Cape Town – Some, perhaps a little ungenerously, are still reserving judgement about the Springboks despite their record of five thumping wins from five starts in 2017.
And yes, long-time adversaries the Wallabies and All Blacks – looming very shortly -- will obviously provide a better gauge of progress in many respects.
But you can also only play what is in front of you, and it is an undeniable fact that both France (three times) and Argentina (twice) have been very soundly repelled over the course of the year’s calendar so far.
These Boks are clearly already streets ahead of the dithering, uncertain, featureless bunch who limped through 2016, and it is worth celebrating here and now.
Simply by transforming a defeat to the Pumas in Salta last season into a bonus-point triumph almost exactly a year later in a passionate and purposeful showing on Saturday, the strides are so obvious by Allister Coetzee’s charges.
It is also a statistical reality that, following two wins from six Castle Rugby Championship fixtures in 2016 and a bilious eventual total of 10 log points, the Boks are already on nine points from only two outings in this year’s version.
Frustrating flaws and one or two selection uncertainties remain, but this dismantling of a sometimes cynical, expensively hot-headed Argentina side was also marked by the burgeoning levels of maturity and gumption evident in many areas of the park.
A healthy tally of Springboks earn glowing reports on our card, though with Elton Jantjies and Siya Kolisi supreme.
Here’s how I rated the Boks out of 10 in Salta, following the 41-23 outcome:
Andries Coetzee: 6
A bit hot and cold … yet the very fact that there were some inspired moments, especially on attack, might be considered a step up by the generally solid enough fullback. Loses half a point for his unnecessary, discipline-related yellow card on the hour mark.
Raymond Rhule: 5
On this showing, his presence remains pretty tenuous. Did little glaringly bad, and tidied up invaluably when danger threatened behind the Bok try-line once, but defence at this level needs further attention.
Jesse Kriel: 5.5
Beautiful inside pass in lead-up to one of Kolisi’s eye-catching tries, and some promising progress through the occasional half-gap. Costly indecision from a kick-off led to soft first Pumas try, though.
Jan Serfontein: 6
Made a series of firm, not always notably “visible” tackles in his vital channel. Not as conspicuous as an attacking string-puller here, and lost control of the ball once, on the Pumas’ try-line.
Courtnall Skosan: 6
One explosive breakout from deep, and a fine track-back tackle at another juncture. But also some culpability in first Argentinean try.
Elton Jantjies: 8.5
Fluffed penalties in the fourth and seventh minutes; the old Elton might have melted there and then. Instead, he only went up several gears for an imperious, confidence-oozing performance. Sublime chip over Pumas defence to tee up first Bok try, and admirably brave “directness” for his own important dot-down just before break.
Francois Hougaard: 4
Another fail, sadly, for all his clear rugby talent in some respects. Poor stand-in the last time Ross Cronje was absent (final Test against France) and only repeated here. Wasted key seconds with his crab-like shuffling ahead of releases, and poor skills in an off-load situation to Malcolm Marx, with try beckoning, led to move being botched.
Uzair Cassiem: 6
No Kieran Read in his gradual education at No 8 yet … but then who is anyway? No complaints over body-on-line commitment levels, and showed assuredness at lineout time.
Jaco Kriel: 7
When he was conspicuous in his involvement it was often at critical times, the sign of a class act. His mobility, awareness and work-rate were pleasing. Won a scrum from a turnover.
Siya Kolisi: 8.5
Boy, what strides this season! Continues to blossom enormously as a No 6. Oozed authority, class and inspiration, as you’d wish from the vice-captain. Utterly abrasive when he needed to be at close quarters, but some magical linking work too, and fitting notching of two personal tries. One loss of control of the “pill” as he tried to pass to Coetzee for near-certain score.
Franco Mostert: 6
Works tirelessly where the sun doesn’t always shine, and this was another of those days. Forceful contributor to a few lusty rolling mauls.
Eben Etzebeth: 7.5
Led by very pleasing example, and kept his cool superbly, on a day when the main brain farts came from home sources like the ridiculously crazed Tomas Lavanini. Warmed increasingly to ball-carrying responsibilities with some really thunderous ones …
Coenie Oosthuizen: 7
This performance was only marginally down on his PE heroics, which still tells you the juggernaut tighthead excelled. Straight and forceful at scrum-time, and busy in open play.
Malcolm Marx: 7.5
Lineout throwing lost a bit of its clockwork accuracy late on, but for lion’s share of this match he was spot-on in that area. And in general play, Marx only continues to nudge his way closer to the world’s elite at hooker. Fine poaching at times, and always confrontational.
Tendai Mtawarira: 7.5
In a really heartening development, the veteran loosehead seems hugely re-energised in this international season. One or two “Phil Vickery” jobs in the set-piece on Saturday, and no South Africans would not have appreciated his big hit (into touch) on the meanie Lavanini.
Jean-Luc du Preez: 6.5
Just like last week in Port Elizabeth, imposed himself almost immediately via rugged, clattering commitment. Perhaps needs to feature on a more prolonged basis in real pressure-cooker Tests?
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing