South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer said his side’s 46-6 mauling of Samoa on Saturday will give fresh hope to the rainbow nation hit hard by a shock defeat by Japan.
After falling to a sensational 34-32 loss to the Japanese in their opening World Cup Pool C game, the Springboks responded in fine style with a six-try pounding of the Samoans.
Soul-searching had been deep and painful in the week following that loss to Japan for a nation where rugby union is the national sport, and Meyer did not play down the significance of the result against the Samoans.
“We’re a country that needs hope and forgiveness working for each other,” said Meyer, who came under fire to resign following the Japan loss, the biggest upset in World Cup history.
“We really want to make the country proud. Our country needs a lot of hope and the Springboks are the hope of the country.
“When the Springboks do well the country’s in a good place.”
Meyer added that for such a proud nation, “only winning is good enough”.
“It’s been a tough week,
“It was always going to be a tough game against Samoa.
“We now have to keep our feet on the ground, stay humble. There’s a long way to go.”
JP Pietersen scored a brilliant hat-trick and there were also tries for outstanding flanker Schalk Burger, replacement hooker Schalk Brits and flying winger Bryan Habana, allied with 16 points from the boot of Handre Pollard and Pat Lambie.
But Meyer insisted it was his side’s defence that had caught the eye, containing a rugged Samoa team to just two Mike Stanley penalties.
“I’m proudest of our defence. Samoa are a good side, but they couldn’t get the go-forward,” he said. “The players put their bodies on the line – it was very physical out there.
“There was a lot of criticism of the team so to go out there and perform like that, you have to salute them.”
Vice-captain Victor Matfield said the week after the Japan defeat had been “one of the toughest weeks in the Springbok team for me and all the players”, but that he had been buoyed by the sheer quantity of positive messages.
“We know there are a lot of loyal Springbok fans out there. We know we let them down last week and we’re happy we set things right tonight.”
Samoa captain Ofisa Treviranus said that Pietersen’s 15th minute interception try had been the turning point of the game, handing South Africa an immediate advantage they never conceded.
“We expected South Africa to come hard at us today. We tried to play smart rugby, but it didn’t work out,” Treviranus said.
“The Pietersen intercept in the first-half cost us for the whole game.”
With games to come against Japan and Scotland, Treviranus, whose side opened with a 25-16 win over the USA, Treviranus insisted: “Our pool’s open, we have two more games but we still have a chance.”
Coach Stephen Betham added: “We head into Japan knowing we’ve used our do-or-die card.”