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Bok ratings: Look away now!

2015-09-19 23:01
Lood de Jager (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - If what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, then South Africa should be well nigh invincible for the remainder of the World Cup.

Er, maybe.

About the only positive thing you can say in the aftermath of an earth-shuddering day for rugby – and not just our beloved, crying country - is that most Springbok players managed to get to their feet and find their emotionally-bloodied way to the tunnel in Brighton on Saturday.

They have lived to fight another day, following a stunning 34-32 upset at the hands of Japan’s Brave Blossoms, although that assignment looms uncomfortably quickly: they must pick up the pieces to face the famed brutality of Samoa just a week up the road in Birmingham.

The Boks were truly caught cold by the planet’s 13th-ranked nation in their RWC 2015 opener at the Community Stadium, all sorts of grotesque failings coming to the fore.

A massive turnaround task lies ahead for a shamed, presumably highly shell-shocked group of players.

Look away from their game one performance cards if you are squeamish ...

Here’s how I rated the Boks out of 10 in Brighton:

Zane Kirchner: 5

Many preconceived views on this player ... yet one of the better Boks on this ghastly day, in truth. Moment of early ball-in-hand promise, some gutsy front-on tackles and a big touch-finder just before halftime. Not type to pull a game from fire, though.  

Bryan Habana: 4

Body language of this senior pro perhaps needed to be better – morose sort of game, though deserved to be irked by Bok inability to create proper space for their fliers.  

Jesse Kriel: 4.5

Did try hard to make things happen, working desperately to wriggle out of low tackles and earning mini-break or two. Fatally swatted off in lead-up to popular winning try, though.

Jean de Villiers: 4

Looked, frankly, like the under-pressure veteran he is; had an effect on his normally vibrant leadership. Couldn’t get into space, plus some rare blemishes in defensive positioning.  

Lwazi Mvovo: 4.5

So little came his way as an offensive factor that it is hard to judge him. No glaring errors, which is something?

Pat Lambie: 5

Wasn’t empowered enough to take charge: lots of forwards seemed to smash it up laboriously off Pienaar. Glimpses of promise, but also a horribly shanked kick into touch straight after break.

Ruan Pienaar: 3.5

All he really did was serve as a shovel. And not always the zippiest one, at that. No hint of verve or inspiration, and we’ve said this about him often before.

Schalk Burger: 5

Arguably the hardest-working Bok player, to his credit. That mustn’t be overlooked. But also a bit too cavalier and prone to mistakes; could have protected ball better when in possession.

Pieter-Steph du Toit: 4.5

Tough gig having to come in as late blindside flank replacement for Willem Alberts. No special “wow” factor (where did we see that from SA as a whole?) but stuck determinedly enough to his guns.

Francois Louw: 4.5

Long way off his best, albeit another Bok who is well short of a recent gallop. Struggled for turnovers as the intended main man there, but did other solid work at close quarters.

Victor Matfield: 6

For little it’s worth, lock combination was probably Boks’ best by position. Matfield was right in the trenches for the duration, including trying to lead by example in dramatic closing minutes when SA were heavily under cosh: good stuff for man of 38.  

Lood de Jager: 6.5

Highlights Bok muddy waters in selection that he probably wouldn’t have played had Eben Etzebeth been fully fit! But not for first time in 2015, possibly the standout SA player. Consistently industrious in tight-loose, and lovely athleticism for tearaway try.

Jannie du Plessis: 4

Made bright enough start in open play; good mobility and purpose. (Was he denied only a second Bok career try by poor TMO work?) But his game receded rather violently, along with Bok fortunes.  

Bismarck du Plessis: 4

Always the sort of player to push boundaries, and sometimes that works amazingly. But here he was heavily pinged at breakdown or offside line - three penalties - so unavoidably has to be marked down.

Tendai Mtawarira: 3.5

Particularly innocuous and disappointing, I thought. Turned over in an early carry, and the bug just spread through ranks. Struggled for real scrum oomph, too.

Standout substitute:

Fourie du Preez: 6  

Adriaan Strauss and Siya Kolisi also tried valiantly to light the fire off bench, but the roughly 25 minutes of activity - at last! - from the ageing scrumhalf maestro did at least provide crumbs of comfort for what lies ahead. You just felt the tempo lifted a notch in the position from ‘FDP’.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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