Rugby Championship

Bok ratings: Regret, there’s no ‘best’!

2016-09-10 19:26
Johan Goosen (Getty)

Cape Town – The mediocrity that stalks the 2016 Springboks like a stubborn virus made it painfully difficult to find an individual standout in their 23-17 Castle Rugby Championship reverse to Australia - almost as innocuous as they were - in Brisbane on Saturday.

In the first instance I can recall in doing this Bok Test performance exercise for several years for Sport24, I could muster no SA player worthy of exceeding even a six-out-of-10 rating – instead a trio earn that tally for narrowly recording “fairly OK”.

Those three are Warren Whiteley, Francois Louw and captain Adriaan Strauss.

But real, game-influencing quality was sadly elusive, going a long way to explaining why the contest as a whole made for unedifying viewing for long-suffering supporters of the once mighty, two-time World Cup champions.

The best you could say was that the Boks showed welcome urgency and thrust in the first 20 minutes or so, as they opened up a promising 14-3 lead … but it was to be a false dawn.

In the last hour, we only witnessed a return to the rank uncertainty and shambolic, rudderless hallmarks evident in their ranks since early June, posing further worrying questions about the whole Bok management regime and many of their playing personnel.  

Here’s how I rated the Boks out of 10 at Suncorp Stadium:

Johan Goosen: 5.5

Maybe, just maybe, confidence growing in the fullback berth for him. Good line-kicking and running relish early on, and determined last-ditch defence by him also just denied Samu Kerevi a corner-post try. But some ill-judged in-field kicking dented his rating.

Bryan Habana: 5.5

Looked hungry in the initial stages, including role in first Bok try. Fielded an awkward pass well under great pressure near own try-line. Some good judgements and interventions on defence, but also popped out of alignment as Adam Coleman crashed over for Oz.

Jesse Kriel: 5.5

Willing … you could say that much from the No 13. Some firm, decisive tackles, and occasional half-breaks. Several far more influential Tests last year, though.

Juan de Jongh: 5

Subtle hands in tight space during build-up to third-minute Bok try. Big turnover-creating tackle on big Israel Folau, but also lost ball once in contact himself and anonymous for pretty long periods. Bok midfield woes largely unresolved.

Francois Hougaard: 5.5

Somehow still looks just a tad too much like a scrumhalf merely “filling in” at wing. But lion-hearted and industrious.

Elton Jantjies: 4.5

The headache worsens at flyhalf I think. Again, some lovely signs of his pure talent, including vital grubber in lead-up to second Bok try. But much-needed, mature game-management? Almost non-existent. Mixed some gutsy defence with costly woeful moments … and bad penalty miss just before break.

Faf de Klerk: 4.5

Glorious start to Bok career a few weeks back, but receding rather swiftly. Like Jantjies, lacks ability to “take charge” tactically, for all his liveliness, plus his courage at breakdown pilfering.

Warren Whiteley: 6

Inched a bit closer to looking like a worthy international “regular”. Ran clever little line for his try, showed greater zest and stamina than several other pack colleagues and made tons of tackles.

Oupa Mohoje: 5

Barn-storming start, with athletic carry in move that led to early Bok try. But then lost a ball frustratingly in contact and faded gradually. Hauled off in 47th minute. Blindside flank role may need a revisit.

Francois Louw: 6

Went hammer and tongs during his 50-odd minutes, before Jaco Kriel’s speed was summoned in his place. Looked more like old self at breakdowns in first half, and usually close to core of the action. May have extended his shelf life. For now …

Lood de Jager: 4.5

Moderate start to match, but then took painful blow to a knee in 32nd minute and was passenger for remaining period to half-time, including conceding off-side penalty. Didn’t re-appear for second period.

Eben Etzebeth: 5.5

You can never accuse him of not being “physical” … and perhaps on his 50th appearance we saw hints of fatigue after several herculean international shifts. Debatable yellow card for professional foul just after interval, and also penalised once after being isolated at a breakdown. Safe as houses at lineout, but also handling lapses in general play.

Lourens Adriaanse: 5

Bok scrum disappointingly failed to dominate, so tighthead will always come under scrutiny when that happens. In fairness, tried to pull weight outside set-piece, and managed a poach at both a lineout and ruck.

Adriaan Strauss: 6

Significantly better than in recent weeks. Two well-read midfield intercepts -- including critical one when Wallaby try looked on and instead Boks roared in at other end. Broadly more aggressive and prominent at close quarters. One sloppy turnover concession.

Tendai Mtawarira: 5

Another Test Saturday, another less-than-dazzling showing from the Beast. Here he at least tackled and cleaned out with some lustre, but penalised for a neck roll and scrumming was ordinary. Subbed well before hour mark.

Standout substitute:

Pieter-Steph du Toit: 5.5   

Played mostly at blindside flank in second half, and always a keen, committed ball-carrier. But like many colleagues, also made some handling and other errors. In just six minutes near finish, fellow bench-man Bongi Mbonambi looked encouragingly lively in open play.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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