Cape Town – It was all too simple at times, especially in a clinical, no-mercy first half, but the Springboks duly put the seal on their RWC 2019 quarter-final status by grilling Canada 66-7 in Kobe on Tuesday.
The largely “dirt-tracker” Boks ran up more than a point a minute in that opening period (it was a formidable 47-0 at the interval) and then got a fair bit sloppier to only boss the second half 19-7 against opponents who suddenly found greater tenacity and self-belief.
But 10 tries to one is still a fair old “festival” in favour of a superpower nation, and several peripheral Boks again used the opportunity to remind coach Rassie Erasmus that they are breathing down first-choice players’ necks for selection.
They very much included rampaging lock RG Snyman -- whom Victor Matfield later opined could become better than Brodie Retallick as an all-round second-row package – and pacey scrumhalf Cobus Reinach, who had a field day in crossing the chalk.
Here’s how I rated the Boks:
Damian Willemse: 7
Readapted fast to international rugby after his “SOS” call-up a few days back. Impressive at fullback, with bursts of his trick-laden footwork and positional comfort. Also made a courageous breakdown steal, and romped over for as easy a try as he will ever score in second half.
Warrick Gelant: 7
Far more good things than bad in his unusual deployment at No 14. Superb kick collection helped spark Reinach’s hat-trick try, and impressive finish for his own dot-down. One knock-on.
Damian de Allende: 7
Confirmed that, if it were to become necessary, he could switch quite seamlessly to the outside centre channel for a crunch match. Made creative use of his hands, and some tactical kicking was top-notch … if perhaps a touch excessive at times?
Frans Steyn: 7
The seasoned pro continues to gradually allay fears over his conditioning and pace levels. Decent shift in steamy conditions under the roof, some assured passing – and cunning little poach to register easy-peasy personal try.
S’bu Nkosi: 7.5
Would he look a fish out of water on the less familiar left? Hardly. The wing was a bundle of positive energy, including aerial strength in 50-50 contests, reliable hands and clever offloads from contact. Suitably alert, too.
Elton Jantjies: 7.5
Purposeful game – perhaps best flyhalf showing by a Bok at this World Cup so far, even given limitations of Tuesday’s foes. Smooth link-man, deft tactical kicking (though the odd overcook) and commendably direct when he needed to be. Generally impressive off tee as well.
Cobus Reinach: 8
Certainly one of his best Test matches (this was his 14th cap) and the speed in those Reinach genes came hugely into play in a variety of pleasing ways. Box kicks were usually well weighted, and his trio of pulsating tries – including one from a long way out – within first quarter reportedly makes him fastest RWC hat-trick scorer.
Francois Louw: 7
The veteran, adaptable loosie was solid and composed at No 8. Ran onto the ball astutely, was quickly up to pressure Canadian carriers, and made a safe kick-off collection or two, into bargain.
Kwagga Smith: 6.5
His “Sevens” mobility and skill set came in handy during the times when Boks had pleasing front-foot mojo. The odd fumble and defensive lapse, but otherwise made some firm tackles and tracked back determinedly when necessary. Good half-break and offload for Nkosi try.
Siya Kolisi: 7
Full shift … and that after playing four days ago! But the Bok skipper would have benefited enormously from these extended gallops, with some rest to come. Fairly quiet first half, but to his credit he was increasingly assertive as a ball-carrier and tackler as the game developed.
Franco Mostert: 6.5
Eagerness sometimes got the better of him, explaining one or two handling deficiencies in Bok raids near the try-line. Leaked a couple of penalties, too. But graft rate very good, as is customary, including carries and safe kick-off receipts.
RG Snyman: 8.5
Made a storming run in the second minute (try eventually came from it) and that set tone for wonderful game. Always roamed hungrily and athletically, was credited with an amazing 17 tackles … and imperious at lineout time, including at least one pinch off Canadian throw.
Vincent Koch: 7.5
Got around the park agreeably stealthily, and his scrummaging was powerful.
Schalk Brits: 7.5
Possibly the last game of his marathon career? But he is still vital to have lurking in the squad. Energetic, as always, and did some smart tidying-up and linking or decoy work. Beautiful step, and then vigorous leg-drive, for a popular try.
Thomas du Toit: 6.5
The Tank Engine might have liked more carries, but sturdy at the set-piece. Victim of cynical charge to his neck by sent-off Josh Larsen.
Frans Malherbe: 7
Stormers front-row colleague Steven Kitshoff was lively too, but the burly tighthead nicks the laurel partly on sentimental grounds: this was his 35th Test appearance, and marked the happy, belated event of his maiden try.
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