PRETORIA (AFP) – South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer hailed loose forwards Francois Louw and Willem Alberts after a 56-23 triumph over Samoa this weekend in a four-nation tournament final.
Louw, back after missing a much closer win over Scotland a week ago, and Alberts, playing in the tournament for the first time having recovered from a side strain, ensured the quick breakdown ball that triggered an eight-try romp.
Meyer lashed the Springboks last week for not dominating the rucks and mauls against the fiery Scots, and the men in green and gold responded with an impressive demolition of the Pacific islanders at Loftus Versfeld.
A South African side criticised for being ultra conservative last year, revelled in a spate of quick ball and scored four tries in each half with flanker Louw and right-wing Bryan Habana bagging a brace each.
"I thought Francois and Willem brought a lot of physicality to the game and Francois was brilliant in the loose -- I knew he was going to play a great game," Meyer told reporters.
Ironically, the coach did not believe last season that he needed a back-row "scavenger" like Louw after angering the South African public and media by constantly ignoring Central Cheetah Heinrich Brussow.
While Meyer believed Brussow concecded too many penalties while contesting the breakdowns and collisions, he had second thoughts about the make-up of his loose trio and Louw from English Premiership club Bath has not looked back.
Injury-prone Coastal Shark Alberts is a human wrecking ball, often tossing tacklers aside as he takes the ball over the advantage line and gains precious metres.
"We purposely cut back on training and asked our forwards for a big physical effort and they gave a massive performance that was typical of Springbok rugby at its best," added Meyer.
"I'm happy with the team as this Samoan side beat Wales in Cardiff last year. However, we must keep our feet on the ground," warned the former Northern Bulls handler ahead of tougher Tests against Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.
"Provided we keep evolving as a team, we will do well. When you are playing in the Rugby Championship (formerly Tri-Nations), every game is like this one. You have to win a game millimetre by millimetre, centimetre by centimetre."
Another Springboks newcomer this season to impress was full-back Willie le Roux, who plays on the right wing for Cheetahs, and was preferred to Leinster-bound Zane Kirchner during the three-week tournament.
Le Roux started poorly against Samoa, taking his eyes off the ball and carelessly knocking on a kick-off, but recovered to make superbly-timed entries into the line and play a major role in many tries.
Samoa skipper and centre Paul Williams admitted that discipline let his side down with prop Logovi'i Mulipola yellow carded in the first half and giant left-wing Alesana Tuilagi red carded on the hour mark for a stiff-arm tackle.
Tuilagi was scheduled to appear at a disciplinary hearing in Johannesburg Sunday, as was full-back James So'oialo, who escaped punishment during the game for grabbing the testicles of hooker Adriaan Strauss.