Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points following the Springboks’ 35-12 win over France in third Test at Ellis Park in Johannesburg:
1. Eben’s best day ever!
The Springboks were disrupted just prior to kick-off when skipper Warren Whiteley had to pull out with a groin injury.
Up stepped lock Eben Etzebeth who became the 60th Springbok captain.
As a result of Whiteley's withdrawal, the Bok loose trio was shaken up, with Jaco Kriel coming into the starting line-up and Jean-Luc du Preez moving to No 8.
But it hardly proved a disruption and Etzebeth led by example.
Our chief writer Rob Houwing nicely summed up Etzebeth's performance, writing: “The muscular lock led by example in sheer industry terms, kept his temper well in check in his new capacity, made right calls and engaged smartly at times with Australian referee Angus Gardner.”
Etzebeth also claimed afterwards that it had been “the best day of my life”.
2. Serfontein finally living up to potential
Springbok centre Jan Serfontein was a deserved man-of-the-match in Saturday’s game.
He was industrious throughout and even popped up as a surprise lineout option which led to Etzebeth’s try early in the second half.
Serfontein has struggled to impose himself at the Bulls but at the Boks this year he is finally living up to the promise which saw him named player of the tournament at the Junior World Championships five years ago.
He is set to head abroad and plying his trade away from Pretoria may not be the worst thing for his rugby...
3. Coetzee deserves praise
Saturday’s win completed a 3-0 clean-sweep of France and was also the Boks’ first win over Les Bleus at Ellis Park in five attempts.
The series has seen a remarkable turnaround in fortunes after a dreadful 2016 campaign and head coach Allister Coetzee deserves praise.
He realised mistakes were made last year and made work at resurrecting matters.
Coetzee understood that he needed help in certain departments and did so by adding Brendan Venter (defence and exits consultant) and Franco Smith (skills and attack) to his management team.
The Springbok team environment appears a happy one and it’s clear that the right decisions were made in certain departments.
Therefore, the head honcho deserves praise...
4. Scrum worries
Last week I lamented several scrum resets and this past weekend proved no different.
There were five scrum resets at Ellis Park and the Springbok scrum again had its ebbs and flows.
The Boks only won 50% of their scrums.
Ruan Dreyer conceded a couple of penalties, while Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira is not the player of old.
A big plus in this regard for the Boks was the introduction of Steven Kitshoff for the last 25 minutes.
After Kitshoff's arrival, the Bok scrum appeared more solid and his contribution in general play was also a sight to behold.
Kitshoff’s cameo appearance off the bench during this series should see him very close to a starting role...
5. How poor were France?
Yes, the Springboks deserve credit for their 3-0 series win - they showed marked improvements in all departments - but the quality of the opposition needs to be taken into consideration.
Les Bleus have fielded some pretty average teams in recent years and this one ranks right up there.
Nick Mallett best summed up the French performance when he said they "looked poorly coached" and "poorly prepared".
The French bossed possession and territory throughout the series but seemed clueless as to what to do with ball in hand.
The visitors also appeared lacklustre, seemingly feeling the effects of being at the end of a long season.