The Springboks got their year off to a winning start on Saturday with a 46-10 victory over a star-studded World XV at Newlands in Cape Town.
In ice-cold conditions, close to those expected at the World Cup later this year, the Boks outscored their visitors seven tries to one – including three for full-back Willie le Roux – but Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will take the result with a pinch of salt since most of the players in this World XV side have been on holiday for a month, and it showed.
There was some positive feedback in terms of the home team's ability to create scoring opportunities, which bodes well for their chances in the Rugby Championship that kicks off next weekend, but they were never really given the defensive examination Meyer had hoped for, apart from a short period when they were force to defend with 13 men.
The Boks' inability to hold onto the ball for long periods was, however, a concern as they spent a disproportionate amount of the game in their own half.
The biggest cheer of the night was reserved for Jean de Villiers, who made his long-awaited return from injury on the hour mark before providing the pass that put Le Roux over for his hat-trick.
Three well-taken tries saw the Boks lead 22-10 at the interval with four more after break sealing a convincing win.
The opening minute went according to script as the World XV's lack of organisation meant they fluffed the kick-off, but Steffon Armitage won a penalty on the deck a few phases later.
The breakdown battle was a key area of focus for Meyer and he would have been pleased when Handré Pollard was able to open the scoring from a ruck penalty.
Another area on the Bok coach's checklist was his new-look midfield and there again there was good news early on as Damian de Allende scored an excellent solo try after fending off Mike Harris. Pollard missed the conversion but at 8-0, the hosts had enjoyed an excellent start.
De Allende's centre partner Jesse Kriel was the source of the next try as his break set up the attack that put lock Eben Etzebeth over. Kriel's step and acceleration to break clear was a perfect example of what has been missing from the Bok 13 jersey for some time. Pollard's conversion took the score to 15-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Harris pulled three points back for the invitational side thanks to a scrum penalty but the Boks would soon get their third try as Le Roux stretched out an arm to get the ball down on the chalk after a period of sustained pressure. Pollard's extras took the lead to 19 points and the men in green looked hungry for more.
The World XV nabbed an opportunistic try after Warren Whiteley had stolen a lineout but Ruan Pienaar was unable to collect the slap down, allowing Craig Burden to pounce on the loose ball and slide over.
The conversion from Harris cut the gap to 12 points, which was just reward for the visitors' endeavour and it meant they were still in touch at half-time.
It took almost 15 minutes for the second half to produce any points but Bryan Habana's brilliant offload to put Le Roux over for his second try was worth the wait. From there, the floodgates opened.
Pat Lambie came on to take over at full-back in another move geared towards testing options for the World Cup and did a very good job (Le Roux shifted to wing and Habana put on his tracksuit).
Francois Louw saw yellow for clumsily taking out Jordan Taufua in the air at a lineout and Le Roux joined him in the bin for a shoulder charge but the South Africans were able to keep the World XV out.
Two more tries followed in the final ten minutes as Pollard's break on the counter attack put replacement scrum-half Cobus Reinach away.
More individual brilliance from De Allende saw him finish off another counter attack with a well-taken chip and chase for his second try. Lambie converted both tries as the Boks finished with a flourish.
For South Africa:
Tries: De Allende 2, Etzebeth, Le Roux 3, Reinach
Cons: Pollard 2, Lambie 2
Yellow cards: Louw, Le Roux
For World XV:
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Oupa Mohoje, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jean de Villiers.
World XV: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Lachlan Turner, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 David Smith, 10 Mike Harris, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Bakkies Botha, 4 Ali Williams, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 David Roumieu, 17 Alexandre Menini, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 Flip Van der Merwe, 20 Louis-Benoit Madaule, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Rudi Wulf.
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Jason Jaftha (South Africa)
Television match official: Deon van Blommestein (South Africa)
By Ross Hastie at Newlands