Cape Town – A streaker intruded onto the AMI Stadium pitch late in the All Blacks’ widely-predicted 41-13 demolition of the Springboks on Saturday.
Television largely shielded us from the, er, flashpoint so we will never know whether the person was a worthy candidate for standout factor of the match.
What we can pretty confidently say is that the mantle was never warranted by a South African on a night when Bok frailties were instead only laid painfully bare again.
The score-line ended up being worse – though perhaps not by that much? – than many domestic pundits had first feared, with the New Zealanders registering six tries to one, some of their dot-downs coming with consummate ease as chaotic visiting defensive organisation proved a significant bugbear.
Bok fans had to settle for the solace of fitful passages of play in which the losers were reasonably bright and astute, especially during a more competitive first half.
Among those crumbs of comfort was confirmation of the rich potential of Pieter-Steph du Toit, the 24-year-old who was arguably the best lock in this Test and my pick as the Boks’ own premier performer, albeit closely followed by Warren Whiteley, Francois Louw and Adriaan Strauss.
Here’s how I rated the Boks out of 10 in Christchurch:
Johan Goosen: 5.5
Tried hard to be constructive, with one promising in-field bust, and took a couple of good options. Defensive shortcomings probably attributable more to collective Bok structural woes there.
Bryan Habana: 5
Timed his burst intelligently to crash over for lone Bok try, in first half. But has to take his share of the rap for team’s leaky tendencies in wide channels.
Jesse Kriel: 5.5
Threatened to crack the advantage line once or twice. No particularly glaring lapses in his channel when Boks were under cosh, but still short of influence shown last year.
Juan de Jongh: 5.5
Committed and often adhesive. But few signs of X-factor, either – a problem throughout current Bok ranks.
Francois Hougaard: 6
This scrumhalf as long-term wing answer? I still strongly suspect not. But give him his due: ever-gutsy here, with some solid aid on defence and a couple of safe high-ball takes.
Elton Jantjies: 4
Sands of time at Test level for the flyhalf may well have run out here. Horribly inconsistent on the night, including wince-worthy, elementary errors that effectively led to two tries against Boks. Also botched kick-off straight from the break. A few brave tackles.
Faf de Klerk: 3.5
More traumatic outing than Jantjies, and that’s saying something. Has lurched violently backwards of late. Game-management negligible, kicking poor, and gave oceans of space to both All Black No 9s used (Messrs Smith and Perenara).
Warren Whiteley: 6.5
Against the best, chose good opportunity to confirm he is, indeed, Test-class. Especially vibrant in first half, with good carries and tackles, and lovely shimmy and offload for Habana try.
Oupa Mohoje: 4.5
Calling Oupa … calling Oupa? Anybody there? Overwhelmingly anonymous stint; quickly subbed in second half. Even his tackling relish in earlier Championship games seemingly vanished.
Francois Louw: 6.5
Much improved on occasion of 50th appearance. Often the first to appear at breakdowns. Vital tackle on charging Malakai Fekitoa near Bok line on one occasion.
Pieter-Steph du Toit: 7
Blond head popped up everywhere. Commanding overall showing. Big drive before Bok try, priceless steal under pressure beneath own posts, and seriously rangy on cover-defence.
Eben Etzebeth: 5.5
By his high standards, this was a pretty quiet one, though still did his honest share of coalface toil. I say it again … rising danger of over-play and associated fatigue.
Vincent Koch: 5.5
Battled to enforce a right shoulder at scrums, and pinged twice, but otherwise a fair enough Test, justifying recall. Sprightly in open play, with powerful carries and decisive tackles.
Adriaan Strauss: 6.5
Malcolm Marx’s “difficult” debut as lineout-thrower in second half – about three went astray – only reminded how valuable Strauss remains as a Deadeye Dick in that area. The skipper was much more prominent in general exchanges, too, and won a breakdown penalty.
Tendai Mtawarira: 5
It becomes tedious to have to describe his ordinariness. Once again, not a patch on the Beast of old. Just seems to have nothing left, or new, to offer.
Jaco Kriel: 5.5
So much for the much-trumpeted, anticipated impact of the forward-heavy Springbok bench! The Boks stayed overwhelmingly on the back foot as changes increasingly occurred during the second half, and few subs made any discernible difference. After tricky thought, I opted for tearaway flank Kriel, as he scurried about keenly and made some tackles. But that was about it.
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