No upset here: Springboks beat RWC’s lowest-ranked team 57-3

TOYOTA, Japan (AP) — South Africa restored some order at the Rugby World Cup by putting away Namibia, the lowest-ranked team in Japan, 57-3 on Saturday.

The Springboks’ second-string lineup was still a different level compared with the Namibian semi-pro players in a Pool B game that was only a side story to Japan’s shock win over Ireland hours earlier in Pool A. That threw the tournament on its head and put Japan in ecstasy, but it didn’t rub off on Namibia.

South Africa scored nine tries — five in the first half and four in the second — to ensure the upset never happened or came close to happening. Hooker Bongi Mbonambi and winger Makazole Mapimpi scored two tries each.

Namibia’s only points came from flyhalf Cliven Loubser’s penalty midway through the first half.

The Springboks got the victory and the bonus point they required after losing to defending champion New Zealand in their tournament opener. It was solid but not scintillating from the South Africans.

“A few boxes ticked,” Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus said. “Certainly not a perfect performance. Certainly more work to do.”

Namibia has never won a Rugby World Cup game and the gulf between the teams was clear — and big — despite them being southern African neighbors. Namibia also had players sin-binned in each half to make it much harder for itself.

But despite the blowout, it was the smallest winning margin ever for the Springboks over Namibia, which was on the wrong end of the heaviest loss in Rugby World Cup history. To indicate their outsider status, Namibia lost 142-0 to Australia in 2003 for the tournament record.

Namibia went down 105-13 in a non-World Cup match in 2007 and 87-0 at the World Cup in 2011 in its only previous meetings with South Africa.

This result, then, may represent some form of progress for Namibia. Many of its players hold down regular jobs while also training to be rugby internationals. That means, coach Phil Davies explained this week, that scrum practice is often set for 5 a.m. during the season back home, after which the players head off for their day jobs.

“We knew prior to the match we were going to come up against a pretty formidable opponent … but the courage our team showed, particularly defensively and when down to 14, was fantastic,” Davies said.

Namibia captain Tjiuee Uanivi said: “The boys are definitely sore. A little bit disappointed but also proud of the effort we put in.”

Erasmus agreed that Namibia, no match for the Boks tactically, was no pushover physically.

“I can tell you our players are sore, too,” Erasmus said.

The Springboks game was some warmup for Namibia’s next one, against the top-ranked All Blacks.

“We’ve got to move on and take on New Zealand next week,” Davies said, allowing himself a little chuckle at the prospect of playing the Springboks and the All Blacks in the space of a week.

Mbonambi got both his tries from rolling mauls. Flanker Francois Louw also got one from the back of a maul and the Springboks were going at a point-a-minute at one time in the first half. Speedy wing Mapimpi and center Lukhanyo Am also crossed in the first half.

After a rapid start, the South Africans were sloppy for a 10-minute period in that first half, though, and Namibia had its best spell in the game. The Japanese crowd roared the underdogs on.

But center Am scored right at the end of the half to re-establish South Africa’s dominance and it was plain sailing for the Boks from then.

The procession continued after the break. Mapimpi got his second and fullback Warrick Gelant, the attacking spark for the Springboks from the back of the field, got a try too. Regular skipper Siya Kolisi came off the bench to dive over on the right wing with almost his first touch and stand-in captain Schalk Brits scored the last try and broke out into a big smile.

The game made the 38-year-old Brits the second-oldest Springbok to play at a World Cup and the second-oldest man to captain the Boks at rugby’s marquee event. He became the oldest South African to score a World Cup try.