Rugby Championship

Bok ratings: Front-row ferocity!

2017-08-19 21:33
Coenie Oosthuizen (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Spearing Argentina so damagingly in one of their favourite areas of bravado, the scrum, went a long way to explaining why South Africa opened their Rugby Championship account with a pleasing 37-15 triumph on Saturday.

Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, and its passionate, wildly enthusiastic crowd, is fast becoming a key stronghold for the Springboks and - even if there were certain imperfections and too-predictable aspects in the first half - the vibe in Port Elizabeth seemed to energise the team as a unit as they warmed with increasing polish and purpose to their task.

There were no outright flops in the Bok ranks, with virtually every starting player having notably pleasing moments at the very least, and the fact that the bench offered serious oomph only aided the assault on the plucky but outsmarted Pumas further.

Of all the combinations on the park, the front row was almost certainly the most smooth-firing of the lot for the host nation … both in a dominant set-piece showing but also because all of Coenie Oosthuizen (aptly named official player of the match), Malcolm Marx and Tendai Mtawarira were imperious in general play as well.

Here’s how I rated the Boks out of 10 in PE:

Andries Coetzee: 6

The wait to witness some really special qualities at Test level continues, but the Lions man was consistently composed in the last line of defence.

Raymond Rhule: 6

The occasional “flap” defensively, which will interest certain Australasian powerhouses in wide positions, but he was sharp on the front foot and won a brilliant turnover with a rip from an opponent’s hands.

Jesse Kriel: 6.5

Sometimes threatened to punch significant holes with deft, well-timed running lines. Firm tackles at handy junctures, too.

Jan Serfontein: 6.5

May be branded at fault for his attacking grubber that only led to a counter-attacking try at the other end of the park, but it came at a time when Boks were only going sideways and needed to try other tactics. Well-weighted pass teed up Rhule’s try, and his skilful hand-work aided another dot-down.   

Courtnall Skosan: 6.5

Wasn’t too heavily tested in his channel defensively, it seemed, but he broke a tackle and then turned on the gas for a morale-hiking try just before half-time.

Elton Jantjies: 7.5

Ever the enigma, I suppose ... but this was one of those games where his best qualities shone through for the most part. Metronomic with his goal-kicking, classy inside pass in Skosan try lead-up, and made brave tackles.

Ross Cronje: 6

A few pundits, this one included, rue that he doesn’t have that vital bit more natural nippiness. But he is a calm, low-error presence a lot of the time and efficient passer.

Uzair Cassiem: 7

The odd difficulty controlling the ball at base of scrum - it was usually going forward, too - but then he is not a regular eighth-man. On the day, though, the experiment came off satisfyingly. Was a strong presence both in the loose and tight-loose.   

Jaco Kriel: 7

One of the most vigorous and industrious Bok players in the first half, when things otherwise didn’t always go swimmingly. Regular menace at breakdowns, and linked effectively.

Siya Kolisi: 7.5

Gradually built a head of steam, and particularly delighted the crowd in the region of his birth with a thunderous second half, including some aggressive, productive ruck entries and good hand skills on the offensive. Crossed the “wash” as well.

Franco Mostert: 6

This admirable “engine” of tight-five play has purred a bit better on other occasions, but he still pulled his weight sufficiently. Pinged twice for going off feet at breakdown.

Eben Etzebeth: 6.5

The big enforcer was quite well policed by the Pumas, so had few protracted ball-in-hand initiatives, but he applied some good contesting pressure at lineouts and his leadership decisions and general demeanour were very good.

Coenie Oosthuizen: 8

Absolutely unbudging at scrum-time and his right shoulder came into effect a few times, too. Certainly working admirably hard on improving his reputation for technical infringements at the set-piece, and his carrying and tackling was first-rate, into the bargain.

Malcolm Marx: 7

The first Bok lineout throw-in went awry, but then he settled into utterly reliable service. Always a muscular factor in collisions and in stealing terms, and helped the scrum mastery.   

Tendai Mtawarira: 7.5

Apparently a record 30th consecutive Championship match, and the seasoned loosehead celebrated with a near-champagne performance. Once sent young Pumas tighthead foe Enrique Pieretto on “Beast Airways” at a scrum, and was routinely robust in the open exchanges.

Standout substitute:

Pieter-Steph du Toit and Jean-Luc du Preez: 7.5   

It was hard to separate the blond bombers, so why not a dead heat for the mantle? Both provided exactly the energy, hunger and sense of go-forward you wish for in second-half impact players, and Du Toit, in particular, looks as though he is swiftly regaining some lost form.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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Saturday, 30 September 2017
South Africa v Australia, Bloemfontein 17:05
Sunday, 01 October 2017
Argentina v New Zealand, Buenos Aires 00:40
Saturday, 07 October 2017
South Africa v New Zealand, Cape Town 17:05
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