Johannesburg - If Lood de Jager and Schalk Burger could hold
their heads reasonably high after Saturday’s Springbok horror show, it only
summed up the mounting confusion over how to assemble a best possible XV at the
fast-approaching World Cup.
De Jager and Burger were arguably the two most defiant
figures in a Bok team otherwise humiliated by Argentina as they suffered a
37-25 first-time loss to those foes at Kings Park to gallingly take ownership
of the Castle Rugby Championship wooden spoon.
But there was an unfortunate irony in that: remember that
the lanky De Jager is supposedly only filling in at No 5 lock for injured
veteran Victor Matfield, whilst Burger has been covering No 8 as the Boks wait
anxiously to see whether Duane Vermeulen will similarly be fit for RWC 2015.
At a time of year when clarity should be emerging over which
players best fit the starting berths for big matches at the keynote tournament,
coach Heyneke Meyer’s plans only seem to be slipping into a fog, as the
performance card below should bear out ...
Here’s how I rated
the Boks out of 10 in Durban:
Willie le Roux: 5.5
Just about acceptable, based on moments of attacking magic,
including sublime long-range try. Misdirected, no-look passes and general
eccentricity still irk, and he lacked a bit of aggression in defence.
Jesse Kriel: 4.5
Experimental move to right wing ... which bombed. Never
settled, with some serious positional issues at times when Pumas ran hard at
Boks. One or two ropey passes as well, though good hand in Le Roux’s try.
Jean de Villiers: 5
Got through full game, and that was mini-triumph though the
skipper may not view it that way after this result. One or two deft touches and
breaks, and did try often to engage/challenge maverick referee Romain Poite.
Long way to go, and so little time, though ...
Damian de Allende: 6
Mostly kept defensive composure on taxing evening, plus good
leg-drive, and well-weighted long pass for final Bok try. Bet he didn’t expect
to see out game at flank!
Bryan Habana: 5.5
Few opportunities to get to full pace, but aerially committed
and not much got past him. Rewarded with try two minutes from time.
Handre Pollard: 4
Ghosted through the odd gap ... though sadly a game to
forget otherwise. Bungled two restart kicks, missed touch with penalty, and
threw one horrible forward pass.
Ruan Pienaar: 4
Promise shown at times against Wallabies and All Blacks
rather fizzled here. Too predictable and unexciting. Penalised once for
Schalk Burger: 6.5
One near-certainty even on sickly days for Boks is that
Burger will put his body on the line. Did so once again, even as he received a
cynical hit or two, and tackled industriously.
Marcell Coetzee: 5
Missed a tackle early on for Argentina’s first try, and that
set tone for unusually off-colour performance. Later limped awkwardly off ...a
worry as RWC looms.
Heinrich Brussow: 5.5
Still a long way short of the Tri-Nations demon of 2009.
Some defensive lapses, but did turn over one or two balls at breakdown.
Lood de Jager: 7
Most constructive and fiery Bok player. Seems to go from
strength to strength. Powerful surge and intelligent reach for try, and very
reliable at lineout.
Eben Etzebeth: 4.5
Perhaps some energy was sapped in retreating scrum, but this
was one of the big enforcer’s most innocuous Test matches, including awful
missed tackle which cost seven points. One lineout poach, and did use plenty of
muscle to help his partner over the try-line.
Vincent Koch: 3
Were those sore ribs impeding him? Whatever the truth on
that score, scrum-time nightmare for the rookie at the hands of merciless
Marcos Ayerza. Gave away a stream of first-half penalties. Never re-emerged
from tunnel for second half.
Bismarck du Plessis:
Tried to light Bok fire before halftime, when they were
already well behind, with some fierce drives and staunch hold-up tackles. But
his game worsened after break, with one wretched overthrow at attacking lineout
and a dropped pass.
Tendai Mtawarira: 4.5
Alll you can say in his defence is that Bok scrum looked
creakier on tighthead side than his. Otherwise, though, precious few
opportunities for trademark “Beeeast” chant at home ground.
Trevor Nyakane: 6
Cobus Reinach and Siya Kolisi were busy, too, but the
loosehead prop replacement looked the most accomplished of the Bok front-rowers
from a scrummaging point of view on a grim day in that area.
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