Cape Town – He is a 38-year-old, playing in gruelling conditions … and was fielded out of position for some three-quarters of the match.
But that couldn’t stop Schalk Brits, also acting captain, being a dominant figure for South Africa in their solid, but far from flawless, 57-3 World Cup disposal of neighbours Namibia at the City of Toyota Stadium on Saturday.
Brits operated at eighth-man for 64 minutes of the Pool B tussle, before switching to more customary hooker until the finish, and was probably the most consistently dynamic Bok player.
That said, there were worse crimes than for Lood de Jager, part of a hugely dominant tight five, to earn the official player-of-the-match mantle, as the lanky second-rower did.
The Boks ran in nine tries, an acceptable enough tally, although their imprecision at times had coach Rassie Erasmus banging the desk in frustration … especially in a scratchy final 20 minutes where they could only register one try.
That was despite a yellow-carding of reserve prop Aranos Coetzee in that spell affecting the tenacious minnows, who used all the tricks they could, throughout, to keep the score down.
Here’s how I rated the Boks:
Warrick Gelant: 6.5
Decent enough. Very early line intrusion where he nearly romped clear for a try, and flair came into play at other times. But certain errors, including a knock-on … we still await that “complete” showing from him.
S’bu Nkosi: 7
Would have been frustrated that the ball didn’t get to him more often; exhibited plentiful hunger, and thrust whenever it was possible. Broad work-rate excellent, and ran clever support lines.
Lukhanyo Am: 6.5
One miscommunication (with Tendai Mtawarira) during an in-field bust, but also made sparkling break to set up Gelant for his dot-down. No noticeable defensive angst, either.
Frans Steyn: 6.5
Though possibly not enough to force a “first-team” change at No 12, the big unit nevertheless got through an industrious full game in his first start in more than seven years. Strength with ball in hand, one fine break from deep, and a huge touch-finder in second half. Penalised for high tackle once.
Makazole Mapimpi: 6.5
Still a certain sense of unease when he is forced into “backwards” chores. But the gas-man remains a deadly factor on the front foot … and his two tries meant he now sports 10 from as many Tests.
Elton Jantjies: 5
Very disappointing day, considering the limitations of the opposition and huge Bok forward mastery. A few nice touches, but erratic moments included a kick over-cook for the corner, a fumble, a turnover in contact and an easy conversion miss.
Herschel Jantjies: 6.5
His RWC veteran opposite number and namesake Eugene Jantjies policed him tenaciously, but that didn’t stop the Bok youngster from doing his basics mostly with aplomb in a 58-minute shift. One or two well-weighted box kicks, and applied pressure well when Namibia were trying to clear their lines from deep.
Schalk Brits: 8
Quickly quelled any fears about the quirky decision of coach Erasmus to station him at No 8 for this one: that old engine revved handsomely. Apart from liaising with calm efficiency with the officials in his leadership capacity, Brits busied himself superbly, and was the key final link in at least two Bok tries … while surging away for one himself.
Kwagga Smith: 6
The speedster did help contribute to a decent tempo to play from the side of the scrum, although the former Sevens icon could not manage to get involved in attacks to quit the extent he might have hoped.
Francois Louw: 6.5
Needed to stay reasonably close to the engine room considering the presence of two smaller, more marauding loosies around him, and stuck to his guns well in that capacity. A couple of shrewd support runs with the ball.
Lood de Jager: 7.5
Both Bok locks put in assertive shifts -- especially in helping ensure relative carnage from attacking lineouts and associated mauls -- though De Jager went the full 80 and carried powerfully much of the time. His kick-off collections of a greasy ball were impressive, too.
RG Snyman: 7
Stole at least one Namibian lineout ball, and his grunt and industry ensured the Bok pack as a whole was rumbling forward much of the time.
Vincent Koch: 7
Raised his loosehead foe ominously off the ground at just the second scrum, setting tone for routine Bok dominance at the set-piece. Suitably mobile in open play, too, to keep pressure on frontline No 3 incumbent Frans Malherbe.
Bongi Mbonambi: 7.5
Another around whom there could have been few quibbles if he’d won man of match. Customary brilliant maul management (including two tries for himself) and generally bristled in the tight-loose, including making bruising tackles galore.
Tendai Mtawarira: 6.5
Unusually lengthy shift for the “Beast”, who went some 70 minutes before making way for Steven Kitshoff. Relatively few storming runs from the veteran, but assertive at scrum-time.
Siya Kolisi: 6.5
Damian de Allende was lively (and pleasingly cerebral) in his 25 minutes, too, but the 27 or so played by the squad skipper would have been a tonic to himself and the Bok management; tended to pop up in exactly the right areas.
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