Canan Moodie. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
A moment of combined brilliance from Jaden Hendrikse and Canan Moodie proved the catalyst for the Springboks imperfectly but brutally getting their Rugby Championship campaign back on track with a 24-8 victory over the Wallabies in Sydney on Saturday.
Right at the death of the first half, the authoritative 21-year-old halfback launched an accurate, excellent kick forward, which was snatched out of the air sublimely by his lanky 19-year-old debutant teammate on the wing, who then galloped in untouched for the try.
The smile from Moodie as he was mobbed by the replacements was enough to melt the majority of hearts as he emulated Frans Steyn, the only man younger than him to appear in a Green-and-Gold jersey in the professional era, in scoring on debut.
RECAP | Australia vs South Africa
More importantly, it was the exact injection of confidence that the South Africans needed as a first 40 minutes of utter dominance in terms of territory and possession once again amounted to little in terms of points.
There had been some encouragement on the 11-minute mark when Damian de Allende barged over from close range after some patient phase play, but in general the Boks were still guilty of lacking more vision on attack, particularly in spoiling two gilt-edged overlaps.
However, there can be little quibbling in that regard when it’s taken to account that they added a further two tries in the second half as their parity in the collisions and a clear willingness to consequently keep the ball more in hand paid off.
Both those scores, to a tireless Franco Mostert and Makazole Mapimpi, were timely reminders of the silky passers within the Bok ranks, De Allende’s beauty for the latter’s try being a highlight.
Ironically, Mapimpi’s 21st Test try precipitated the eruption of the ill-will that had underwritten proceedings.
The flyer himself copped a yellow card for provoking his direct opponent, Marika Koroibete, which then led to a mass brawl that saw Eben Etzebeth too concede a penalty and warning for a downright spooky show of inhibited aggression.
Willie le Roux was also shown one on defence in the build-up to the Wallabies’ consolation try.
It was the type of indiscipline that could’ve cost the Boks dearly, but by that stage they had things sewn up at 24-3.
The forceful Boks also found motivation in referee Ben O’Keeffe, who once again illustrated his pedigree with a composed performance.
There’s a decent argument to be made that the New Zealander was perhaps a bit pedantic at times though that’s soothed over by him being consistent.
Nonetheless, it meant a stop-start affair that certainly contributed to the frustrations of both teams.
Despite Moodie’s encouraging showing, it was skipper Siya Kolisi and the brutal Jasper Wiese who really stood out, harassing the Aussie tacklers and creating havoc at the breakdowns.
As a collective, the Boks also showed more familiar imposing defence as the Wallabies, shorn of opportunities to strike as well as gain a foothold with some iffy tactics, showed their limitations.
Australia – (3) 8
Try: Pete Samu
Penalty: Noah Lolesio
South Africa – (12) 24
Tries: Damian de Allende, Canan Moodie, Franco Mostert, Makazole Mapimpi
Conversions: Damian Willemse, Frans Steyn