Cape Town – Well, we were served up the
cold and sloppy seconds we always feared might be presented.
The Springboks duly bashed their way
inelegantly to the RWC 2015 consolation prize of bronze status by seeing off a
hotchpotch, weakened Argentina 24-13 at London’s Olympic Stadium on Friday.
Third place at the tournament is better
than a kick in the teeth, so let’s be as grateful as possible for that.
Africa did what they had to do in the game nobody especially likes or wants,
and ensured a victorious send-off for several illustrious veterans.
As a glimpse of the potential future,
though, the fixture did little – if anything – to arrest clearly waning public
and press approval for the Heyneke Meyer coaching regime.
In short, the Boks continue to look willing
and tough to crack, but also painfully behind the times for skill and
If you wanted to pocket a silver lining, it
probably came through the commanding performances of three tight-five
components who will certainly grace future World Cups.
Eben Etzebeth led the way, looking as
switched-on and robust as he has done pretty much throughout the event, and
props Frans Malberhe and Trevor Nyakane (the latter off the bench for the whole
second half) weren’t far behind.
how I rated the Boks out of 10:
le Roux: 6
Still seems to drift in and out of play
more than you would like ... but also centrally involved in welcome, polished
lead-up play to both Bok tries on night when that wasn’t evident often.
Very little came his way, such is the
stifling current Bok game-plan, but reminded of his finishing threat near
try-line by squeezing over at flag in sixth minute.
Would show his proper value on attack if
ball sent his way much more in space; ongoing shortcomings on defence came
quite alarmingly to fore, though.
de Allende: 6
Assertive on defence and strong on feet, as
is becoming customary. But has slipped gradually into one-dimensional habits
along with Bok “attack” script.
As his captain on the night said
afterwards, perhaps tried too hard (and in vain) to bag that elusive try to
take him ahead of Jonah Lomu at RWCs. Hands let him down increasingly ...
Isn’t properly empowered to be No 10
“general” and it is having an effect on performance. Fine floated pass that
nearly sent Habana away once, but will be remembered more here for embarrassing
failure to find required touch with simple, yet fatally under-weighted
attacking penalty kick!
Bright start as Boks showed short-lived,
ball-in-hand promise, and suitably sharp and accurate service at times. But
kicked excessively, and a touch too far. Should have come off earlier for Rudy
Paige, who got token three minutes.
had more rousing games, but then this was no rousing occasion. Still,
consummate pro throughout with unfaltering work-rate. Some poaches, and
generally very strong over the ball at rucks.
Emotional, final RWC match (and broader
Test swansong too?) for this iconic warrior and perhaps that very distraction
affected his performance. Has put in mighty shifts at this event; it caught up
with him a bit in this one.
Found it hard to replicate storming showing
against All Blacks last week, but was going quite well until he started leaking
penalties to disrupt Bok continuity wishes.
Fittingly industrious swansong in 127th
green-and-gold appearance. Bowed out with honour, including high tackle count
and one forceful charge near Pumas line.
One-foot-on-the-plane syndrome? It’s a
phenomenon in rugby, but nobody told Etzebeth. Just turned 24 (a day before the
game), produced probably his most complete showing of tournament. Always in
very thick of things, whether at muscular close quarters or in athletic
scrambling duties. Next few years safe in No 4 shirt.
Like Etzebeth, fine all-round display. Only
got better as this RWC progressed. Assertive at scrums, some purposeful carries
and plenty of tackles.
du Plessis: 5.5
No disgrace, and combative in early
exchanges. But stays some way off near-unmatchable, personal force of two or
three years back.
Stuck to his set-piece guns assuredly, and
that’s usually a tick for a prop. But another game where carrying virtually
absent. Looks in need of his off-season.
If the “Beast” has arguably gone past his
peak, then the pleasing rise of Nyakane bodes well for Japan 2019 (and before
it). Didn’t take backward step in his 40 minutes at scrum-time, and
constructive in open play.
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing.