How JP topped the Bok pops

2012-06-16 22:25
JP Pietersen (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg – JP Pietersen was the official choice for player-of-the-match as the Springboks clinched the Test series against England with a 36-27 victory over England at Coca-Cola Park here on Saturday ... and it was hard to quibble with that assessment.

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For the record, Sport24 had Willem Alberts, the wrecking-ball blindside flank, right up there with him at the top of our ratings, before his unfortunate departure through injury 12 minutes into the second half.

Yet Pietersen, the long-striding Sharks wing and sometimes centre, deserved all the laurels that came his way – he revealed afterwards that he was nearly subbed at half-time after being badly winded in a knock and struggling to find his breath.

But “second wind” certainly came his way as he played a vital role in South Africa closing out a tense, exciting and sometimes strangely see-sawing Test match.

Ratings out of 10:

Pat Lambie: 6

Inconclusive sort of performance from the fullback; fairly solid, but also didn’t quite grab with both hands his opportunity at the expense of crocked Zane Kirchner. Hurt an ankle himself in the first half, though, and was clearly hampered until departure in the 44th minute.

JP Pietersen: 8

All over the place (in best possible sense, mind) in his 44th appearance, certainly among his very finest. Nearly scored wonder try after snaking, power-punctuated run, did get the nerve-settling fourth Bok one, and produced some telling tackles as well.  Superb 80 minutes.

Jean de Villiers: 7.5

Captaincy is good for him! The outside centre was all bristling intent once more, making good surges, producing the deft last off-load for Pietersen’s try, and showing great anticipation and mettle on defence.

Frans Steyn: 7

Not the most subtle No 12 you’ll ever see, but his undoubted “presence” in that channel only adds to the close-quarters nightmares for opponents already trying to deal with bruising ball-carriers in Bok pack. When necessarily switched to fullback, produced one priceless intervention with overhead grab of dink when England’s fightback was at its peak and another visiting dot-down very much on!

Bryan Habana: 6

So full-blooded in Durban a week ago, this was simply one of those games where fewer opportunities for influence came his way. Substituted -- a rare experience -- at end of third quarter as Francois Hougaard shifted to left wing.

Morne Steyn: 6

The pivot is still hampered a little by his normally dead-eye precision off the tee going rather AWOL in the series thus far. (Got 16 points, nevertheless!) Mixture of good and bad in general play; plucky tackles at times but one or two wrong options on attack.

Francois Hougaard: 6.5

Better performance. The No 9 provided a slicker service than had been the case in first Test and tactical kicking showed improvement as well. Back to old “impact” position on wing during second half, but few opportunities there.

Pierre Spies: 7.5

Cracking all-round game by the oft-maligned No 8 ... if only all his Bok matches were like this. Made some prominent surges, kept up a high tackle-count, plus genuinely influential at the lineout.

Willem Alberts: 8

Sheer dynamite on the charge: second game on the trot where English bodies have repeatedly felt his full force. Particularly awesome first half but then missed lion’s share of second as he succumbed to injury and Bok disruptions then mounted further.

Marcell Coetzee: 6.5

Especially active in that opening quarter when Boks launched concerted, bludgeoning thrusts and the Sharks youngster was always a willing ball recipient. Got sucked into donkeywork as game wore on and Bok set-piece began to unravel. 

Juandre Kruger: 6.5

Lineout middle man was again looking extremely comfortable on Bok throw-in, collected some kick-offs smartly and was industrious in “basic” coalface work. Concern when taken off on the buggy after lengthy medical attention following 62nd-minute bang to neck – medical verdict on fitness anxiously awaited, no doubt.

Eben Etzebeth: 6.5

Nothing if not a yeoman, willing worker in both of his first two Tests for South Africa. Hates taking backward step. Contributed to Boks arguably shading the lock battle again – must be feeling effects of so much non-stop rugby; we’ll still see better at this level from him.

Jannie du Plessis: 6

Scrum took significant reverse-gear step when he was subbed around hour mark. Nice to see him getting more and more involved in carrying department in this series.

Bismarck du Plessis: 7.5

Someone nearby him has copyright on “Beast” mantle, but this fellow’s another one, that’s for sure. Massively influential in getting in English faces as Boks stampeded forward like men possessed in dominant first half. Couple of wonky lineout throws slightly blotted his copybook. Wisely, even if probably reluctantly, called off park midway through second period. Must be in danger of a wee bit of burnout?

Tendai Mtawarira: 6

Found England No 3 Dan Cole a trickier foe than at Mr Price Kings Park; couldn’t establish any meaningful mastery at scrum-time. But with his leg-drive in open play remains key component in Heyneke Meyer’s philosophy of gradually building a bridgehead before any “prettiness” becomes possible.

Substitutes used:

Adriaan Strauss: 5.5

Scant opportunity to shine in 20 minutes but did little visibly wrong. Maybe rued not having Cheetahs front-row ally Coenie Oosthuizen alongside him for oomph off bench this time?

Werner Kruger: 5

Cruel sometimes to judge a tighthead when whole pack reshuffles fairly violently, but fact remained that he was out there for some notably back-pedalling scrums.

Flip van der Merwe: 7

Took to second row with 18 minutes left as Bulls team-mate Kruger exited and got stuck in with decent zeal. One strong carry and applied lineout pressure on England throw, too.

Keegan Daniel: 7

Entry in 52nd minute as influential Alberts hobbled off, and repeated his Durban trick of providing strong energy levels and mobility.

Ruan Pienaar: 6

Got full last quarter and did his basics decently enough, though not as much of a noticeably positive effect on proceedings as last week.

Wynand Olivier: 5.5

No special impact despite getting almost all of second half. Doubts about credentials at highest level will probably persist?


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