de Villiers

Skipper Jean de Villiers returned from a long injury lay-off as South Africa began a five-match World Cup countdown by defeating a World XV 46-10 in Cape Town Saturday.

Centre De Villiers came off the bench midway through the second half to a standing ovation from the Newlands stadium crowd for his first game since suffering a serious knee injury in Wales eight months ago.

Another plus for the Springboks in a non-cap exhibition match was an impressive debut by Jesse Kriel, 21, who switched seamlessly from his usual full-back position to outside centre.

Minuses for the twice world champions included four misses from seven kicks at goal by fly-half Handre Pollard and the sin-binnings of flanker Francois Louw and three-try full-back Willie le Roux.

South Africa needed just four minutes to take the lead as Pollard slotted a penalty in cool, overcast conditions.

Centre Damian de Allende scored his first try in the green and gold on nine minutes, holding off World fly-half Mike Harris and sliding over.

Pollard fluffed the conversion, but added the extra points when lock Eben Etzebeth claimed his first try for his country after a handling movement triggered by Kriel.

Harris trimmed the deficit to 15-3 with a penalty midway through the opening half, but South Africa scored a third try soon after through Le Roux soon after and Pollard converted again.

At 22-3 it was not looking good for a possession-starved World selection consisting of former and emerging stars from Australia, England, France, New Zealand, Samoa and South Africa.

But six minutes from half-time they snatched an opportunist try via South African hooker Craig Burden, one of 10 players from European club champions Toulon in the World squad.

Warren Whiteley won a line-out for the Springboks, but hesitancy led to Burden hoofing the loose ball forward and dotting down.

Harris converted to leave the World trailing 22-10 at half-time — a flattering score for the selection given how few scoring chances they created.

A much better showing by the World kept the South Africans on the back foot early in the second half. However, they failed to score with a Harris penalty attempt short and wide.   

Having absorbed pressure for 13 minutes, South Africa broke out to score a fourth try with Le Roux starting and finishing a move that featured a great pass from tackled winger Bryan Habana. 

Further Springbok tries by Le Roux, replacement scrum-half Cobus Reinach and De Allende and two conversions from replacement full-back Patrick Lambie sealed a comfortable victory.

South Africa play Australia in Brisbane next Saturday in the opening round of a Rugby Championship trimmed from six rounds to three because of the World Cup in England.

The Springboks host New Zealand in Johannesburg on July 25 and Argentina in Durban on August 8 before playing a Test against the South Americans in Buenos Aires a week later.

Drawn with Japan, Samoa, Scotland and the United States in Pool B at the World Cup during September and October, South Africa are hot favourites to top their group and reach the quarter-finals. – Agence France-Presse

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