Rugby World Cup 1999
Unconvincing Springboks scrape past Uruguay
October 15, 1999
Albert van den Berg scores during a disappointing display by South Africa
© Getty Images
Centre Brendan Venter was sent off for stamping as reigning champions South Africa suffered more World Cup embarrassment in an unconvincing 39-3 win over amateurs Uruguay at Hampden Park on Friday. Venter was given his marching orders in first-half injury time of a scrappy, ill-tempered Group A contest after referee Peter Marshall spotted him stamping his boot down on a Uruguayan head at a ruck.
The incident was the main talking point of a poor match which saw the world champions struggle to impose themselves on unsophisticated but tough opponents who only qualified for the finals with a narrow victory over Morocco.
The Springboks, tipped by many to become the first country to win the World Cup twice, scored just 12 points in the second-half in one of their worst performances in the modern era. When the final whistle it was the South Americans, not their conquerors, who were hugging each other and punching the air in delight.
"We made a lot of mistakes," said South Africa captain Joost van der Westhuizen. "But we will just have to pick ourselves up. They played with great passion but it was our own fault." Van der Westhuizen refused to comment on Venter's dismissal but denied his side had been ill-disciplined. "I would say it was more over-eagerness than a lack of discipline," he added.
Nick Mallett's side, still reeling from the avalanche of criticism that followed their woeful display against Spain, looked poor in almost every department as they laboured to break down the South American part-timers. It took the Springboks half-an-hour to register their first points against the Spanish and it was a similar story against the Uruguayans as they drew a blank for the first 28 minutes of the second period.
There was precious little for the 3,000 spectators inside the home of Scottish football to cheer about and still less for Mallett who spent much of the second half shaking his head in disbelief at what he was seeing. The South Africans' growing frustration led to a number of flare-ups, off-the-ball incidents and basic handling errors as the Uruguayans took the fight to their illustrious opponents.
The Springboks ran in five tries from Robbie Fleck, van der Westhuizen, Deon Kayser and substitute Albert van den Berg (two) as they headed towards a predictable victory and a quarter-final in Paris. Fly-half Jannie de Beer, recalled to the starting line-up after the late withdrawal of Henry Honiball, struck two penalties and four conversions for a personal tally of 14.
The Springboks took the lead after seven minutes when centre Robbie Fleck slipped through a gap in the Uruguayan defence. Then van der Westhuizen darted under the posts for the Springboks second try. De Beer converted and slotted a second penalty before Uruguay got their only points on the board when Diego Aguirre posted an excellent 40-metre penalty.
Winger Deon Kayser added a third try six minutes before the break to give the Springboks a comfortable if unconvincing lead. But that score was to be South Africa's last points for 35 minutes as their game reached new lows after the break.
Substitute forward van den Berg had barely been on the field for a minute when he finished off a rare flowing move in the right corner. Van den Berg, who had not scored in any of his six previous appearances for his country, raced clear for his second try minutes later. The South Africans won but at the final whistle it was 40-year-old Uruguayan capatin Diego Ormaechea, playing in his last match for his country, who was smiling.