Cape Town - The Springboks were forced into
an eleventh-hour captaincy switch, but that proved anything but an impediment
as they turned the screws after a sloppy first half to thump France 35-12 and
secure a 3-0 series sweep at Ellis Park on Saturday.
That things were so seamless in many
respects, despite Warren Whiteley’s unfortunate withdrawal at his cherished
home franchise ground, spoke volumes for the way Eben Etzebeth, hastily
installed as national captain No 60, deputised.
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,
suggesting that the Boks have emerging depth in leadership even when fit-again
Whiteley re-assumes his post.
But there were also eye-catching efforts
from thoroughly resurgent midfielder Jan Serfontein, who kept his mojo from
Durban, Etzebeth’s untiring second-row partner Franco Mostert and one or two
others who exceeded “average”.
This Test certainly seemed like a dead
rubber, with plenty of imperfections from both sides, but the Boks went up a
gear when they had to, to take the game right away from the impotent tourists,
and as Nick Mallett observed in the SuperSport studio there was collective
enthusiasm and a pleasing “lack of laziness” through the Bok ranks ...
how I rated the Boks out of 10 in Johannesburg:
Suitably steady once more, if not quite spectacular
yet in the last line of defence. Usually demonstrated safe hands when necessary
and came within a hair’s breadth of being credited with a second-half try, TV
replays suggesting he had been halted just short.
Hmm, there could yet be scope for change in
the No 14 jersey, which is not Rhule’s more natural positioning anyway.
Desperately few attack chances, but signs of frailty in tackle situations.
At times, reminded of some of his striking
2015 exploits at outside centre for the Boks. A decisive early leg-tackle got
his evening off to a fine start, and always sought to be constructive,
energetic. Clinical finish for his first-half try at corner flag.
Cherry on top of an inspired series before
the Jo’burg faithful: looked totally at home and in charge at No 12. Grafted
feverishly, including winning turnovers and even a productive lineout catch to
paste in his scrapbook, and one knife-like break only foiled by desperate
So little space to work his renowned
offensive magic in, which was a shame. Good composure, though, and gutsy aerial
ball win a split second before being illegally, awkwardly dumped and badly
Not quite as dominating in general play as
he had been at Kings Park, but another promising, unruffled showing all the
same. Cleared calmly despite a few ropey passes coming his way, and again
largely dead-eye off the kicking tee.
One notably misfiring link, alas. Always
keen as mustard, including engineering a steal, but shortcomings in composure
and game-management, plus a few wobbly passes let him down. Ross Cronje will
stay at front of scrumhalf pile for the moment ...
du Preez: 6
Perhaps understandably, not nearly as
convincing in his late, enforced switch to No 8 as he had been one Test earlier
as a thunderous blindside flank early substitute. A few really firm, drive-back
Always endeavoured to do things at a
pleasingly high tempo, although curtailed by not-ideal emergency deployment as
a No 7, to which he is not best suited in his game style. Still, he won a
turnover or two, cleaned up an untidy lineout and had a turbo-charged early
Game of his life in Durban, so the Big
Smoke was always going to be a difficult, slightly hiding-to-nothing follow-up.
Still highly effective at breakdowns, however, and his tackles were usually
Trojan … as always, really, whether for
Boks or Lions. Consistently good (and sometimes vital) tackling, solid
clean-outs and reassuring ruck protection of colleagues. Penalised once for
being off feet at breakdown.
Captaincy element to his scorecard as
already discussed above. As player, got about the park zestfully and his
physical presence and legal brutality always apparent. Amazing wrestler’s strength
to power over try-line from centre Serfontein’s unexpected lineout claim.
Lots of hair ruffling for the debutant as
he won a scrum penalty at only the second set-piece. But then he conceded two
or three at scrum-time to leave some question marks. Made final offload for
Kriel’s try; some cause for satisfaction.
Worked healthily on the deck, but his
“basics” fell short in this one, with some lineout throw-in angst and, once, a
costly fumble in a budding maul initiative.
Inescapable feeling that the Beast remains
in “cruise” mode. Put in his share of honest defensive grunt, especially in
first half where Boks sported only a third of territory, but still waiting for
the firebrand player of 2009 to truly resurface. Leaked penalty for high
Played like a man possessed in the 25
minutes he got, and after 13 Test appearances it is a travesty he has not yet
had a start. Got stuck in everywhere … carrying very powerfully, tackling, and
also showing sublime hand skills in one offload instance.
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing