Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points following the Springboks’ 37-14 win over France in the first Test at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria:
1. Marx on the charge!
Hooker Malcolm Marx thoroughly deserved his man-of-the match effort after producing a great all-round performance.
He proved a menace with ball in hand, troubling the French with several barn-storming runs, while at the same time displaying sound distribution skills - it was his assist that led to Jesse Kriel’s opening try.
The Bok scrum was solid for most parts and Marx should take some credit, while a few lineouts went astray which is perhaps one area to improve on.
2. Lions selections vindicated
Coach Allister Coetzee responded to media cries by loading his team with Lions - seven players from the Johannesburg franchise started on Saturday - and they did not let the coach down.
I’ve already lauded Marx, but the majority of his provincial team-mates weren’t too far behind.
Elton Jantjies continued his fine form from Super Rugby and his goal-kicking was deadly accurate, while his halfback partner Ross Cronje seemed to have a calming influence - he will also forever remember his debut try which came off a planned lineout move when he received an inside pass from the equally impressive Warren Whiteley.
Franco Mostert was industrious, while Andries Coetzee looked at home at the back, as did Courtnall Skosan out wide, albeit with limited opportunities.
3. Home penalty try proved decisive
With the Boks leading 16-14 in the 60th minute, the game appeared to be on a knife edge - before a penalty try was awarded to the hosts when Kiwi referee Glen Jackson deemed that Skosan was taken out without the ball.
Skosan chased a chip in behind the French defence and looked set to score on debut, only to be taken out by France fullback Brice Dulin before he could grasp the ball.
It was touch and go, but looked like the correct call was made.
For his efforts, Dulin was also sent to the sin-bin and during his absence the Boks ran in two more tries to kill off the game as a contest.
4. Lots to work on for Boks
Yes, it was a good start by the Springboks, but fans shouldn’t get too carried away.
There's lots to work on. This was a weak French team and they’ll be stronger next week when several stars return to the starting line-up.
For the hosts, there were some issues at scrum time and a few lost lineouts (3), as well as some kick-errors.
The Boks slipped 21 tackles (France also missed 21) but I feel the positives outweighed the negatives in that regard - illustrated by the way South Africa defended their line like trojans in the last 10 minutes.
For most parts, the Boks dominated the contact situations and their willingness to attack - especially from deep - was welcome to see.
They succeeded with 5 line-breaks (France made zero) and made an impressive 535m on attack, compared the 437m of the French.
France made more ball carries (135) than South Africa (88) and in the end also enjoyed more territory (60%) and possession (58%).
They also executed more passes (183) than their hosts 130.
These statistics should be enough to keep the Springbok heads on the ground heading into the second Test.
5. Potent Bok bench
I felt second half substitutions played a significant role in swaying the Test in South Africa’s favour.
It was not the most experienced backline picked - there were only 54 combined caps in the starting backline - but the Boks had the experience of Frans Steyn and Francois Hougaard to call on.
Steyn came on to play his first Test since 2012 and his presence is long overdue, while I thought Hougaard displayed great impetus on attack - it was his quick thinking from deep inside his own half which led to Jan Serfontein’s try.
Pieter-Steph du Toit could also prove a very handy substitute in future, while Steven Kitshoff should start ahead of a struggling Tendai Mtawarira.