.
“It was a game we really wanted to do well in. It’s not a breakthrough, but a step in the right direction. We needed to improve from last week.”
Fiji captain Deacon Manu said: “We’ve got to make sure we learn from this. There are some hard lessons to learn, physically and tactically.
“We’ve got to put this loss behind us,” the Scarlets prop said, adding that he rated this Springboks team higher than the one that won the 2007 World Cup.
“They’re a fantastic side. They’re one of the teams to beat, if not the team to beat here.”
Fiji enjoyed the lion’s share of early possession, but despite a sustained period of pressure could not break the patient Bok defence that refused to overcommit numbers at the ruck and was quick to prevent the offload.
South Africa opened the scoring against the run of play, centre Frans Steyn landing a belter of a 56-metre penalty in the 12th minute.
Bai levelled the score 10 minutes later after the Boks strayed offside as the Fijians camped out in their opponent’s 22m area.
However, the high intensity of the opening quarter seemed to take it out of the Fijians, and they slacked off in defence on a couple of occasions, finally allowing prop Gurthro Steenkamp to bulldoze his way over the line for a fine individual try.
Morne Steyn was successful with the touchline conversion and nailed an easier penalty just minutes later to stretch the scoreline to 13-3 with a palpable swing in momentum to the South Africans.
A bullocking charge from prop Jannie du Plessis set up quick ruck ball that was whipped cleanly left to Fourie, the centre dotting down for a great try.
Morne Steyn missed the conversion and a penalty shortly after, but sent Fiji into half-time 21-3 down with his second successful penalty.
South Africa opened the second half in complete control, Fourie and Brussow at the heart of all their attacks.
And it was not long before Fiji wilted, Brussow showing great dexterity to chip the Fijian defence at full pace, the ball landing kindly for Frans Steyn to touch down for a try namesake Morne converted.
Morne Steyn was then on hand to collect a smart Burger offload to crash through Fiji centre Gaby Lovobalavu for a try to which he also added the extras.
There was more to come from an impressive looking Springbok side, Mtawarira grabbing his first Test try after Frans Steyn had broken the midfield defence and popped up the ball as he was tackled on the line.
Rossouw also crossed for a deserved try late in the game as the Fiji team unravelled.