Rugby

Baby Boks fall from their cot

2012-06-04 22:47
Baby Boks flyhalf Toby Jantjies (Galllo Images)
Cape Town - Perhaps we need to be just a little less reflex and hot under the collar in branding South Africans who support various New Zealand rugby causes instantly traitorous.

Could there be at least some element of such people throwing their weight behind teams from that country because they simply seem to play a more vibrant and joyous game so much of the time?

There is often talk of sides from our country playing to “traditional strengths” ... which to all intents and purposes means trying to pile-drive and/or boot their way to victory.

At the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch on Monday, day one of the IRB Junior World Championship, hosts South Africa understandably had main-game billing ... but ended up being massively eclipsed by the “Baby Blacks” who lit up the preceding game with their enthralling commitment to ball-in-hand play, composure and sharpness of mind.

Yes, it was a bit like pitching up for a highly-touted movie and thinking as you shuffled out that you’d actually preferred the ads and trailers, thank you.

It is true that we may only know just how good the New Zealanders were as their badly beaten opponents, Samoa, advance in the tournament; maybe the Pacific Islanders will take a few poundings not dissimilar to the 63-0 outcome suffered here, and some perspective will be required.

A gut feel by many at this stage, nevertheless, will be that once again the junior All Blacks will be a sprightly crop and the ones to beat if anyone else genuinely fancies the 2012 crown.

South Africa? Sadly they’re instantly and just a little humiliatingly on the back foot, courtesy of a showing of great resolve by an Irish team who theatrically celebrated their deserved 23-19 victory as though it was the highest point of their sporting lives. Who knows, maybe in some cases it will turn out to be exactly that.

Losing captain Wiaan Liebenberg afterwards bemoaned a few decisions that he felt had gone against the Baby Boks at the breakdown, an area which was critical to the Irish success because - often by entirely fair means, mind - they produced some epic counter-rucking.

And although I tend not to like immediate post-match pitch-side interviews with skippers because they are still out of breath and unable to compose their thoughts to the best extent, maybe he could have been just a wee bit more magnanimous, too, toward the winning team from the Emerald Isle.

It was a flustered, imprecise and too often static display by the Baby Boks, so highly touted beforehand because of their supposed infusion of Super Rugby-knowledgeable players. We quickly discovered that this alone is not a passport to triumph.

Poor Steven Kitshoff, the loosehead prop who has been so impressive for the Stormers, had a night to especially forget: he found himself pinged a couple of times at the set-piece and unable to get a good left shoulder going, so much so that at the break he was subbed for the bodily phenomenon that is Ollie Kebble, and the South African scrummage at least recaptured self-respect to an extent.

In fairness, there was always the danger that Kitshoff would enter this tournament weary from so many weeks of gruelling industry in his maiden full campaign for the Stormers; coach Dawie Theron may have a selection poser at No 1 for the fast bounce-back quest against Italy at the University of the Western Cape on Friday.

Theron had said in the build-up that he wanted his side to dominate the collisions and be unerring at the lineout and scrum before the ball would be consistently delivered to the three-quarters.

The trouble was, none of his aims came to fruition on the park ... and when a South African team fancying their gung-ho physicality rather gallingly get a taste of their own medicine, as happened, all manner of vulnerabilities and uncertainties can come home to roost.

“It was brilliant from the lads; no one shied away from any contact,” Irish captain Niall Scannell gushed in his own appraisal of the fixture. The hooker’s accuracy in that regard could not be faulted.

Frustration from the 9 000-strong support in Stellenbosch became vocal during the first half, as Bok starting scrumhalf Abrie Griesel - commentators say he is a better player than evidenced on this occasion, which is a relief - eternally botched his tactical kicking (an obsession, sadly) and was later replaced by Vian van der Watt in the 49th minute.

That did seem to bring the backline as a whole to a bit more life, which is something to pick up as a crumb of comfort, going forward in the event.

There was also endless energy from the open-side flank Shaun Adendorff, whilst towering Lions lock Paul Willemse thundered over for a good try, using his 130kg frame to
forceful effect.

But the fact that his less-than-subtle touchdown was the only one the Baby Boks got, with the rest of their points coming from flyhalf Tony Jantjies who did his level best to keep them in the hunt with his accurate boot, somehow indicated the South African inability to woo the audience with positivity.

The Baby Boks supposedly hogged 55 percent of possession. But what to do constructively with the “pill” is something we were better educated in just one game earlier ...
 

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