LONDON – South Africa became the first team from Pool B to reach the quarterfinals of the Rugby World Cup as it hammered the United States 64-0 at Olympic Stadium on Wednesday.
Bryan Habana crossed three times in the second half to tie him with Jonah Lomu as the all-time top try scorer at World Cups with 15.
The hat trick also brought him even with Wallaby legend David Campese on 64 test-match tries, five behind the all-time leader Daisuke Ohata.
Habana’s efforts helped South Africa to its third-straight victory in England following its sensational loss to Japan in Brighton on the opening weekend of the tournament and ensures it will top the pool.
The reward is a quarterfinal clash with the loser of Saturday’s Pool A decider between Wales and Australia.
“The only team I would not want to face (in the quarterfinals) is Japan because it almost cost me my . . . I won’t go into that now,” South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer said after the game.
Suntory Sungoliath scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, who was leading the two-time world champions for the second time, stressed how the shock loss had galvanized his team.
“After the Japan game every game has been a knockout game,” he said.
The Springboks will be joined in the last eight by either Japan or Scotland.
A victory for the Brave Blossoms on Sunday over the U.S. — which became the first team to be shut out at this tournament — combined with a Samoa win over Scotland on Saturday would see Japan reach the quarterfinals for the first time.
“A lot of guys that will play Sunday didn’t play today,” said Eagles coach Mike Tolkin. “It’s a four-day turnaround so we will have to rely on the work we have done before. The key is to stay fresh, have a game plan and get out there and battle with Japan.”
In front of a packed crowd, the Springbok forwards set out their intentions from the beginning, pushing the Eagles back in the scrums and mauls.
The early pressure paid with Kintetsu Liners’ Damian de Allende crossing for the opening try in the seventh minute following some quick thinking by du Preez.
But despite their dominance up front the Springboks were unable to add to their score for a further 20 minutes, as the Eagles defended bravely.
But there is only so much a pack can do going backward and the Springboks’ second try came via a penalty try following another collapsed scrum.
Handre Pollard, who will join NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes after the tournament, once again added the extras as South Africa went into the break leading 14-0.
Georgia edges Namibia
Exeter, England AP
Georgia had a first-ever automatic slot in the 2019 Rugby World Cup within its grasp after holding on to beat Namibia 17-16 on Wednesday.
Georgia won’t have to go through qualifying for the first time if it finishes third in Pool C, and will do so as long as New Zealand beats Tonga — and some players were celebrating like they already have, confident that the All Blacks won’t fall prey to a huge upset loss on Friday.
“We’re happy because for the first time we’ve qualified directly for the World Cup, it’s an historic moment for Georgia,” center Davit Kacharava said.
“From here,” center Merab Sharikadze said, “we’re going to the pub, the whole team together.”
They earned the right the hard way to celebrate because Namibia — chasing its first- ever World Cup win — led 6-0 at halftime then fought back from 17-6 down in the closing stages. Flyhalf Theuns Kotze converted his own late try to claim all of Namibia’s points. “We were nearly done over, but we won in the end,” Georgia lock Giorgi Nemsadze said.
“It’s been four months that we’ve been working enormously hard for this, and it’s finally paid off. We were disorganized and we didn’t start the match well. But after the start of the second half we found our feet.”
The bonus point gleaned from the narrow defeat gave Namibia its first ever in World Cup rugby.
“I am immensely proud,” Namibia coach Phil Davies said. “It was a magnificent performance to win a first point in a World Cup and we couldn’t have been closer to a win.”
Namibia led at halftime thanks to Kotze’s two penalties.