No danger of Rhinos' extinction

Rugby League
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South Africa's battered players insist they will not throw in the towel despite the heavy punishment they have taken so far in the Centenary World Cup.

In the space of three days, the South Africans have conceded 138 points in two games, including a world record Test defeat of 86-6 against Australia on Tuesday at Gateshead.

The contrast with the Springbok side who won rugby union's World Cup to the delight of President Nelson Mandela in June could scarcely be greater, but their captain, Jaco Booysen, says his side are far from disheartened.

"We're very positive," Booysen, who was sporting a black eye, said. "Particularly after the second half against Australia, morale is very high."

The Kangaroos, 52-0 up at half-time, scored a mere 34 points after the break and even allowed the Rhinos, as the South Africans are known, a try of their own.

That honour went to prop Gideon Watts, who burrowed over by the posts to score South Africa's first try in international rugby league.

Booysen was adamant the result would not spell the abrupt end of rugby league in a country where union remains a virtual religion for many people.

"The public will back us up," he insisted. "We are all part of South Africa."

The Rhinos had wanted to compete in the emerging nations' tournament, due to start next week, but were persuaded for largely financial reasons to enter a team for the main event.

They are also aligned with Rupert Murdoch's proposed Super League, a deal which should provide a massive injection of funds for the 13-a-side code in the Republic at a critical time.

Things, however, could get worse for the Rhinos before they get better. Their final group match in Leeds on Saturday is against the hosts, England, who are fresh from a memorable victory over Australia at Wembley last weekend.

A crumb of consolation was provided by the Kangaroo stand-off, Andrew Johns, who marked his Test debut with a personal haul of 30 points to equal the individual World Cup record set by his fellow countryman Michael O'Connor against Papua New Guinea seven years ago.

"They're world champions in rugby union so they've got potential," Johns said.

Johns, the man of the match, landed 11 goals and added two tries to his goal-kicking feat but missed five attempts on goal and admitted he was disappointed not to break the record.

"It's a chance that might not come again," he said. "But it was my first match for Australia and I was pleased with my performance."