Cape Town - Spearing Argentina so
damagingly in one of their favourite areas of bravado, the scrum, went a long
way to explaining why South Africa opened their Rugby Championship
account with a pleasing 37-15 triumph on Saturday.
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, and its passionate,
wildly enthusiastic crowd, is fast becoming a key stronghold for the Springboks
and - even if there were certain imperfections and too-predictable aspects in
the first half - the vibe in Port Elizabeth seemed to energise the team as a
unit as they warmed with increasing polish and purpose to their task.
There were no outright flops in the Bok
ranks, with virtually every starting player having notably pleasing moments at
the very least, and the fact that the bench offered serious oomph only aided
the assault on the plucky but outsmarted Pumas further.
Of all the combinations on the park, the
front row was almost certainly the most smooth-firing of the lot for the host
nation … both in a dominant set-piece showing but also because all of Coenie
Oosthuizen (aptly named official player of the match), Malcolm Marx and Tendai
Mtawarira were imperious in general play as well.
how I rated the Boks out of 10 in PE:
The wait to witness some really special
qualities at Test level continues, but the Lions man was consistently composed
in the last line of defence.
The occasional “flap” defensively, which
will interest certain Australasian powerhouses in wide positions, but he was
sharp on the front foot and won a brilliant turnover with a rip from an
Sometimes threatened to punch significant
holes with deft, well-timed running lines. Firm tackles at handy junctures,
May be branded at fault for his attacking
grubber that only led to a counter-attacking try at the other end of the park,
but it came at a time when Boks were only going sideways and needed to try
other tactics. Well-weighted pass teed up Rhule’s try, and his skilful
hand-work aided another dot-down.
Wasn’t too heavily tested in his channel
defensively, it seemed, but he broke a tackle and then turned on the gas for a
morale-hiking try just before half-time.
Ever the enigma, I suppose ... but this was
one of those games where his best qualities shone through for the most part. Metronomic
with his goal-kicking, classy inside pass in Skosan try lead-up, and made brave
A few pundits, this one included, rue that
he doesn’t have that vital bit more natural nippiness. But he is a calm,
low-error presence a lot of the time and efficient passer.
The odd difficulty controlling the ball at
base of scrum - it was usually going forward, too - but then he is not a
regular eighth-man. On the day, though, the experiment came off satisfyingly.
Was a strong presence both in the loose and tight-loose.
One of the most vigorous and industrious
Bok players in the first half, when things otherwise didn’t always go
swimmingly. Regular menace at breakdowns, and linked effectively.
Gradually built a head of steam, and
particularly delighted the crowd in the region of his birth with a thunderous
second half, including some aggressive, productive ruck entries and good hand
skills on the offensive. Crossed the “wash” as well.
This admirable “engine” of tight-five play
has purred a bit better on other occasions, but he still pulled his weight
sufficiently. Pinged twice for going off feet at breakdown.
The big enforcer was quite well policed by
the Pumas, so had few protracted ball-in-hand initiatives, but he applied some
good contesting pressure at lineouts and his leadership decisions and general
demeanour were very good.
Absolutely unbudging at scrum-time and his
right shoulder came into effect a few times, too. Certainly working admirably
hard on improving his reputation for technical infringements at the set-piece,
and his carrying and tackling was first-rate, into the bargain.
The first Bok lineout throw-in went awry,
but then he settled into utterly reliable service. Always a muscular factor in
collisions and in stealing terms, and helped the scrum mastery.
Apparently a record 30th
consecutive Championship match, and the seasoned loosehead celebrated with a
near-champagne performance. Once sent young Pumas tighthead foe Enrique
Pieretto on “Beast Airways” at a scrum, and was routinely robust in the open
du Toit and Jean-Luc du Preez: 7.5
It was hard to separate the blond bombers,
so why not a dead heat for the mantle? Both provided exactly the energy, hunger
and sense of go-forward you wish for in second-half impact players, and Du
Toit, in particular, looks as though he is swiftly regaining some lost form.
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing