Cape Town – If Frik du Preez, now 78, remains Springbok rugby’s most luminary example of perfection in the broad requirements of second-row play, then young Lood de Jager went out of his way to try to emulate him in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
As it happened: South Africa v Scotland
The towering Cheetahs customer, in his first start for South Africa against an outclassed Scotland, put in a dynamic, magnificently untiring and versatile shift to only confirm that coach Heyneke Meyer will have the most pleasant of headaches at lock when all candidates are fit for the assault on World Cup 2015.
De Jager, the 21-year-old from Alberton, did not win the official player-of-the-match award after the rousing, eight-tries-to-nil triumph – it went to JP Pietersen on a day when the task was agreeably tricky – but earned top honours on the Sport24 scorecard ...
Here’s how I rated the Boks out of 10:
Willie le Roux: 7
The talisman was at his irresistible best in the Bok blitz of the first quarter, where they laid repeated siege to the Scottish tryline and crossed it three times ... including the inevitable five-pointer to the fullback himself. Then he went off for treatment to a head cut and when he returned the ball somehow didn’t get back to him much. No gremlins, though.
Cornal Hendricks: 6.5
Another for whom, on an otherwise up-tempo day for the Bok cause, the play seemed to largely skirt his areas of patrol. But always wished to be involved and his tackling was mostly smack on the mark.
JP Pietersen: 7.5
Further compelling indications here that a more permanent switch to No 13 is quite feasible for him. Slashing break and deft grubber to tee up third Bok try, and good arm swivel over line when tackled to register own score in second half. Assured defence.
Jan Serfontein: 7.5
Incredibly busy showing from the inside centre, who seemed to enjoy having an old Baby Bok ally nearby at flyhalf. Always happy to take the ball up, and strong in contact. Nick Mallett lauded his “outstanding” defending.
Lwazi Mvovo: 7.5
The No 11 jersey has so often been Bryan Habana’s, so it’s reassuring that someone like Mvovo can fit in so seamlessly. Electric pace to gather kick-through for his first try, and Scottish cover defence didn’t have a prayer when he intercepted a pass to dash away for second.
Handre Pollard: 7.5
Sparkling debut, plain and simple. Especially amazing when you consider he was still in New Zealand a week ago on junior duty. Bright start, attacking advantage line imperiously, and swelled in confidence from there. The future settled at 10? “Rock-solid in every way,” was Joel Stransky’s TV verdict.
Fourie du Preez: 6.5
Was just looking as though he was taking his Nelspruit game up a pleasing notch, and loving the front-foot situation, when he succumbed to untimely injury after a mere 29 minutes.
Duane Vermeulen: 7.5
Yes, it would be great to see the No 8 just a bit more involved in open play. That said, another huge, huge outing for pure industry and gladiatorial zeal -- from a guy who needs a break. Great leg-drive ahead of Pietersen’s try.
Schalk Burger: 8
Predicament: can Willem Alberts just waltz back into his No 7 shirt when fit again? Not if Burger, all tireless and constructive energy here, has a say on that front. Topped SA’s tackle count. “All over the place,” said admiring AJ Venter.
Marcell Coetzee: 7.5
Still not a born open-sider ... but growing into it significantly. Very sound deputising for Francois Louw at No 6. Lovely, marauding run before off-load for Lood de Jager’s charge to line. Oh yes, and two personal tries ...
Victor Matfield: 7
Good influence in leadership capacity, engaging shrewdly with referee. Customary mastery at lineout, and nice to see him hitting a ruck or two hard.
Lood de Jager: 8.5
Nothing quite like witnessing a 2.05m, 125kg giant turning on the gas in rampage to try-line ... enduring image of this game, and fitting it came from him. Colossal maiden start for him in green and gold. Brutal strength on drive, commanding at lineout, and huge tackle count – including some real crunchers.
Jannie du Plessis: 6
Because Marcel van der Merwe initially came on at loosehead for ailing Coenie Oosthuizen (see below), the knackered tighthead had to stay on for longer than he might have wished. But wonky Bok scrum more stable on his side, it seemed.
Bismarck du Plessis: 6
Like last week, unsurprisingly showed his levels of fatigue – again not quite the world leader in his berth we know him to be, though brought aggression and was responsible for great steal near own try-line during his 55 minutes on park.
Coenie Oosthuizen: 5.5
Early on, some storming carries by the burly unit, and showed turnover industry too. But has to be marked down, sadly, for repeated difficulties at scrum-time, including concession of penalties. In short, failed in core department.
Francois Hougaard: 7
He got more than 50 minutes of action as replacement scrumhalf and happily showed signs of the “Hougie” of old, playing with feisty purpose and confidence. Got the line away well, and only one minor knock-on error when he lost the ball on Trevor Nyakane’s not inconsiderable buttocks ...
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