Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points following the Springboks’ 35-6 win over Italy in Padova:
1. Marked improvement from Pollard
Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard deserved his man-of-the-match accolade.
After missing four kicks at goal against France, Pollard responded with a 100% record in a wet Padova, slotting all four of his attempted conversions.
His general play was also more astute, especially in the wet, and he is clearly taking steps in the right direction to regaining his best form.
Pollard also set up the Boks’ opening try with a half-break near the tryline, and also their third with a perfectly-weighted cross-kick.
2. A quartet of first-time try scorers!
It’s not often nowadays that you see the Springboks score five tries and there was also an interesting statistic to add to this.
Apart from the first try which saw flank Francois Louw score his ninth Test try, the others - hooker Bongi Mbonambi, centre Francois Venter, prop Steven Kitshoff and lock Franco Mostert - all crossed the whitewash for the first time in Test rugby.
3. Don’t get carried away by Bok win
Yes, the Springboks were clinical in the way they fended off Italy in treacherous conditions, but the result should be seen in context.
This was a very poor Italian team and their lowly 13th position in the rankings reflected as much.
Since they stunned the Boks 20-18 in Florence last year, the Italians have won only one of 12 Tests - and that win was a 19-10 scrap against Fiji earlier this month.
Allister Coetzee and his Boks will be buoyed having won two out of three games on tour, but one also needs to take into consideration that the 18-17 win over France was done against one of the worst French teams in history - their tame 23-all draw at home to Japan this past weekend reflected as much.
Bok fans should not paper over the cracks by virtue of what’s happened in the last two weeks, but let’s at least give them credit for beating what was put in front of them.
4. Kitshoff becoming Bok super-sub
Apart from scoring his first Test try, replacement loosehead Steven Kitshoff is becoming an influential impact off the bench for the Springboks.
On Saturday, Kitshoff entered the fray as early as the 28th minute when he replaced the injured Tendai Mtawarira and again impressed with his all-round input.
The Springbok scrum dominated and it had the hosts on the back foot throughout.
Kitshoff is pushing hard for a starting spot, and with Mtawarira struggling with a sore groin, the Stormers front-ranker may get his chance against Wales.
5. Bok backline positions not settled
It’s fair to say that the Springboks were more potent up front this season and Saturday’s match in Padova proved as much.
Their forward dominance laid the platform for a convincing win.
However, the feeling is that there are still a few positions in the backline that look unsettled.
Scrumhalf, wing and fullback spring to mind as positions where the Boks aren’t quite settled.
Andries Coetzee and Courtnall Skosan have yet to convince that they are the answers going forward and the lack of real gusto behind the pack has been well documented all season.
It was also welcome to see the exciting talent of Warrick Gelant make his debut off the bench on Saturday...