Cape Town – The much-trumpeted new
Springbok broom only whipped up an unedifying, eye-stinging cloud of dust in
its first exposure at Newlands on Saturday.
Instead a fiercely-committed Ireland swept
clean for a shock, 26-20 first-time triumph on South African soil in the first
Test, and in doing so leaving a heap more questions than answers for the
senior-figure combo of Allister Coetzee and Adriaan Strauss.
There were so many flaws in the Bok
display, made all the more humiliating by the fact that Ireland had 14 men for
almost an hour, that the skipper from the last regime, Jean de Villiers, was
aptly moved to venture in his SuperSport punditry colours: “They will have to
be solutions-driven this week (in the lead-up to the second encounter in
Seldom a pessimist, he did strike a note of
stoicism by adding that it had been a “learning day … this group will come out
Significantly upped doses of mongrel,
precision and intelligence will be required at Emirates Airline Park, even if
the thin air of the Highveld seems a good place for redemption after the Irish
would have enjoyed the home-like coolness, clouds and lush surface of Newlands.
On a collectively muted, ideas-shy day for
the Boks, finding standout Springbok individuals was a lean-pickings business,
but debutant scrumhalf Faf de Klerk earns premier Sport24 mantle for the
encouraging potential he showed, despite the multi-pronged difficulties around
how I rated the Boks out of 10 at Newlands:
le Roux: 4.5
Perhaps not for the first time in his Test
career, the supposed talisman was just too predictable in his very quest to be
unpredictable. Some badly-weighted off-loads, one glaring defensive fumble, and
very lateral and space-cramping for others in his attacking sorties.
Looked for work diligently in limited
space, but also first Bok to concede penalty – straight from game’s kick-off –
and made some mistakes.
Would be unjust to be too harsh in judging
his first start for SA; ball so seldom reached his channel. Defence largely
de Allende: 5.5
Where is the player who so lit up 2015?
Unconvincing since his return from injury for Stormers, and really no better in
Boks’ first Test of year. Conceded penalty for high tackle. Some glimpses of
Clinical, knife-like finish to one of
painfully few creative Bok moves, and sometimes showed welcome relish (and
success) in challenging for 50-50 aerial balls. Could provide more energy on
Had done little wrong until unfortunate,
much-debated pole-axing from CJ Stander left the luckless customer lights out
in 23rd minute and stretchered off.
de Klerk: 7.5
Undoubtedly “up for it”, and constantly
effervescent with snappy service … even as opposite number Conor Murray had
quite some outing too. Set tone for his lively 70 mins or so with gutsy,
crunching hit on Irish loosehead Jack McGrath.
Irish had done their homework, and then
some. Normally key Bok ball-carrier made unusually little headway, and
sometimes gang-tackled backwards. Bad fumble in one pick-up off back of a
scrum. Has had many, many better Tests.
Began to come into his own with ball in
hand as game developed, but broadly speaking didn’t provide nearly enough oomph
for a Bok blind-sider. A “Bone Collector” he ain’t.
Like fellow overseas-based loosie colleague
Vermeulen, under-delivered on known international potential. Still, one very
good steal … and Boks couldn’t boast many of those.
de Jager: 4.5
Last season he became fairly used to Bok
player-of-match laurels; desperately short of those standards in this one.
Twice had ball ripped out in contact, yellow-carded, and some poor ruck
Lineout work not far off best, but
otherwise the “enforcer” didn’t get properly out of the blocks. Bad tackle
technique culpable in one Irish try, and dropped a routine pass.
Core function is to provide stable scrum,
and few gripes on that score. One alert tackle on in-field Irish sniper when
try seemed on, but several costly breakdown penalties brings his mark right
Staple work largely OK for the Bok hooker.
But you also want to see more than that from captain of a labouring cause,
don’t you? Just not animated enough as leader; went through motions for too
One Bok stalwart to come reasonably close
to expected service. Some purposeful carries, useful tackles and dependable at
Called to fray midway through first half,
while probably still short of best fitness, so under those circumstances
performed pluckily and combined well with Lions colleague De Klerk. Lovely
inside pass for only “created” Bok try. Flashes of promise also from Warren
Whiteley and Pieter-Steph du Toit.
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing