Cape Town – The promise shown by centres Rohan Janse van
Rensburg, who was especially assertive, and Francois Venter provided one of few
satisfying aspects as a Springbok XV salvaged a 31-31 draw with the Barbarians
in London on Saturday.
At least you could say that the time-honoured attacking
spirit of BaaBaas rugby was adhered to on a day when the sides – reasonably
“scratch” outfits, both – equally split 10 tries, some of them very easy on the
But there was also plenty of worrisome naivety and lack of
cohesion from the Boks, in particular, and they had to dig deep to find two
tries in the closing nine minutes just to earn their share of the overall
spoils from 31-19 down.
It would be daft of people to read too many signals of gloom
into the South African performance by relating it to the blue-chip Test against
England at Twickenham next weekend – the Springbok team for that altogether
more serious clash will differ vastly from the rookie-laden one fielded against
Nevertheless, you could argue with some conviction that the
general climate of fragility around the game in our country remained largely
unaltered after this exercise.
For the umpteenth time this season, men in green and gold
jerseys struggled to get on the front foot for any consistent periods of time,
the breakdowns were a near-disaster, collisions weren’t dominated often enough,
and defensive structure went alarmingly pear-shaped in some instances too.
On the minor plus side, the Janse van Rensburg/Venter
midfield duo, despite some understandably ropy moments in alignment terms given
their first-time partnership, offered more punch than has been demonstrated by
any other twelve and thirteen alliance for the Boks during 2016.
The Bok scrum also functioned well, and those – like the
great second-rower Victor Matfield – who feel that the national side has been
inexplicably ignoring the rolling maul witnessed its resurrection with some
sterling results on this occasion.
Here’s how I rated
the Boks out of 10 at Wembley Stadium:
Jesse Kriel: 5
Satisfactory at best; did little to suggest he deserves to
pip Willie le Roux to likely occupancy of the fullback jersey against England.
Still short of the X-factor of last year, and struggled in defensive situations
near own try-line. Ruan Combrinck took over at the back for second half.
Sergeal Petersen: 4.5
Alas, this game would have been a more pronounced shocker
for him … but for a moment of attack magic just after halftime when he broke
in-field beautifully and cracked on the pace for a fine try. Otherwise, the
lightweight fellow (82kg) found gigantic wing rival Taqele Naiyarovoro (125kg)
awfully difficult to handle and was “bounced” way too often by him, or others,
Francois Venter: 7
Always sought to be constructive, and although there were
flaws to his play, seemed to blossom increasingly as the game wore on,
including doing the finishing-touches job to Boks’ second-last try. Strong shout
for No 13 shirt at Twickers?
Rohan Janse van
Some issues with popping out of line when Boks were under
the whip, which placed pressure on those scrambling around him. But for
go-forward, the 22-year-old was a major revelation. Got over advantage line a
lot, was broadly “up for it” physically, and squeezed in for Boks’ levelling
try in 77th minute – thoroughly deserved.
Jamba Ulengo: 6
Blew hot and cold, but on such a collectively helter-skelter
occasion perhaps that was inevitable. Made some decent strides via those long
legs at times, but lost one important aerial contest and tackling technique
open to some scrutiny.
Pat Lambie: 5
The captain on the day continues to look off the pace in his
gradual comeback from that violent concussion incident earlier in the year.
Flashes of authority, but still standing too deep, making errors in linking
play and place-kicking looking erratic as well.
Rudy Paige: 5.5
Petered out a little after really bright start; particularly
lively and energetic in first quarter, but then couldn’t quite bring genuine
authority to a still-problematic Bok berth in the post-Fourie du Preez climate.
Nizaam Carr: 6.5
Demonstrated healthy stamina: some of his best moments came
towards the business end. Good tackle count, marauded and linked well out wide,
and lovely hand skills in build-up to Janse van Rensburg’s face-saving late
Oupa Mohoje: 5
Sorry, but for a blindside flank we are still just not
getting enough mongrel, front-foot value and consistency of industry from
Mohoje. Hardly deserves to retain spot against English. A few solid tackles,
and one fine, cork-screwing run … before Boks were turned over, to undo the
Roelof Smit: 6
Flashes of potential from the Blue Bulls fetcher, who won
two important penalties while wrestling for pilfers at breakdowns -- yet it
must be remembered Boks were badly bossed on the whole there. Clever breakout
from maul for first-half try.
Pieter-Steph du Toit:
Seldom delivers a below-par game for the Springboks, and
here his relative experience came in handy in a raw pack. Constant, fiery
combatant at close quarters, commanding at lineout and great gallop for his try
off a lineout.
RG Snyman: 5.5
Solid from the lanky Bok debutant, if not spectacular. Gave
a bit of early grunt, but handling let him down once.
Lourens Adriaanse: 6.5
Did well as scrum anchor-man, including mighty heave when
Boks claimed heel against head. Running neck and neck with Vincent Koch to
start at Twickenham?
Malcolm Marx: 5.5
A bit disappointing. This was his chance to confirm his mettle
as a ball-carrier, and little was seen of that. Slightly eclipsed by Lions
squad-mate Akker van der Merwe in BaaBaas shirt.
Tendai Mtawarira: 6.5
Seems to be coming into some well overdue form this season
as it nears its close. Like Adriaanse, bossed his opposite number at the
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