Cape Town – Was this about as bad as it gets for Springbok
rugby? In short, yes.
While the record defeat for the national team remains the
53-3 outcome against England at Twickenham in 2002, their 57-15 home drubbing
from New Zealand at Kings Park on Saturday could really be considered every bit
Only some errant place-kicking at times from Beuden Barrett
– not that the All Blacks seem to get too bothered by such trivia as pot-shots
at the posts – possibly prevented a new landmark in Bok scoreboard ignominy.
But remember that when the Boks crashed to England 14 years
ago, they were “only” victims of a seven-tries-to-nil margin, plus being a man
down for some three-quarters of the game after Jannes Labuschagne’s red card … here
it was a more galling 9-0.
The Durban Test gave starkest confirmation yet during this
grim year that the Boks are all at sea strategically, a rot that has inevitably
infected individual performance levels, even of players with prior, proud reputations.
Here’s how I rated
the Boks out of 10 in Durban:
Pat Lambie: 3.5
Went horribly backwards at fullback after faring stably enough
against Wallabies. Just looked too tentative, including losing aerial duel with
Ben Smith in lead-up to one try and having chip charged down to gift another.
Francois Hougaard: 4.5
Runs around looking for work, but the fact that he is simply
not a Test-suitable wing came home to roost again. Let Waisake Naholo slip out
of clutches once … primarily because he just isn’t big enough?
Juan de Jongh: 4
Full of intent early on, including winning a penalty and
pressuring, harrying well. But then receded, missing a key tackle or two, and
sometimes just being bounced out too easily in contact. Infuriatingly too quick
to put ball to boot once, after he intercepted.
Damian de Allende: 5
During mildly competitive SA first half, his physical
attributes served the No 12 channel well. Also made scything break in second
period, before deft offload spilled by sub Lionel Mapoe on outside. Ran out of zeal
and steam near end.
Bryan Habana: 3.5
Very disappointing Test for the great veteran, suggesting he
may not resurface in green and gold next year. Harrowing outing on defence
(though one fine tackle on rampaging Dane Coles) and appallingly over-cooked a
kick-ahead on rare Bok attack.
Morne Steyn: 4
Gun-barrel reliable off the tee … but we always knew that of
the flyhalf. Simply no other X-factor on offer, including reluctance to take
ball flat, and mixed some determined tackles with glaringly weak ones.
Faf de Klerk: 4.5
Rank poor defence at times, and occasionally just swatted
back too easily in contact situations. Still, some moments of raw courage, like
a desperate stop of Naholo one metre from Bok try-line. Again little sense of
Warren Whiteley: 4.5
A game that leaves his berth (among many others, mind)
tenuous again. Totally eclipsed by imperious direct rival Kieran Read, and
short of “grunt”. Some consistently alert and willing defence, including fine
track-back tackle on TJ Perenara.
Oupa Mohoje: 5
Still not quite cutting it, alas. Yes, he makes some sturdy
tackles when Boks are under cosh, but where is the go-forward you expect of a
blind-side flank? Too docile at close quarters.
Francois Louw: 5.5
Difficult to rate as he quit park permanently after 12
minutes through injury, but in that time was making promising enough nuisance
of himself at breakdown.
Pieter-Steph du Toit: 6
One of few Boks to emerge with any meaningful credit.
Grafted with unceasing zeal, tried desperately to get his side onto front foot,
and also cleverly pinched a lineout ball. Conceded penalty for not rolling
Eben Etzebeth: 5.5
Unusually – for him -- subbed after only 45 minutes but had
already put in gallant quest by then to stem All Black tide, and fresh legs were
clearly needed. Helped Mohoje in two or three effective “gang tackles”.
Vincent Koch: 4.5
At least the Bok scrum didn’t take any backward steps, even
as difficulties mushroomed elsewhere, so Koch must take some credit as start-out
tighthead anchor. Much less effective than last week outside set-piece,
Adriaan Strauss: 4.5
Lamentably no repeat of his fire-and-brimstone showing
against Australia at Loftus; right back to the personal mediocrity that has
marked his rocky tenure as skipper this year.
Tendai Mtawarira: 6.5
Ironically as Boks lurched to record low levels in 2016, the
“Beast” finally awoke from long-time slumber and fought valiantly for 50
minutes. Rock-solid at scrum-time, one or two strong carries and crunching
Jaco Kriel: 6
Doubts will linger over his abilities as a fetcher, but the
Lions-based livewire did his utmost to limit the carnage with his speedy
track-back yards, firm hits and general mobility.
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