Rugby Championship

Ratings: Bok pack earn ticks

2012-09-15 12:54
Bryan Habana (Gallo)
Cape Town – Crunching hits, spirited drives, good competitiveness at the breakdown, an efficient scrum ... no, don’t point too many fingers at the Springbok forwards for the national side somehow losing by 10 points to New Zealand in Dunedin on Saturday.

In waving goodbye to any remaining title hopes in the maiden Castle Rugby Championship, the Boks will be left scratching their heads about this reverse to an All Blacks side who performed below potential and were largely out-muscled up front.

It was behind the scrum, no question, where South Africa only had their fans tearing hair out, with Heyneke Meyer’s obsession with a gormless, all too often poorly-executed kicking game proving glaringly costly and Morne Steyn misfiring badly again at his supposed core strength of place-kicking.

How the Boks rated:

Zane Kirchner 4.5

Aaargh! Still such an obvious impediment to Bok backline zing. One-dimensional, and part of a spectacular butchering of an early try opportunity out wide with imperfect pass to flying Bryan Habana.

Bryan Habana 6

Slightly fumbly night at the office; made some errors despite eternal willingness to work hard for the cause. But rating rises to six on strength of welcome, brilliantly-executed virtuoso try, and good kick chasing.

Jean de Villiers 4.5

Worryingly, a second sub-standard Test in Australasia on the trot for the Bok captain. Some defensive mettle, but also ropey passing and perhaps not enough vigorous engagement with referee when All Blacks consistently infringed in certain departments. 

Frans Steyn 6.5

Early tendency to seek heavy traffic with ball in hand, rather than try to skirt it, but also came more and more into his own – especially when Johan Goosen belatedly started pulling flyhalf strings. Fearless competitor, as usual.

Francois Hougaard 6

Started the opportunistic, breakout move which really should have led to Boks crossing the whitewash as swiftly as fourth minute. Tenacious in defence and would have revelled, no doubt, in more space.

Morne Steyn 4

Coach Meyer’s loyalty to the increasingly out-of-sorts Bulls man just gets more and more inexplicable. If he can’t even kick his goals, what else is he really offering? He’s got to go ... but will he?

Ruan Pienaar 5

Considering the healthy forward momentum at times, here was a chance for the scrumhalf to put his stamp on a game. In short, he didn’t.

Duane Vermeulen 6.5

Very much improved second cap for the No 8, clearly regaining confidence and stamina after his long-term injury. Sturdily withstood monster hit from rival Kieran Read when not properly protected in fielding a kick-off.

Willem Alberts 6.5

Where he had been too sporadic in involvement against the Wallabies last week, the brawny blindsider lifted his game here. Set nice early tone for collective Bok pack intentions with thunderous hit on Conrad Smith.  

Francois Louw 7

Did get pinged a couple of times, but that is a fetcher’s lot in life. In some ways it only illustrated how effective and full-blooded he was at slowing the All Black game. And was that his offload to spark the Habana bust-out and try? No disgrace that direct opponent Richie McCaw was possibly even better!

Juandre Kruger 6

OK, just sneaks a six. Didn’t quite manage to be a Matfield-type nuisance to these particular foes at lineout time, but did other basics well enough amidst broadly determined Bok forward unit.

Flip van der Merwe 7

Best start in a Springbok jersey? The big No 4 was a model of sustained industry and constructive aggression. Couple of decent lineout takes as well.

Jannie du Plessis 6.5

Just how much did he have to bite the bullet, considering the fears over his hamstring holding up? Wasn’t going to take a backward step, nevertheless. Back closer to best.

Adriaan Strauss 7

That blond head was eternally visible; seems to be warming to No 2 shirt while Bismarck du Plessis starts his slow rehab quest. Slight impediment was Boks losing at least three lineout balls on own throw-in, though you can’t always blame the hooker.

Tendai Mtawarira 6.5

So much more dynamic and industrious than in Perth, as I’d predicted. His dubious substitution as swiftly as 50th minute only led to Dean Greyling’s nightmare, costly appearance (see below).

Substitutes on long enough to be rated:

Dean Greyling 2

Some will spit ‘where did you find the two from?’ -- did contribute to one menacing scrum. Otherwise, penalty-haemorrhaging, hot-headed (and untimely yellow-carded) liability on the night!

Andries Bekker 6.5

Welcome, prominent display off the bench, all-round. Perhaps might have replaced Kruger earlier than 53rd minute, as he beefed hitherto imperfect Bok lineout.

Marcell Coetzee 6.5

Eighteen minutes of restless energy and committed, back-tracking tackles after replacing Alberts.

Johan Goosen 6.5

Perhaps anti-Steyn brigade gush a tad too much about his every move, but at the same time you can see the kid is special. Tempo picked up noticeably with him on from 59th minute, and kicked fine, angled penalty.

HAVE YOUR SAY: How do you rate the Springboks' performance following their narrow loss against the All Blacks in Dunedin? Send your thoughts to Sport24.

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