2014: Springboks year in review

2014-12-02 15:04
Heyneke Meyer (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - The Springboks have their feet up after a rather topsy-turvy year of results.

The Boks played 13 official Tests in 2014, winning nine and losing four for a 69% win-loss ratio. They also beat the World XV 47-13 in an unofficial Test at Newlands.

They finished on a low note last Saturday, losing 12-6 to Wales in Cardiff. It was their second loss on their year-end tour, after going down 29-15 to Ireland to start off the tour. In between the two defeats, they beat England (31-28 in London) and Italy 22-6 in Padova).

Sport24 takes a look back over the Springboks' 2014 season:

Beating the All Blacks in the home Rugby Championship match was no doubt the highlight of the season. In fact, beating the All Blacks was perhaps more important for the Springboks than winning the Rugby Championship. Their last win came way back in 2011 and under the coaching of Heyneke Meyer, the Boks had lost five on the trot against their biggest foes. Things had to change this year, especially given the fact that 2015 is a Rugby World Cup year. On that day at Ellis Park, the Boks matched the All Blacks from a physical, skill and mental perspective - something which could come in very handy at next year's World Cup in England and Wales.

The Boks definitely left their worst performance for last, going down 12-6 to Wales in Cardiff. The Boks made an incredible amount of basic errors and never looked like crossing the whitewash. Former coach Nick Mallett was right when he said the players made simple schoolboy errors.

The Rugby Championship comeback in Salta against Argentina narrowly eclipses the last-gasp win over Wales in Nelspruit in mid year. The Boks trailed the Pumas 28-16 midway through the second half in Salta before fighting back to earn a 33-31 win. However, the general consensus afterwards was that it was more a case of the Argentines losing the Test than the Springboks winning it. On that day, the Springbok scrum was pummelled like never before, but they executed the driving maul well late in the game to sneak a victory. The Test against Wales in Nelspruit was perhaps also a lucky escape - and perhaps a sign of things to come later in the year - but fighting back from a 17-0 deficit in the first half to eke out a 31-30 win showed great character.

Duane Vermeulen was no doubt the standout player of the year for the Springboks, and was deservedly nominated for World Rugby's Player of the Year. The award eventually went to New Zealand's Brodie Retallick, but Vermeulen must have come very close. His super human effort against the All Blacks at Ellis Park proved just how vital he is to the Springbok cause. Vermeulen had not trained all week due to a cracked rib cartilage and there was still uncertainty regarding his participation mere minutes before kick-off. But he produced a stellar performance, and outshone counterpart Kieran Read, who many regard as the best No 8 in world rugby.

Injured scrumhalf Fourie du Preez was dearly missed in 2014. Ruan Pienaar, who was also ruled out with injury later in the season, was less than impressive with his slow service behind the scrum. Cobus Reinach showed glimpses of his potential and will no doubt play many more Tests for the Springboks. However, his lack of experience showed at times, while Francois Hougaard was too erratic too often to justify a starting spot. Du Preez will add some much needed stability and leadership when he returns - hopefully fully fit - in 2015. With Jean de Villiers sidelined for an extended period, Du Preez may even be given the captain's armband.

Flyhalf Handre Pollard stepped up to the big stage with aplomb. A week after leading the Baby Boks to the final of the Junior World Championships, Pollard made his senior international debut in the 51-6 win over Scotland in Port Elizabeth. His performances in both games against the All Blacks were impressive to say the least. His tactical kicking needs work though and it will be a tough battle between him and Pat Lambie for the Bok No 10 jersey at next year's World Cup.

The Boks' 2014 results:

End of year tour
November 29 - Wales 12-6 South Africa
November 22 - Italy 6-22 South Africa
November 15 - England 28-31 South Africa
November 8 - Ireland 29-15 South Africa

Rugby Championship
October 4 - South Africa 27-25 New Zealand
September 27 - South Africa 28-10 Australia
September 13 - New Zealand 14-10 South Africa
September 6 - Australia 24-23 South Africa
August 23 - Argentina 31-33 South Africa
August 16 - South Africa 13-6 Argentina

Incoming Series
June 28 - South Africa 55-6 Scotland
June 21 - South Africa 31-30 Wales
June 14 - South Africa 38-16 Wales
June 7 - South Africa 47-13 World XV*

*Not an official Test

Read more on:    springboks  |  herman mostert  |  rugby

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