Cape Town - Is it any coincidence that two of South Africa’s best
performers in an unseasonal Loftus monsoon on Saturday ply their club
trade for Bath and Ulster respectively?
As it happened: Boks v Pumas
Louw in the pack and Ruan Pienaar just behind it have been solidly
rooted to those northern-clime outfits for several years now, and are
well used to playing rain-lashed rugby.
Their expertise came in
seriously handy as the Springboks had to fight grimly to repel Castle
Rugby Championship underdogs Argentina, who were right up for the scrap
in the levelling circumstances, by just seven points in Pretoria - a far
cry from last season’s 73-13 scoreline in the equivalent fixture when
it was dry as the proverbial bone at FNB Stadium.
The freak, lotto-like conditions made it hard to mark players too notably up or, for that matter, down ...
Here’s how I rated the Boks out of 10:
Willie le Roux: 7
reassuring that the fullback, who comes into his devilish own so much
more obviously when the pitch is firm and fast, was able to confirm how
he can adapt to a near-swamp. Hands and positional sense were generally
unfailing in testing circumstances.
Cornal Hendricks: 6
hand in Boks’ lone try, and did try to seek out work on a frustrating
night for wider players. Some hairy little moments in a defensive
Damian de Allende: 5.5
fairness, not the ideal opportunity to gauge his suitability to outside
centre. Erratic showing, however, and perhaps that contributed to his
involvement in a bit of handbags on the stroke of halftime. Let’s not
forget he was short of game-time entering this debut.
Jean de Villiers: 6
just be grateful to have got through comeback game after lengthy
absence solidly enough. A couple of debatable decisions not to go for
posts from penalties – this made for white-knuckle ride in dying minutes
as Pumas pressed hard for possible levelling try.
Bryan Habana: 6
Little action in his areas of the park; it just wasn’t that kind of game. Did little wrong, mind you.
Handre Pollard: 5.5
the rookie was caught a bit cold mentally by the unexpected deluge,
which forced Boks into a Plan B. Made some bad kicking gaffes. Still,
one electric burst through a half-gap nearly produced a try to his name
(though he knocked on in tackle) and one or two good hits of his own.
Ruan Pienaar: 7.5
be so used to these conditions in grim Irish winter ... and his
experience showed to influential degree. Oozed intelligent “management”,
whilst kicking game was mostly authoritative as well, and showed fine
awareness and a turn of pace in registering his precious early try.
Duane Vermeulen: 7 Assured
and error-free presence at No 8 in a game where bloopers otherwise,
inevitably, came dime-a-dozen. So difficult to dispossess on the drive.
Marcell Coetzee: 6.5Strong shift,
considering that he was a late installation to the starting mix. Not
quite as lethal a battering ram as the man he replaced, Willem Alberts,
but made up with mobility and energy. Executed one alert, critical cover
tackle. Francois Louw: 7.5The tireless
open-sider doesn’t just earn turnovers, he earns the really important
turnovers and slow-downs - big feather in his cap on a foul evening like
this one. Avoided penalties at his main trade, too, though needs to
keep fuse in better check at times when niggled. Lood de Jager: 6.5Good
use of his body strength in mauling and tackling situations, even if
you could see No 5 is a slightly unorthodox role for him.Bakkies Botha: 6Customary desire not to take a backward step in grappling play, and put good pressure on Pumas’ lineout throw.Jannie du Plessis: 6The
tighthead was subjected to strong initial heat at scrum-time, but
settled after that. Continued his recent trend of looking harder for
work in general play. Bismarck du Plessis: 6TV
critic and former Bok coach Nick Mallett suggested afterwards that
perhaps some of his lineout throws were a little too forceful, given the
cake-of-soap conditions for jumpers. Solid presence in other facets,
though.Tendai Mtawarira: 6Difficult to
fault the effort of another rusty player, who went the distance in
fatiguing conditions, even if the Bok scrum wasn’t exactly a thing of
majesty ... Standout substitute:Morne Steyn: 6.5 There
was some promise off the bench also from a busy Adriaan Strauss, but
replacement flyhalf Steyn, introduced early in the second half, earns
the nod for just looking like a more assured wet-weather player than
Pollard had in the first period.*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing