Rob Houwing

Few Boks offer ‘wow’ factor

2012-08-20 07:30
Sport24 Chief Writer Rob Houwing (File)
Cape Town – It was tough to quibble with the decision to give oft-maligned Springbok flyhalf Morne Steyn the official man-of-the-match award after the 27-6 victory over Argentina in the Castle Rugby Championship at Newlands here on Saturday.

In a purely functional sense, the stalwart Bulls No 10 was commendably good, landing all his goals – a welcome development after some unusually erratic games by him in that regard this year – and showing good vision to set up one of the trio of tries with a deft cross-kick.

Yet the fact that you were still left wondering whether he is really the player in such a key position to make the world’s top powers like New Zealand quake in their boots, rather summed up the collective effort of the Bok side as they failed to land the four-try bonus point knockout punch in a lukewarm, slightly soulless-feeling Test match.

Maybe judgement on this South African performance is best reserved until after we have seen the Pumas play at home (that comes as early as next Saturday when they complete the two-game deal with the Springboks) and also against the other SANZAR teams, the All Blacks and Wallabies.

On Saturday -- disappointingly before a less than full house of some 39,000 which may pose questions surrounding the sheer volume of rugby these days -- few Bok players were glaringly “bad”, just as there was a similar paucity of those who blew us away with their dynamism.

Harsher analysts will be tempted to venture that this was a mostly unsatisfactory outing, with the failure to bank all five log points against a team likely to be the weakest in the new-look competition in their maiden year, and also the grim preliminary news that undoubtedly world-class hooker Bismarck du Plessis has probably been ruled out for the rest of the year after injuring a knee and going off on the buggy soon after the start.

Here’s how I rated the Boks:

Zane Kirchner:  6

Solid in most respects, with astute positional play and fielding of high kicks, and scorer of first Bok try with well-timed intrusion in open-side attacking move. But not especially twinkle-toed when trying to breach the advantage line, either.

Bryan Habana: 6.5

Pleasing effort on less familiar right wing. Always looked for work, generally assured under tactical-kicking examination, made one slithering burst through midfield and also did well to pouch Steyn’s cross-field kick for last Bok try.

Jean de Villiers: 6

A little frustratingly, few opportunities to get into stride with ball in hand, but stuck to defensive guns soundly enough.

Frans Steyn: 5.5

Third Test of the year at inside centre, and although this was also his 50th, produced probably his least influential of the trio after two good ‘uns against England, preceding his honeymoon break. Muscular in possession at close quarters, but no special spark here.

Lwazi Mvovo: 6

Did his basics adequately, but few chances to turn on the gas, his real forte. Victim of a dangerous dump tackle, but seemed to shake it off. Came off after an hour.

Morne Steyn: 7

Professional showing, and kudos for that after a spell under harsh scrutiny. Back to dead-eye best off tee, and gave beautifully weighted cross-kick to set up Habana’s try. One or two aimless punts ... and perhaps still a tad too predictable? Deserves stay of execution for next couple of Tests, at least.

Francois Hougaard: 6

Improved kicking game, which had often been weak against England. Tenacious as ever, but jury still out on whether he’s a worthy No 9 “general” at highest level. Further food for thought: looked quite dangerous in last 20 minutes at left wing!

Keegan Daniel: 6

Had some promising moments in maiden start at No 8, and earned two spring-heeled lineout takes early on. But also not quite as prominent as critics of the injured Pierre Spies might have wished he’d been – subbed fairly early in second half.

Willem Alberts: 6

When he runs onto a ball near the try-line, always sucks in two or three defenders because of his brute strength. What you see is what you get ... lacks a wee bit in finesse.

Marcell Coetzee: 6.5

Arguably the most consistently “involved” of the loosies. Going from strength to strength in a Bok jersey, and deserved to dot down in right corner from patient lineout maul.

Andries Bekker: 6.5

Lanky customer was prominent for almost an hour, before his back seemed to go lame again (big concern?) and he came off after 58 minutes. Real presence at lineout time, gathered some kick-offs cleanly, and suitably physical in tight-loose.

Eben Etzebeth: 6

Entered the game not wholly fit (as conceded by Bok management) and perhaps that impeded him a little. Lots of unseen, unglamorous yet sterling dirty work, though ... which is largely what you seek from your No 4, isn’t it?

Jannie du Plessis: 6

Didn’t take a backward step against the famed (once, anyway) Pumas scrum. Had four minutes off park before halftime after head knock, but returned seemingly OK. One silly, late shoulder charge that must have come close to yellow-card status.

Bismarck du Plessis: No rating

Calamity as the ace No 2 went down clutching a knee in agony after only four minutes; depressing early fear that his 2012 is over.

Tendai Mtawarira: 6

Also ticked scrummaging boxes, for most part. But “Beast” has also had far more fire-and-brimstone Test matches.

Replacements used:

Adriaan Strauss: 7

Pleasing game, considering that he entered it pretty cold off the bench and was required for all of 76 minutes. Hard grafter and mauler, and mostly threw in accurately at lineout, save for one overthrow at Bekker in attacking Bok position.

Flip van der Merwe: 6

 Got 22 minutes as replacement for Bekker, though not quite as impactful as he’d been in this capacity during England series.

Jacques Potgieter: 6.5

When you are hunting tries for a bonus point, is another battering ram of his type off the bench really the best way to go? Still, it’s undeniable that he put himself about forcefully, hitting rucks with venom.

Ruan Pienaar: 7

As against England, made a difference at scrumhalf! Just seemed to “take charge” better than Hougaard. Time for a start for the Ulster man?

Pat Cilliers and JJ Engelbrecht: Not enough time to properly be assessed.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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