CAPE TOWN - South Africa survived an early scare to begin their international rugby season with a thumping 47-13 win against a World XV in Cape Town yesterday.
A pair of tries from hooker Bismarck du Plessis helped the Springboks see off a star-strewn side.
From the kick-off the World XV — which included All Black legend Carl Hayman and European player of the year Steffon Armitage — quickly disabused any notion that they were at Newlands to make up the numbers.
They challenged the first South African line-out, unperturbed by the presence of reunited veterans Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield, each at two metres tall and with almost 200 Tests between them.
Matfield, 37, was making his return to the international game three years after retiring and was named interim captain in Jean de Villiers's absence.
The World XV hit the early rucks at ferocious speed and put a startled Boks team on the back foot.
When they were awarded a penalty in the third minute, well within kicking distance, Rory Kockott — an uncapped South African who plays club rugby for Castres in the French Top 14 and will soon be eligible to play for Les Bleus — elected to put it to the corner.
A few bruising phases later the World XV's ex-Bok lock Alistair Hargreaves spun out of a tackle and managed to ground the ball for the first try of the game.
But as the game progressed the Springboks hit their stride.
"The first half was a little bit difficult," admitted Springbok man-of-the-match Botha, his side having led by just 18-13 at the break.
"As a Springbok side we were just happy we could get back to structure in the second half."