Cape Town - If South Africa “broke down” at
the breakdown in their imperfect victory over Scotland, they found inspiring
mechanics for the very necessary repair job against Samoa at Loftus on
The 2013 Springboks and their coach Heyneke
Meyer are clearly fast learners from errant ways, because their contrasting
domination of that area this time was a major influencing factor in their
purposeful, gutsy 56-23 dismantling of the typically robust Pacific Islanders.
Strangleholds at ruck-time and in
collisions more broadly - with starting flankers Francois Louw and Willem
Alberts to the fore - paved the way for the impressive home win against
opponents who retreated increasingly into cynical habits as the life was slowly
squeezed out of them.
Here’s how I rated the Bok starting XV:
15 Willie le Roux: 7.5
Made a notably shaky start, no doubt to the
consternation of his swelling fan club, with an elementary ball-spill and then
forward pass ... but only got better and better thereafter. A key,
space-creating architect of several Bok tries and attacking moves, he has a
happy habit of ghosting in from seemingly nowhere to spark things.
14 Bryan Habana: 7
It’s tough having to mark powerhouse
Alesana Tuilagi, but then Habana has never lacked anything in bravery and this
was another whole-hearted performance by the veteran who chased, scurried and
scrambled and was duly rewarded with two tries – including his 50th for the
Boks. Pity about that little professional foul and attached “yellow”, which
loses him half a point.
13 JJ Engelbrecht: 7.5
Regressed a little at Mbombela after his
bright start to the Test season against Italy, but here the lanky Bulls
midfield dynamo restored standards in a big way. Showed fine pace and power for
his first-half try, and is making a strong case for retention in the Castle
12 Jean de Villiers: 7
Just keeps on “pitching up”, doesn’t he?
Captain Courageous for 70 minutes, until his deserved invitation to rest, not
too long after surviving with a smile a red-card “chiropractor” tackle from Tuilagi.
Typically stout defensively, but also reminded of his old link-play abilities.
11 Bjorn Basson: 6.5
Competently handled everything that came
his way, even if Habana’s side of the field tended to be busier in offensive
play. Good round-off job for a try in the last minute before half-time.
10 Morne Steyn: 7
After bumbling his way through the Scotland
game, played with so much more zest and all-roundedness at his most beloved
ground. Crisp distribution in some exhilarating backline plays, and also made
one very alert, potentially try-saving tackle. Probably wished to have fared a
little better off the tee.
9 Ruan Pienaar: 6.5
With that languid body language of his,
sometimes can give the impression he’s half asleep, and did fumble once. But
served evidence of his strong kicking game, and coolly set up Habana’s second
dot-down. Sound enough 67 minutes, until Piet van Zyl got some game-time.
8 Pierre Spies: 5.5
Subbed at the break - whether he had an
injury was not immediately clear - but had again failed to deliver a suitably
busy display anyway. Easily the least visible loosie, and knocked on once at
the back of a scrum. Did claim some clean lineout grabs.
7 Willem Alberts: 8
I had recently dared to suggest the “Bone
Collector” might not be a convincing 80-minute Test player: this was an immense
retort. A huge success at both blindside flank and then No 8 in second half.
Thumping tackles to give Samoans taste of own medicine, some turnovers, and
6 Francois Louw: 8
Just seems born to play Test rugby, even if
he made a slightly late start. Played as if he owed the team something after
being given last week off for nuptial purposes. Prominent as ever in breakdown
area, but supplemented that with burgeoning charges – two tries fitting reward
for constant energy.
5 Flip van der Merwe: 7
Unquestionably gave Boks more tight-five
grunt, so essential against these foes. Adapted well to middle-of-lineout
chore, got stuck into collisions, and spun out deft pass to initiate move
leading to Basson’s try.
4 Eben Etzebeth: 7.5
Another hugely pleasing, never-flagging
effort by this only 21-year-old “veteran”. Makes plenty of tackles, not all of
them especially visible, always up for the physical stuff and confident lineout
presence. Kept his temper in check on a tetchy afternoon, too.
3 Jannie du Plessis: 7
Much more active in general play, with
regular tackles and cleanouts. Also did his bit at tighthead in ensuring quick
scrum go-forward for Boks.
2 Adriaan Strauss: 7
Some unusual imprecision last time out, but
here the hooker was back to professional, methodical best. Pinpoint lineout
accuracy, solid tight-loose contribution... and almost deserves a sympathy
point for surviving that objectionable squeeze he got where the sun don’t
1 Tendai Mtawarira: 7
See Jannie du Plessis, really!
*Regarding the substitutes, Siya Kolisi was
given the whole of the second half (although he did have to go off for a
concussion check) and scores a solid enough six; he was not as prominent as in
last week’s rousing Nelspruit debut. Most others weren’t on long enough to be
rated in an all-embracing way.
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