EAST LONDON: South Africa’s bid to make history remains on course – on a night when Bryan Habana wrote his name into World Cup folklore.
The Springbok flyer scored a hat-trick of tries in the Olympic Stadium to take his World Cup tally to 15, level with New Zealand legend Jonah Lomu.
And he will hope there are plenty more to come as South Africa continue their bid to become the first side ever to win the Webb Ellis trophy having suffered a defeat in the pool stages.
It’s all a far cry from events of 18 days ago when the Boks were rocked to their foundations as they were beaten by Japan in the biggest shock in the tournament’s history, but they have recovered to set up a last eight clash with either Australia or Wales.
They were made to work hard for this win in the opening 40 minutes by the spirited Americans, but the Eagles simply didn’t have an answer in the second half as South Africa turned on the power, eventually running in ten tries in total as they eclipsed their opponents as the sun set over east London.
The USA battled bravely throughout the first half, and only some incredibly committed defence restricted South Africa to just two scores, although the penalty count against the Eagles would have been a worry for their coaching staff.
The Springboks also contrived to let their opponents off the hook on a number of occasions with a string of unforced errors as they searched for the try line.
It had looked as though the floodgates might open when South Africa opened the scoring after just seven minutes, Damian de Allende gathering up the loose ball following a quick tap penalty and streaking through some weak American defence to touch down.
The USA had opportunities to get on the scoreboard with two penalties, but Folau Niua’s effort fell short, while Niku Kruger was unlucky to see his kick bounce back off the post.
The second try for South Africa, when it came on 28 minutes, was a penalty try, awarded after a series of scrum infringements, with referee Pascal Gauzere eventually losing patience with the Americans.
Fly-half Handre Holland converted both tries to make the score 14-0 at the interval and, with the USA having worked so hard in their own half in the opening period, the Boks will have been confident of building on that lead after the interval.
And they did just that within 60 seconds, Bryan Habana collecting Fourie du Preez’ neat kick through and, once the Toulon flyer had the ball in his hands, no one was going to stop him.
It was clear from the opening moments of the first half that the intense physical effort produced by the Americans so far had taken its toll, and seven minutes after the restart the Springboks scored the bonus point try that ensured they would top Pool B.
A period of forward pressure resulted in the ball being recycled quickly a couple of times to leave Bismarck Du Plessis with the relatively simple task of bowling over the line from a couple of yards.
Francois Louw then emerged from the bottom of the pile with the ball in his hands following another massive forward rumble in the 53rd minute, before Habana raced over for his second try six minutes later as holes began to appear all over the pitch.
Habana completed his record equaling treble just a couple of moments later, before Louw was once more the gleeful recipient of some hard grunt up front by his mates as he was pushed over for a second score.
Jesse Kriel added the ninth try of the evening in the 73rd minute, before Lwazi Mvovo applied the final gloss to take the Boks’ tally into double figures with the last play of the game, with Morne Steyn adding the conversion to make the final score 64-0.
It was the first whitewash in the 2015 World Cup but that statistic was largely incidental on a night that belonged to Habana.