Rugby Championship

Bok ratings: Pollard, Nyakane lead stampede!

2019-08-11 08:37
Handre Pollard (Getty Images)
Handre Pollard (Getty Images)

Cape Town - The Springboks simply needed a basic victory, minus bonus point, to land the Rugby Championship title.

That they instead bagged the Full Monty in a 46-13 rout of Argentina in Salta only showed the depth of hunger, zeal and aspiration in their generously-staffed ranks with the 2019 World Cup around the corner - they are fast-firming contenders.

Say what you like about reduced merits in an abbreviated competition this year: Rassie Erasmus’ charges were richly deserving winners and looked a suitably tickled-pink bunch as they hoisted the spoils for the first time since the Pumas made it a quartet of participants in the annual southern-hemisphere showpiece.

It was also a triumph of composure, after an often ominous development had occurred as early as the second minute: a Pumas converted try, which can get them irreversibly fired-up on home terrain.

Instead the sting was progressively, clinically drawn from them. 

The Boks were more industrial than genuinely vibrant in the first half, but then increasingly found verve and enterprise (helped by what is clearly healthy conditioning in most cases) on the front foot after the break to add three further tries to their earlier two.

Several players earned high marks, but our summary was headed by the prolific-scoring, incisive Handre Pollard at flyhalf (including two dot-downs) and Trevor Nyakane’s butchery of poor Tetaz Chaparro at scrum time and enormous work-rate in other facets.

Here’s how I rated the Boks in Salta:

Willie le Roux: 6

One or two “nowhere” kicks, and it was strange not to see him too fulsomely involved in attacks when the sluice-gates opened in the second period. But he took one nice half-gap, and there were a couple of healthy left-footed exit kicks.

Cheslin Kolbe: 8

His international star just keeps rising … including in the astonishing comfort he showed as emergency No 9 during Faf de Klerk’s time in the sin bin, demonstrating Nick Mallett’s long-time conviction in that area. He chased and harried ceaselessly, put body on the line defensively and was increasingly thrust-laden in his starting berth, including elegant 67th-minute try.

Lukhanyo Am: 6

Would have been a little disappointed that so little ball reached his outside-centre channel, especially as Boks slightly overdid the box kicking in first period. He also missed the last 20, impactful minutes after Jesse Kriel’s entry. Some moments of deft footwork and reliable tackling, though.

Damian de Allende: 7.5

One of his best Tests in a while, enough to silence a few knockers. He was commandingly robust and prolific as a defender, grafted commendably over the ball and produced smart little cameo roles in some offensive raids.  

Makazole Mapimpi: 6.5

Some early hesitancy, including positional concern (perhaps?) in Pumas’ lone try, and slightly over-running a short pass from Le Roux once. But then he grew and grew into the contest, with a smart finish for try and one thrilling, defence-splitting in-field raid.

Handre Pollard: 8.5

Master and commander. Bossed his channel with enormous aplomb, not for first time this season. His directness and power made him a constant menace near Pumas’ line, including two personal tries in a 31-point feast for the pivot. Great long pass to tee up Mapimpi’s try, and usual reliability off the tee.

Faf de Klerk: 6

Erratic execution of duties at times, including some wrongly-weighed tactical kicks. But always prepared to get fingers dirty, and service was sprightly when he did pass. Yellow card for breakdown offence (with Boks on repeat-infringement warning) wasn’t ideal, but they made such light work of his absence, on the plus side …

Duane Vermeulen: 7

Fulsome performance from the acting captain and gnarly No 8. Helped subdue the Pumas pack’s initial relish, engaged well with French referee Romain Poite (sometimes previously a problematic SA figure) and won a breakdown penalty. Slightly twisted knee impeded him a bit before he was subbed.

Pieter-Steph du Toit: 7

Mr Reliable at blindside flank … no change to that admirable trend here for a player who now deserves a rotational rest. Safe and sometimes even creative hands, and confirmed durability of that engine by popping up a lot in late raids.

Kwagga Smith: 6.5

Wasn’t always visibly impactful, but that was often because he was doing unsung donkeywork at breakdowns, including slowing Argentine ball. His swift track-back tackling was also important at times.

Franco Mostert: 7.5

Whole-hearted showing from another so trusty diesel. But in this game he wasn’t just about mongrel and energy at close quarters: fine support running, valuable ruck work, and a plethora of dynamic, own carries.

Eben Etzebeth: 7

Typical “enforcer” showing from the seasoned figure. Had a memorable early break-out charge, confirming athletic prowess, made aggressive, crunching tackles and was secure figure at front of lineout. Leaked a penalty for maul collapse.

Trevor Nyakane: 8.5

The revelation of the engine room in 2019, and this was a crowning performance for the tighthead. Utterly dominated his direct opponent, Chaparro, at scrum-time, helping earn a string of Bok penalties in his 50-minute shift. But also apparently made 15 tackles … RWC 2007-winning captain John Smit labelled it “insane” in SuperSport studio tribute.

Bongi Mbonambi: 7.5

So interesting, this: has he now gained a slight edge over much-vaunted Malcolm Marx in priority terms at hooker? Ball of fire in Salta, including outstanding maul management as usual (and a try as reward once), plus welcome lineout throw-in assuredness. Mind you, Marx was pleasingly restless off the splinters, too.

Tendai Mtawarira: 7.5

Not far off his prop partner for power at the set-piece, including a couple of penalty wins himself based on the pressure the veteran exerted. That he was so especially, animatedly gleeful when Boks celebrated the title said much about renewed lustre.

Standout substitute:

Steven Kitshoff: 7

As has become pleasingly, tellingly customary, almost all Bok subs climbed into their tasks quickly and with relish, but the burly loosehead prop topped the pile with his vigorous 33 minutes, including continued scrum dominance, strong drives and intelligent lead-up work in one of the tries.  

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    springboks  |  rugby championship  |  rwc 2019  |  rugby


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