Cape Town – Three Test matches, twice top of the pops in
that time on the Sport24 performance card … you have to say that Faf de Klerk
has made a forceful start to his international career.
The 24-year-old provided one of the limited reasons for
Springbok supporters to smile, in terms of longer-term possibilities, as
Allister Coetzee’s charges ground out a 19-13 final-Test victory over Ireland
in Port Elizabeth to complete a just as grimly-fought 2-1 series triumph on
If anything, the Boks ticked more boxes in the pack at
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium than they did behind the scrum, where inspiration
among the outside backs remains in disconcertingly short supply.
Here’s how I rated
the Boks out of 10 at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium:
Willie le Roux: 4.5
That acclaimed X-factor still absent; little evidence to
suggest he is bolted down at No 15 for Springboks. Reckless aerial challenge
saw him binned, and understaffed Boks conceded converted try in that period.
Ruan Combrinck: 6.5
Tenacious Irish defending, following his field day in
Jo’burg, meant the Lions flier had fewer chances to crack on the pace. But
showed off the rounded qualities to his general game, including massive penalty
goal and some decent line kicks.
Lionel Mapoe: 5
So-so match, so-so series. Here he again failed to put a
proper stamp on proceedings either in attack or on defence, and his handling
could have been better. Will hopefully have learnt plenty … and probably yearns
for better opportunities with ball in hand in future Tests; the pill isn’t
getting crisply to No 13 often.
Damian de Allende:
Solid leg drive … but not a whole lot else. Appears to have
mysteriously frozen as an off-loader, and lapses in defensive concentration
don’t help. Fitness levels steadily improving, so may be better in a few weeks’
JP Pietersen: 6.5
A personal view was that man-of-the-match award was
stretching things a tad; he’s had many better games in his long career. But
livelier and more assertive, and certainly rounded off clinically for his try.
Elton Jantjies: 6
No significant progress on Ellis Park … which still meant he
was decent enough despite certain flaws. Kicking out of hand was notably poor
at times, meaning pressure was too quickly returned, and was a bit of a
turnstile for Luke Marshall’s try. Still, his shrewd cross-kick to tee up
Pietersen’s try demonstrated his game-breaking abilities.
Faf de Klerk: 8
This Test (and thus the entire series) hung in the balance
until after the siren sounded. The Boks had to dig deep … and none did this
better than the gutsy, durable little No 9, with a daring spot tackle to quite
possibly prevent a decisive Irish try. He had also made a superb aerial poach
earlier when the tourists threatened greatly, too. Snappy service; broadly
Warren Whiteley: 7
Although seemingly impeded by ongoing shoulder woes, the
Lions dynamo bit the bullet for a tireless display. Tackled spiritedly, strong
on long lineout throw and made a few smart, mini-busts with ball in hand that
so nearly saw him bolt clear, but for alert Irish defence.
Siya Kolisi: 6.5
Far from a future shoe-in at blindside flank, I still
suspect, but give him credit: saved best for last in the series. Mended earlier
habit of being dispossessed in contact, and made some very firm tackles.
Francois Louw: 6.5
Stepped up as a senior figure on crunch occasion despite obvious
tiredness from UK season. Like Kolisi, probably his best Test of the three.
Lots of honest work that might have escaped those who prefer to see the flashy
Pieter-Steph du Toit: 7
Always seemed at the fulcrum of things, especially when the
Boks needed muscle and determination while under assault. Already very close to
a must-pick, and a beacon of SA hope for Rugby Championship.
Eben Etzebeth: 6.5
Not the kind of game where his athletic qualities were going
to come to the fore too often, but robust as usual in the boiler room. Safe as
houses on Bok lineout throw, even if customary poach or two didn’t happen here.
Frans Malherbe: 6
Still couldn’t quite shed series-long penchant for being a
penalty liability; an ongoing concern. But some big scrum heaves, and every now
and then a crunching, momentum-stopping tackle.
Adriaan Strauss: 6
Much less sloppy and more focussed than in first two Tests,
including flawless lineout throwing-in. But has he done enough to retain first-choice
hooker status and leadership? Jury out.
Tendai Mtawarira: 6.5
Did move a notch or two above too-frequent mediocrity here. Some
zesty ball-carries, and gave the Irish scrum frequent bother as well.
Steven Kitshoff: 7.5
A welcome debut even if only for 24 minutes … yet we so
quickly saw Test class from him. Bent poor Tadhg Furlong over backwards at his
dream first scrum, made drives and tackles -- one a real ton-of-bricks effort.
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