Cape Town – Allister Coetzee needs to act swiftly and
decisively to revive his now-tottering Springboks, victims of a first ever away
defeat to Argentina in Salta on Saturday.
They were justly beaten 26-24 by a Pumas side unfortunate to
have come off second-best in the opening Castle Rugby Championship clash last
weekend, so this latest setback only amplified the sense of fragility around
once-proud Bok rugby at present.
On a day when his starting line-up produced a first-half
horror show, one ray of light was the zest he got in several cases off the
bench, which he raided quite liberally early in the second period.
By the Sport24 performance sheet, flame-haired bench front-ranker
Steven Kitshoff, now of Bordeaux, eclipsed all other Boks to top honours, even
if he was only ousting a pretty humdrum bunch of colleagues …
Here’s how I rated
the Boks out of 10 at Salta:
Johan Goosen: 5.5
Mixed bag last Saturday, mixed bag again. Handling let him
down once or twice. Perhaps warrants further chances to settle at No 15; did
punch one or two holes. Great heart, late on, to make vital track-back tackle
soon after receiving painful blow.
Ruan Combrinck: 4
Looked badly impeded by a knock from early on; really ought
to have come off well before 32nd minute.
Lionel Mapoe: 5
Sneaks a 50 percent tally primarily due to one determined,
try-saving tackle over the line on Manuel Montero, the lanky Pumas left wing.
Otherwise, simply couldn’t impose himself … again. Penalised once for not
Damian de Allende:
Saved from lower rating by a few demonstrations of powerful
leg strength -- one nearly led to own try, but he frustratingly lost control of
ball inches from line. Creative game still way below last year’s levels, and had
shoddy moments in the tackle.
Bryan Habana: 5.5
Among seniors who tried valiantly to light a fire in second
half; some determined surges, and tidy finish for 45th-minute try. Alert
on cover defence too.
Elton Jantjies: 4
Still having terrible troubling merging his Lions instincts
with Bok template (whatever it’s meant to be). Again too jittery, error-prone
and imprecise, including costly, erratic place-kicking. Some early mettle on
Faf de Klerk: 5
Albeit presumably to plan, frittered away some ball with often
fruitless box-kicks. Far less of a menace to Pumas than last week, and still
not an ideal “controller” at No 9. Made one really daft decision at advanced
stage to take quick tap when situation cried out for simple shot at posts;
luckily Boks retained their penalty.
Warren Whiteley: 5.5
Got around the park, and did some useful cleaning-up when
others around him were lax on defence. Involved in occasional ball-in-hand
offensives. Still to produce a real Test-level cracker, though …
Oupa Mohoje: 5.5
Not as prominent as at Mbombela, but still one of the better
Bok pack members. Got through tons of rugged tackling work, even if some were
high and fortunate to escape censure. Lineout skills again evident.
Francois Louw: 4.5
Hard to see him surviving in XV to play Australia in
fortnight. Another sub-standard outing as fetcher, including wretched first
half when Bok breakdown work was broadly pitiful. In fairness, thunderous few
minutes after break, including brilliant little back-flip to tee up Habana try
… but then yanked off.
Lood de Jager: 5.5
Reasonable, though on Saturday’s showing (curtailed to 44
minutes before substitution), Pieter-Steph du Toit may well reclaim
hotly-contested No 5 jersey.
Eben Etzebeth: 6
One regular who did put in an honest shift. Lineout banker,
and made two critical defensive interventions, including pushing a flying
Matias Orlando into touch when try otherwise beckoned. Striking stamina levels.
Vincent Koch: 4.5
Failed to build on last week’s promise. One or two sturdy
enough scrums, but lacked the explosive power seen in Nelspruit, and shown up
Adriaan Strauss: 4
Captaincy under raging scrutiny now. It would so help his
cause if own playing levels were suitably decent. Frankly, they just aren’t
this year. Outdone by Agustin Creevy for pure mongrel, and poor at breakdowns
where he should be a key helper to the cause.
Tendai Mtawarira: 4
Sorry, but the likeable “Beast” – even on the occasion of
equalling Os du Randt for most prop caps – gave another comfort-zone performance,
something that has become too habitual. Anonymous outside set-piece. Shakeup
needed at No 1 … now see below.
Steven Kitshoff: 7
Du Toit and Jaco Kriel also provided tangible, fresh gusto in
the second half, but barrelling loosehead prop Kitshoff made enough impact both
at scrum-time and in general play over some 36 minutes to bag top marks overall
on a bleak day for the Boks. Did miss one tackle badly.