Cobus Reinach scored the quickest Rugby World Cup hat trick in a whirlwind first 30 minutes from South Africa to demolish 14-man Canada 66-7 on Tuesday.
The Springboks effectively qualified for the quarter-finals, with only a freakish result in the New Zealand-Italy game – with Italy needing to register a first ever win over the All Blacks and by 100-plus points – capable of stopping that.
That’s not going to happen.
Reinach’s three tries came in an 11-minute spell from the ninth to the 20th minutes, beating Chris Latham’s 25-minute hat trick for Australia in a 142-0 win over Namibia in 2003, the World Cup’s biggest win.
“I thought we were nice and clinical and decisive,” Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus said.
That biggest margin at the World Cup was a fleeting thought for some at Kobe Misaki Stadium when South Africa had four tries and a bonus point sealed inside 17 minutes and was 33-0 up in 21 minutes.
The Boks slowed down, strangely around the time Canada had replacement lock Josh Larsen sent off for a shoulder charge to the neck of South Africa prop Thomas du Toit at a ruck. Larsen was the sixth man to be red-carded at the Rugby World Cup in Japan, which was already the worst tournament for reds.
Canada was 40-0 down when Larsen went five minutes before halftime.
Facing what threatened to be the biggest beating of the World Cup so far, the red card seemed to lift Canada for a period and the underdogs fought gamely in a 20-minute spell either side of halftime.
The Springboks only scored one try in that period and Canada won a sliver of pride when flanker Matt Heaton drove over early in the second – when it was 14 against 15 – for its one try. It easily drew the biggest cheer at Kobe’s last game of the World Cup.
“The way the Springboks started really took us by surprise,” Canada coach Kingsley Jones said. “Pace, physicality, we couldn’t stay with it.
“There was a lot of thinking to do there in the sheds. We talked about [how] the [first] 40 minutes had gone, there wasn’t a lot we could do about that 40 minutes. I thought the boys fought admirably in the second half with 14 players.”
Winger DTH van der Merwe set a Canadian record with his 15th appearance in a World Cup game. The 33-year-old van der Merwe, Canada’s all-time leading try-scorer playing in his fourth World Cup, was born in South Africa and moved to Canada with his family at 17.
Replacement lock Larsen, sanctioned for a shoulder charge to the head, became the fourth Canadian to be ejected at the World Cup.
Gareth Rees and Rod Snow were sent off for fighting in a 1995 game with the Springboks. Flanker Dan Baugh was red-carded for stamping in a 1999 match with Namibia.
Winless in three outings in Japan, Canada has now lost eight straight games at the tournament. Its most recent victory was a 19-11 decision over Romania at the 2011 World Cup. It went 0-4-0 at the 2015 tournament.
The Springboks scored 10 tries in all. Backline players scored all seven in the first half and eight of the 10 as the Boks ran the Canadians off their feet at times. But Canada also reduced the two-time champions to just three tries in the second. That half finished 19-7 to South Africa.
The humidity and the greasy ball under a closed roof at Kobe Misaki Stadium may have contributed to the slowdown.
Centre Damian de Allende breezed through in the third minute for the first try for South Africa, which started with 13 reserve players. Wing Sbu Nkosi was in on the left for the second in the sixth.
Reinach, South Africa’s third-choice No. 9, scored two scorchers. He broke, raced away, chipped over fullback Andrew Coe and collected with a little juggle for his first. He finished a move from inside South Africa’s 22 for his hat trick, when Elton Jantjies dropped a crosskick over Canada’s backline, wing Warrick Gelant caught it and broke, and fed de Allende who found Reinach to race away and finish between the posts.
In between, Reinach sniped over from close range.
“The moment he sniffs some space he’s got exceptional speed,” Erasmus said.
Reinach was told he had the record after he was replaced in the second half, job done.
“I was just happy with the tries. I was trying to get my heart rate down so I wasn’t counting anything,” he said. “We went into the game with the mindset of how we want to play going forward.
“We delivered quite well in the first half. We let it slip a little bit [in the second half].”
Gelant and centre Frans Steyn also scored in the first half.
The Canadians were conceding far worse than a point a minute for the first 30 minutes and were 47-0 behind at halftime.
Hooker Schalk Brits side-stepped his way in on his 38-year-old legs to get South Africa rolling again in the second, but only 15 minutes into the half. Fullback Damian Willemse, called up to the squad as an injury replacement, scored his first test try from a set move and a flicked pass from Steyn, and prop Malherbe ground over for the last.
The Boks weren’t as rampant in the second half, though, underlining the gutsy work by Canada after losing Larsen.
South Africa is set to play either Ireland, Scotland or host Japan in the quarters when that pool is decided.
Canada faces its moment of truth against fellow Tier Two team Namibia on Sunday. Both are winless, have been battered by some big scores by the Springboks and All Blacks, but can still leave with a World Cup victory.
With files from The Canadian Press