Cape Town – Failure to go for the jugular
when they had the Wallabies as much as 20-7 down in Brisbane on Saturday cost
South Africa dearly as they were agonisingly elbowed out at the death in their
Castle Rugby Championship opener.
The Springboks’ 24-20 loss at least
contained many pleasing aspects to go with the flaws, so it is not as though
people would be justified in saying their World Cup hopes in a couple of
months’ time should be notably downgraded.
Ironically use of the bench by the visitors
proved both an asset and hindrance in the thrilling, fluctuating encounter: a
few strong-performing players were arguably withdrawn too quickly by the Bok
management, albeit that bigger-picture RWC needs and experimentation cannot be
But a hallmark of that department was also
the way Lood de Jager, the 22-year-old second-rower, asserted himself after
answering the emergency call to replace injured icon Victor Matfield in the
first quarter. He did enough to earn top rating on the Sport24 performance card
how I rated the Boks out of 10:
le Roux: 5.5
Blew hot and cold, as is not too uncommon
by this unpredictable player. Mediocre in the air, some wonky kicks ... but
lovely offload for first Bok try whilst positional play praised by pundit Naas
Honest shift: one assured high-ball catch,
vigorous kick-off chasing, stout defence and should have been put clear for
try-line once, when awaiting outside pass that never came.
Glimpses of potential against World XV
confirmed on proper Test debut ... looked class act at No 13 with strong
defending and carrying. Fine combo of muscularity and guile for his second-half
de Allende: 7
Option-taking culprit in afore-mentioned
Pietersen chance missed, but that was about it for gremlins. Broadly powerful
and authoritative presence.
Rich experience and astuteness came into
play quite a lot. Involved in both Bok try set-ups and made vitally-timed hit
on flying Tevita Kuridrani once.
Huge potential remains so obvious, and
that’s a gratifying thing. Just labouring for necessary consistency right now.
Nightmare first quarter, then showed fortitude in settling. Continued to make
some errors, even as his physical competence and stealing opportunism shone
through at times.
Service and tactical kicking largely
efficient, and set up threatening attack with slick skip pass to De Allende.
Fair enough stint of acting leadership, though penalised once for off-side.
Selection in the Duane Vermeulen void at No
8 well vindicated; no surprise to this writer. Marvellous general work-rate
plus sharp awareness, commitment on defence. Kept cool head, too, and so nearly
prevented the contentious winning try at death.
Robust, direct and unwavering in adhesive
loose trio. Then shivers went down Bok fans’ spines for RWC as he succumbed to
that horrible rugby bogey – knee injury – just 10 minutes from full time.
Not quite as many big, personal pilfers as
usual, but plenty of unglamorous donkeywork by the Bath man nevertheless, and
assisted Bok breakdown mastery for healthy periods.
Difficult to rate, really, as the normally
injury-free veteran succumbed to hamstring problem before first quarter had
even run its course. Captaincy calmness and nous possibly missed in costly
Warmed progressively to his duties as game
developed, including rousing end to first half when reward was fine, maiden
Test try at left corner-flag. Engine kept going resolutely on defence as Boks
so nearly closed out victory ...
du Plessis: 7
Give the much-maligned, ageing tighthead
his due here: rock-solid at scrum-time in his 48-minute stay (including brief,
apparent concussion check) and nice to see a bit of ball-in-hand activity as
du Plessis: 7.5
Continues impressive restoration of playing
reputation after being relieved of Super Rugby captaincy. His three turnovers
were all invaluable, coming at times when Boks under major cosh. Good chance
Boks would have won if he’d stayed full 80 instead of 50th-minute
Another stalwart prop under some threat
from a youthful brigade, the Beast did enough to halt their claims for the time
being. No doubting Bok scrum was at its best when he and Du Plessis were still
in heat of combat.
de Jager: 8
Considering how little rugby the Cheetahs
beanpole has played due to injury this year, his sudden call to action after 18
minutes seemed big ask. Very quickly got stuck in, however, and it stayed that
way. Carried brutally and tackled like a Trojan; lineout play pretty sprightly
into the bargain.
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing