Citing mars Etzebeth's effort
Eben Etzebeth (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – A muscular, energetic performance from still 20-year-old second-rower Eben Etzebeth was one of the few shafts of light from South Africa’s otherwise depressing 26-19 defeat to limited Australia in the Castle Rugby Championship at Perth on Saturday.
Etzebeth only got an hour at Patersons Stadium but it was no coincidence that in that time the Boks were mostly competitive, before slipping to a first defeat under the coaching regime of already under-siege Heyneke Meyer.
That said, the Stormers prospect also blotted his disciplinary copybook as his natural aggression got the better of him in a dust-up with Wallaby old hand Nathan Sharpe – he has been cited and his participation in the daunting assignment against the All Blacks next weekend thus hangs in the balance.
Bryan Habana was arguably the pick of a generally sterile back-line – with redeployed wing colleague Francois Hougaard not far behind -- although the veteran also didn’t go the distance, having to be hauled off through injury in the third quarter.
Here’s how we rated the Boks:
Zane Kirchner: 6
Sound kicking game, though that’s nothing especially new. Really needs to show more. Still, his strong aerial ‘compete’ eventually led to lone Bok try.
Bryan Habana: 7
These are not nicest times to be a Bok wing, but the seasoned customer looked for involvement at every turn, and snuck in for deserved close-quarters try.
Jean de Villiers: 4.5
Desperately quiet outing by the captain, who looks short of fizz at present. Slightly indecisive in some tackles, too.Frans Steyn: 5.5
Some good aspects, though offering more in physicality than anything else -- X-factor has suddenly gone AWOL. Two useful long-range penalties.
Francois Hougaard: 6.5
Like Habana, served some notice of what he might be able to do if given space and front-foot attacking opportunities. Alertness, opportunism pleasing features.
Morne Steyn: 5.5
Kicked (yawn, that word again!) well out of hand, it must be said. But bad penalty miss off tee early in second half and still too obvious an impediment to Bok backline sparkle. Will Meyer finally see sense on this?Ruan Pienaar: 6
Fell away a little as Boks nose-dived after break, but influential in dominant first half, with astute positional awareness and as provider of direction, especially with tactical kicking.
Duane Vermeulen: 5.5
Pretty innocuous debut; 2012 Boks continue to struggle in this position. But clearly ring-rusty and only just rebuilding match fitness. Deserves second stab -- at All Blacks on Saturday. Willem Alberts: 5.5
Too fitful in his involvement. One or two good carries, but that’s his speciality anyway. Defence shown up a couple of times.
Marcell Coetzee: 6
Once again, spirited quest to be dynamic and hard-working. Has played lots of top-tier rugby this year, and it’s just beginning to show. Jury still out on his open-side stationing, too -- Boks seem to cry out anew for specialist?
Juandre Kruger: 5.5
Earns modicum of respectability for assured lineout outing. Otherwise, fell short for broader ‘presence’. Shaky defence as Ben Alexander lumbered over try-line for decisive score.
Eben Etzebeth: 7
Might have scored higher, but for silly head-butt (though was it a fresh-air one?) on Sharpe, who did seem to milk the incident a bit. Repercussions could be costly. Otherwise, suitably fiery, busy, and getting increasingly assured as a lineout banker. Jannie du Plessis: 4.5
C’mon, big fella! Really must do more to disprove theory that he only ‘plays’ when brother Bismarck is alongside him. Some lazy lunges on defence and sub-standard day at scrum-time, into bargain.
Adriaan Strauss: 5.5
Best Bok front-rower on the day ... though that’s not saying very much.
Tendai Mtawarira: 4.5
What’s happened to the brimstone in the Beast? Worryingly absent for much of this Test season. Woes compounded by yellow card for obstructing Kurtley Beale off ball.
Substitutes with rate-worthy game time:Pat Cilliers: 5
From 54th minute, did little to stabilise iffy Bok scrum.
Flip van der Merwe: 5.5
Nothing special in 20 minutes; perhaps Etzebeth hauled off 10 minutes too early?
Francois Louw: 5.5
Similarly, no marked impact from 57th minute, though possibly has chance of a ‘fetching’ start in Dunedin.
Lwazi Mvovo: 4
More used to left wing, of course, and defence on right slightly frail after replacing injured Habana in 53rd minute. Embarrassing error from a restart, too.
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