Rugby Championship

Bok ratings: Backline strike-power!

2018-08-18 22:22
Aphiwe Dyantyi (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - It must be some time since a Springbok team scored half a dozen tries, all to the credit of backs.

ALSO READ: Rassie Erasmus' take on Bok performance

So there is a case for saying it is a sign that a constructive revolution is gradually on the go, under the coaching tenure of Rassie Erasmus.

Determined to play a fluid, fast brand of rugby - perhaps a wee bit to excess at times - South Africa were a long way from flawless in their Rugby Championship opener against Argentina at Kings Park on Saturday, but the fact remains that they earned a full-house triumph by 34-21, and six tries to three.

It meant that they banked the home bonus point against these particular foes for the first time since 2013, and two tries to each of the hugely effervescent wings - Aphiwe Dyantyi and Makazole Mapimpi - plus others from Lukhanyo Am and Faf de Klerk meant a rare clean-up of the try column for Bok backs.

That is not to say that several forwards didn’t come to the party for grunt and intensity, the most critical feature undoubtedly being lock meanie Eben Etzebeth getting through a full shift at pretty close to his bellicose best after his lengthy layoff from all rugby.

It is far too early for champagne to be sprayed around liberally, of course: the Boks were rusty and imprecise in the first half and the gritty Pumas were good value for their 14-10 lead at the break.

On the plus side, however, they kept their cool admirably (also a feature of the recent England series, where they were not unfamiliar to going well behind on the scoreboard) to look altogether more zesty and disciplined in the second period.

Here’s how I rated the Boks in Durban:

Willie le Roux: 7.5

He was beaten to a high-ball contest on his own try-line that led to a Pumas try, but otherwise the ever-scheming, probing fullback was close to imperious. His cross-kick to set up Dyantyi’s first try was a well-weighted delight, and he kept creating space for others to run into.

Makazole Mapimpi: 7

This was a chance to profit from the absence of Sharks colleague S’bu Nkosi … and he certainly took it on just his second start for the country. Composed finishing for his tries, and a few demonstrations of his pace and ability to bust out of tight spots.

Lukhanyo Am: 7

TV pundit and former Bok Butch James felt this was Am’s “best Test by far” and it was hard to disagree. Started the relative try-fest with his eighth-minute, powerful touchdown, and generally grafted hard. Won a turnover with his trademark ability over the ball.

Andre Esterhuizen: 6

Clever pass early on out of contact, and his physicality undoubtedly helps provide thrust and opportunities outside him. Made good break ahead of Dyantyi’s second try, and some strong hits. Remains work in progress for subtlety.

Aphiwe Dyantyi: 8

Official player of the match, and why not? Showed substantial predatory abilities, including fine reach over line for second dot-down when tackled just short. Other hallmarks included deft footwork, good tackle count and speedy kick chases. Lost one ball forward in contact.

Handre Pollard: 5.5

Patchy showing, including rare, serious off-day at place kicking (record was two out of seven). Some of his more ambitious passes went astray, too. But some decent touches – and solid defending at times – helped offset the drawbacks.

Faf de Klerk: 6

So much energy that De Klerk is the kind of scrumhalf who may always be prone to some rank mistakes or errors in decision-making; there were some on the day. But his box kicks were generally accurate, and he provided a clever long pass for one Mapimpi try.

Warren Whiteley: 5.5

Adequate showing. Nothing like the Duane Vermeulen stamp on things achieved against England, but few could do that anyway. Made some important tackles, and was willing in relatively few carries. One needless knock-on.

Siya Kolisi: 5.5

Ditto Whiteley in this one. Jury stays out over his suitability to blindside flank; seemed relatively subdued at times. Lifted his prominence in second half, with good linking and a vital track-back tackle when counter-attack threatened by Argentineans.

Francois Louw: 6.5

Best Bok loosie in this one. Put in a busy, abrasive hour. One magnificent moment where he raced back on defence to make a tackle, and earned a turnover in virtually same breath. Leaked penalty for illegal cleanout. 

Pieter-Steph du Toit: 7.5

One of the most menacing carriers early on for Boks, and kept up his industrious shift throughout, amidst unified front five. Roamed enthusiastically in more open play, and was quick-thinking in taking fast tap-penalty that led to try.

Eben Etzebeth: 7.5

Quite amazing engine! Bristled with desire and constructive aggression, for a man out of action since distant December 2 last year in Cardiff. Lineout precision not quite there yet, but splendid in most other departments.

Frans Malherbe: 7

One of his best Test matches in more recent times. Rock-solid at scrum time, including winning a penalty, made lots of tackles ... and nice hands in lead-up to Am’s try.

Malcolm Marx: 6.5

Only confirmed in this Test that he is really the Boks’ best fetcher - won exemplary tally of four turnovers. Strong on drive (eight carries) and in scrums, but must be marked down a bit for that horribly ropey Bok lineout in first period.

Tendai Mtawarira: 7

Veteran showed great relish on his beloved home ground, during 52-minute shift. Power scrums, and a few rampages. Uncharacteristic concession of penalty for hot-headed involvement in a spot of “handbags”.

Standout substitute:

Bongi Mbonambi: 7

Limited shift, as he only got quarter of an hour or so. But in terms of getting consistently busy quickly, the feisty little hooker ticked the box. Robust and ever-present at close quarters.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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