Johannesburg, South Africa | AFP | Debutant scrum-half Herschel Jantjies scored two tries as South Africa beat Australia 35-17 Saturday in the opening match of the Rugby Championship season in Johannesburg.
The Western Stormers half-back claimed the first and fourth Springbok tries before being warmly applauded when substituted 14 minutes from time at Ellis Park.
South Africa outscored Australia by five tries to two for a bonus point win despite resting a number of regulars ahead of an away clash with world champions New Zealand next weekend.
Jantjies was one of a record eight black players in the starting XV of the Springboks, a team that used only white players during the apartheid era.
His performance highlighted an encouraging start by South Africa in the Championship, which this year is a build-up competition ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan from September 20.
Apart from the tries, Jantjies gave a superb all-round performance, winning praise from TV analyst and former Springbok fly-half Joel Stransky.
“He played like a seasoned campaigner rather than a debutant,” said the man whose drop goal won the 1995 Rugby World Cup final for South Africa against New Zealand.
Lock Eben Etzebeth, captaining South Africa in the absence of injured Siya Kolisi, also hailed Herschel Jantjies.
“Herschel played unbelievably well and it was a great performance. We stuck to our guns and came through in the end.
“I just told the team at half-time to keep to the structures, to keep being physical and the rewards will come.
“We want to play attractive rugby, play with ball in hand, and it was nice to just be back on the pitch.”
Australia captain and flanker Michael Hooper said “South Africa controlled the second half and we missed a few opportunities that could have created a different picture.
– ‘World class’ –
“Our attack in the first half was world class, but otherwise there is a lot of improvement needed. We are in the middle of a process.”
Herschel Jantjies settled quickly and opened the scoring on 11 minutes with a try after the Springboks won a turnover and moved the ball swiftly down the right wing.
Elton Jantjies converted for a seven-point lead trimmed to four when Bernard Foley slotted a penalty with his first shot at goal.
Lukhan Salakaia-Loto went over for a try, but it was disallowed with New Zealand referee Paul Williams needing to see only one video replay to confirm a forward pass had set up the score.
South Africa were temporarily reduced to 14 men when Andre Esterhuizen was yellow-carded for a high tackle on Tom Banks.
While the centre sat in the sin bin, both the Springboks and the Wallabies scored converted tries on a chilly southern hemisphere winter evening.
Carries by Pieter-Steph du Toit and Herschel Jantjies took the ball within a centimetre of the tryline and Lood de Jager barged over with Elton Jantjies converting.
Australia opted to send a kickable penalty into touch rather than shoot for goal and the gamble paid off with Dane Haylett-Petty diving over in the far corner.
Foley converted to close the first-half scoring just before Esterhuizen returned to the fray and restored the Springboks to full strength.
Although South Africa trooped off at half-time with a four-point advantage, they had much less of the ball and a worrying number of missed tackles.
South Africa took control in the second half and Sibusiso Nkosi, Herschel Jantjies and Cobus Reinach, in additional time, scored tries, all of which Elton Jantjies converted.
Australia had substitute prop Taniela Tupou yellow-carded in the second half before a brilliant break by Kurtley Beale allowed Foley to score a try he converted.