Cape Town – The Springboks snapped a three-game losing
streak by subduing Australia 18-10 in the Castle Rugby Championship, prompting
understandable sighs of relief but also widespread acknowledgement that they
are still light years off being a resurgent international force.
That they couldn’t notch a single try in their supposed
heartland in Pretoria on Saturday reflects how crudely and industrially they
eked this one out.
In the end, pure desperation and determination got them over
the line, aided by influential personal performances from seasoned characters
like captain Adriaan Strauss (especially), Francois Louw and that oft-maligned
flyhalf Morne Steyn.
Strauss’s predecessor for most of the four-year prior
period, Jean de Villiers, put things in sober perspective by admitting in his
SuperSport punditry capacity afterwards: “This showing was not conducive to
success on a long-term basis … there is still a helluva lot to work on.”
Not many would be inclined to disagree.
Here’s how I rated
the Boks out of 10 in Pretoria:
Pat Lambie: 6.5
Very short of a gallop, and not a fullback for a long time,
either … but that didn’t deter this polished player. Brought overdue sense of stability
and calmness to No 15, and some raking kicks too.
Bryan Habana: 5.5
Heart is always in it, though only moderate showing here by
the veteran before his 46th-minute injury. Did force Israel Folau
into impeding him in promising attack position, earning Wallaby a yellow card.
Jesse Kriel: 5
Midfield remains stubbornly worrisome area for Boks this
area; just no special punch or synergy. But Kriel sometimes drew and passed
Juan de Jongh: 4.5
Not an inside centre! Needs to be restored to contention for
his more natural No 13 channel after little impact in creative sense.
Defensively committed, though, and effected one heroic maul turnover.
Francois Hougaard: 6
Another Bok operating as relative fish out of water … made
certain glaring errors at wing, but does possess huge ticker and crucial bit of
Morne Steyn: 7
Still prefers to play predominantly in the pocket, and that
doesn’t help any quest for oomph on his outside. But what you see is what you
get: the pivot played very spiritedly to his known strengths and was vintage
Cool Hand Luke in his kicking (including two drops) at the posts. Some staunch
Rudy Paige: 6.5
Little in the way of personal game-breaking stuff, but did
his core tasks with some aplomb on maiden start, including snappy service and
general liveliness. A shame about the concussion-causing knee bang to his head
at end of third quarter.
Warren Whiteley: 6.5
Such a different style of player to Duane Vermeulen, and at
times he labours to “muscle” it up. But rangy qualities did come into play;
especially alert on cover defence and demonstrated stamina. Secured a lineout
Oupa Mohoje: 6
After his lack of visibility in Christchurch, much better
here. Brilliant, thumping turnover tackle once on own try-line, and
double-figure count overall in that department. Still tends to drift in and out
of matches, however.
Francois Louw: 7.5
Best Test this season, and certainly built on earlier signs
of reawakening in away All Blacks Test. Several priceless steals or at least
slow-downs at breakdown, and kept up his work-rate for the duration.
Pieter-Steph du Toit: 5.5
Steady shift, without setting house on fire, but then victim
of hip injury soon after half-time, and subbed.
Eben Etzebeth: 6.5
Authoritative at lineout, including one claim on Aussie
throw, made some alert tackles when danger lurked and also involved in several
of Boks’ limited hand-to-hand moves.
Vincent Koch: 6
Scrumming impact could still be better; penalised once for
hand on ground at set-piece. But again prolific around fringes, and a commendable
10 tackles apparently recorded.
Adriaan Strauss: 8.5
Best player for Boks, best player on the park. After months
of under-delivery, this was a barnstormer by the captain. Some inspired surges
as ball-carrier, including nice acceleration from the blocks at times, hugely
busy at ruck-time, and basics pin-point as well.
Tendai Mtawarira: 5.5
It becomes tedious to have to describe his ordinariness. Oh,
sorry … that’s exactly what I said a fortnight back (but cut and paste anyway!).
Faded again after reasonably bristling start.
Steven Kitshoff: 7
When he replaced the Beast after 45 minutes, Bok scrum
suddenly got some proper traction -- though much the same applied to Julian
Redelinghuys’s impact on tighthead side. Willem Alberts also provided important
go-forward in tight-loose as Boks bossed key closing minutes.