KOBE, 8 Oct - South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus refused to get ahead of himself after his team qualified for the RWC 2019 quarter-finals by dispatching Canada 66-7 at Kobe Misaki Stadium on Tuesday.
Asked which team he would prefer to meet at Tokyo Stadium in two weekends' time, he said: "I think that question is so loaded. If I say one thing, I will be in trouble – if I say another thing, I will be in trouble."
Trouble was not on his team's radar as they got off to a flying start against the Canucks, with scrum-half Cobus Reinach scoring the earliest hat-trick in a World Cup match, after only 20 minutes.
Efforts to stem the green tide were not helped by replacement second-row Josh Larsen’s red card in the 35th minute for an illegal attempted clean-out of South Africa loose-head prop Thomas du Toit.
Canada conceded seven tries and 47 points by half-time, with the Boks, who needed a bonus-point win to guarantee a spot among the last eight teams, taking just 18 minutes to score four tries, and finishing the match with 10.
Dynamic second-row and Player of the Match RG Snyman set the tone with a midfield line-break, and outside-centre Damian de Allende ambled over for the opening touchdown after three minutes.
Further tries by S’Busiso Nkosi, Reinach (three), Warrick Gelant and Frans Steyn put a predominantly second-string South Africa out of sight at the break.
“When you look at previous teams who played at this stadium, with the humidity – after 20 minutes, the ball normally gets slippery. But I thought we were nice and clinical and decisive, especially with a bunch of guys who haven’t played a lot in the last four-five weeks. I thought that was really well done,” said Erasmus.
Cobus Reinach's hat-trick in the first 20 minutes of #RSAvCAN is the earliest ever in Rugby World Cup history.— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 8, 2019
Previous earliest was Chris Latham who bagged a hat-trick in 25 mins against Namibia at Rugby World Cup 2003. #RWC2019 #RWCKobe pic.twitter.com/QwXn3rnHad
He was full of praise for Northampton Saints No.9 Reinach, the son of former South Africa winger Jaco Reinach.
“Everybody knows Cobus’ X-factor," said the coach. "The moment he sniffs some space, he’s got exceptional speed. He didn’t get a lot of game time with us in the build-up to the World Cup, but he’s got good anticipation and he’s away,
“That’s the fastest hat-trick I’ve seen at a World Cup, and he is opportunistic. We are fortunate to have three quality nines in the squad.”
There was some consolation for the Canucks early in the second half, when flanker Matt Heaton forced his way over the line following a lineout, much to the delight of the crowd.
“The way the Springboks started took us by surprise, certainly the pace we couldn’t deal with,” Canada coach Kingsley Jones said. "It was a lot of thinking to do there in a short amount of time. We lost a lot in the first 15."
Jones's half-time team talk brought a remarkable improvement from his 14-man side, with the Springboks' advantage reduced to 19-7.
“We talked about the 40 minutes, that there wasn’t a lot we could do about that 40 minutes right now. The only thing is, we could change the second 40 minutes," said Jones.
"We just got to improve our start at games time, but that takes a while and that takes experience.”
South Africa finished off in style, with Schalk Brits, Damian Willemse and Frans Malherbe all crossing the tryline, while fly-half Elton Jantjies slotted eight conversions to end with 16 points.
Erasmus does not know which quarter-final opponent to prepare for – Japan, Ireland or Scotland – which will only be decided on Sunday when the host nation take on the Scots in Yokohama.