Johannesburg - The Springboks’ 57-0 defeat to New Zealand called into question a season in which they’d been unbeaten until that game. Simnikiwe Xabanisa rounded up a few experts to assess the Boks during that time frame.
Scrums (by Robbie Kempson – former Springbok prop)
They’ve been a bit up and down. I don’t think they went the way they would have liked to in the Rugby Championship. Coenie Oosthuizen’s injury cost them because they hadn’t stocked up on the tight head reserves.
Yes, they did well against Argentina, but they’re no longer a world-class scrum. I thought they were caught napping against Australia in Bloemfontein.
There were some positives early on against New Zealand, but, as the scoreline ran away from them, the scrums ran away from them.
We need more depth at tight head and at hooker. At loose head, we have no problems. I’d like to see them try Wilco Louw there. He destroyed teams in Super Rugby from a pure scrumming perspective.
Line-outs (by Hanyani Shimange – former Springbok hooker)
My take is that they’ve gone well and scored a couple of mauling tries. They’ve also gone well in the contest, especially with [Eben] Etzebeth up front.
The only problem was New Zealand, where [Sam] Whitelock and [Brodie] Retallick are both contesting locks. In that game, they started badly and didn’t recover. But, aside from the New Zealand game [in Albany], they’ve gone quite well.
With regards to Malcolm Marx throwing into the line-out, getting it consistently right comes with time. It’s his first season starting for the Boks. You always lose one or two; it happens to the best.
Breakdowns (by John Dobson – Western Province coach)
There’s been an improvement in the breakdowns this year. Last year, we protected our ball and had too many men at the breakdown; this year we’ve had fewer numbers there. Guys such as Siya [Kolisi] and Flo [Francois Louw] are good at helping clean-out on our own ball, but our big mind-set as South Africans is not to concede turnovers so we don’t get beyond the ball and ask questions of the defence.
We might not have a classic loose trio balance, but we’re okay on our own ball. As a country we need to improve the speed of our ball. Slowing down the opposition’s ball remains a challenge.
Halfback play (by Butch James – former Springbok fly half)
It’s hard to judge with the 9s and 10s and say how they have played because it always depends on the ball they’re getting.
Ross Cronjé and Elton Jantjies have done okay, and they can hold their heads up. Jantjies wasn’t at his best last year, but he’s definitely been better this season with Ross – someone he’s played with before – helping.
Centres (by Kaya Malotana – former Springbok centre)
Jan Serfontein looked good in June, but he hasn’t been the same in the Rugby Championship. I don’t know if it’s because he’s met up with teams that have the same ambitions in attack or if self-doubt has crept in.
As a result, Jesse Kriel has been a non-event outside him; not sure if he should force play or establish go-forward from the scraps he’s getting. As a combination, they’ve really struggled, and I don’t know if they’re going to continue with them.
Back three (by Peter Engledow – Griquas coach)
I think the 15 [Andries Coetzee] is very safe – he played well for the Lions – but I’ve been watching [Bulls fullback] Warrick Gelant.
We need to ask ourselves how we want to play going forward, given the tempo of the game and attack from turnover ball. I’d like to see more exciting players and, if you look at up-and-coming guys, Gelant is one of them.
Everyone’s spoken about Ruan Combrinck, and [Courtnall] Skosan has had two good seasons and he’s got gas.
I’m a firm believer in a balanced approach in attack, so the same players must have kicking plans. One of the weaknesses in our country is our attack-kicking plans and aerial skills.
Defence (by JP Ferreira – Lions defence coach)
The thing about defence is what you want to achieve. Do you want to come off the line quickly or keep your line integrity to just beat the gain line?
I thought the Boks did well against France, Australia and Argentina, but games against New Zealand will always test you defensively. If you go off the line quickly, they can step you and play around you, and if you don’t, you have to contend with a ball-carrier who’s had time.
The Stormers did the latter well under Jacques Nienaber, but most of their players were big. It’s tricky, but the key is working harder together – and they’re doing that.