Cape Town - The 2017 Springboks are showing
signs of plenty more, but the recapturing of their collective self-respect is
the best feature of all in two Tests thus far.
Warren Whiteley’s urgent, passionate team
put the three-match series against France to bed early as they opened up a 2-0
lead by way of a pleasingly multi-layered 37-15 triumph in Durban on Saturday.
Against a stronger visiting XV than started
the first Test (a 37-14 outcome) in Pretoria, the score-line was virtually
identical but the Bok performance actually better in several respects.
Not only did they take their own
opportunities clinically and sometimes attractively, but they were put to a
really searching, prolonged examination of their defensive mettle and ticked
that box outstandingly on a day when they were forced into nearly three times
as many tackles as their opponents.
There were standouts galore in the
Springbok ranks - how often could you say that in miserable 2016? - but Siya
Kolisi was official player-of-the-match and headed the Sport24 card
compellingly as well.
how I rated the Boks out of 10 at Kings Park:
Few opportunities to be properly
influential. Defensive alignment left bit to be desired as French struck with
early try, but otherwise did basics competently enough.
Little came his way … so went looking for
work, and pretty illuminatingly. One dangerous early snipe, and then got stuck
into earnest defensive chores, including key intercept with Boks under huge
pressure, and committed track-back tackle on flying French wing Virimi
Once again, on his 12th Bok
appearance, stopped just a bit short of announcing “here to stay”. One or two
handling lapses, but also ran a couple of shrewd lines, and adhesive in the
One of his best Bok games; former national
captain and inside centre Jean de Villiers went so far as to brand him
“sublime” at No 12. Heartening organisational presence, fiercely committed, and
scorer of possibly SA’s most easy-on-the-eye try.
French kept their game-plan stubbornly
tight, so not much regular activity for anyone in wider channels. But one deft
dart during second half, and usually well alert to danger on retreat.
Belatedly beginning to show he CAN play
with polish and composure for a South African team that isn’t the Lions.
Tenacious and calm at flyhalf, despite one missed touch from a penalty, kicked
his goals to near-perfection and on hand to apply finishing touches for final
Long way to go yet before he becomes a
Fourie du Preez, but budding signs of the type of sensible game management
overdue at scrumhalf from Boks. Some decent box kicks, crisp service at right
times, and one try-saving last-ditch tackle.
When the whole team plays with such gusto,
you have to assume at least some credit to the captaincy, yes? Individually,
Whiteley shone in this one too, with lovely occasional running lines, vigorous
kick chasing, lineout assuredness and energetic work over the ball at
Mohoje: Not rated
Fairly innocuous in the difficult Bok first
few minutes before his game-ending injury in 13th, but just too
little time for a justifiable rating, in fairness.
Absolute humdinger. Arguably even superior
to his famous 2013 debut against Scotland at Nelspruit, where he was a
fifth-minute “supersub” for luckless Arno Botha. Classic opensider’s
performance: eternally industrious at breakdown, marvellous handling, cunning
opportunism, and some quite thrilling spells of linking and stretch-the-legs play.
We always knew he was a tight-five workaholic
for the Lions; underlined here in just his second Test start. Ran a tight
lineout ship, hit rucks, and above all put in untiring defensive shift - best
evidenced when French applied long periods of nail-biting goal-line pressure in
second period. Somehow almost seems to lift a notch while others tire as the
sands run out …
Easily the more senior of this budding new
lock firm, the big bruiser played his part in ensuring a commendable tackle
count from the SA second-rowers. Has had more assertive days on the rampage and
in lineouts, but that’s not saying he lacked endeavour in any way.
Good to see bits of “mongrel” from the
tighthead not always demonstrated during Super Rugby for Stormers thus far.
Robust presence at close quarters in general play, made an aggressive steal,
and no special problems at the set-piece.
Just a little less barnstorming than at
Loftus a week earlier, but another dynamic, muscular display from the emerging
hooker. Fast losing that Super Rugby reputation for lineout-throw yips, too.
Conceded two penalties (one for pulling
scrum down, another for tackling man without ball) so must be marked down a
tad. But also won a scrum penalty back, and celebrated animatedly to
demonstrate how up for this Test he was, too.
du Preez: 7
Energetic second-half stuff from Steven
Kitshoff, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Coenie Oosthuizen as well, but the strapping
Sharks blind-sider got on in the 13th minute and grabbed this
extended chance with both hands. Fine leg drive, brawny hold-up tackles, broad
enthusiasm ... should become a starter imminently.
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing