News24

Bok Tri-Nations ratings

2008-09-05 05:46

Tank Lanning and Rob Houwing

Cape Town - It was a funny old Tri-Nations for the Springboks. The Rugby World Cup champions finished bottom of the table with a disappointing two wins from six, and unexpectedly lost two of their three home outings.

Yet both triumphs were pretty sublime ones: merely breaking the Dunedin bogey in a 30-28 thriller was a giddy achievement, while the Boks reserved best for last with an almighty thrashing of the Wallabies in Johannesburg.

Was it a turning point under the coaching tenure of Peter de Villiers or was it simply because Australia were preoccupied by bigger fish to fry?

Nobody is quite sure, but for the meantime, study our Springbok player-by-player barometer for the Tri-Nations campaign, featuring all those who got significant enough game-time.

Rob's backline report card:

8
Jean de Villiers: Playing arguably the rugby of his life. Happily free of injury, handsomely expressed himself in midfield and gave direction and purpose to the entire back division. Orchestrated several tries, too.

7
Adi Jacobs: Perfect foil for De Villiers in his "playing off him" role. Imaginative and elusive in wriggling through gaps, and those who feared he would be a revolving door defensively were startlingly put in their places.

6.5
Conrad Jantjes: Doesn't do everything right; hands let him down in Durban defeat to Australia. But a revealingly resurgent force otherwise - excellent footballing acumen and utterly brave under aerial bombardment.

6.5
Jongi Nokwe: Favourable rating almost entirely based, it is true, on fairytale four-try burst against Wallabies at Coca-Cola Park, mostly "round-offs". But you've still got to do it! Swift and elegant; defence yet to be thoroughly tested.

6
Odwa Ndungane: Probably never going to settle as first-choice right wing because of lack of true pace. Dependable, composed workhorse nevertheless; industrious finale against Wallabies.

6
Bryan Habana: Frustrating that he never sees the ball in space as much as Bok fans would like. Tournament curtailed by injury; fine torpedo-like try first-up in Wellington, though.

6
Percy Montgomery: Swansong tournament for him, much of it off bench. Rich, calming experience and booming boot still assets at times, but those legs certainly getting no faster and a few handling boo-boos.

6
Fourie du Preez: Return from lengthy injury absence meant Tri-Nations home leg was primarily a rust-buster for him. Started tentatively but got better and better, to remind all of 2007 exploits.

6
Ricky Januarie: Combative little dynamo, as ever, even if sometimes still fails to see bigger picture. Who will forget, though, bit of virtuoso genius for All Black-killer try in Dunedin?

6
Ruan Pienaar: Limited opportunity, and versatility perhaps does him no favours. A bit of off-the-bench exposure at flyhalf, though, and lovely swerving try against Australia in Johannesburg. Successor to Butch James at No 10?

5.5
Butch James: Failed to stamp his authority in the No 10 jersey, even though he was given ample opportunity. A few "no-arms" and dangerous tackles went unpunished, asking questions regarding his temperament. Slipped a few of those tackles as well, but more worrying was his positional kicking, which went missing for most of the tournament. One of the players not buying into the coach's plan perhaps?

5
Frans Steyn: Like Pienaar, almost too multi-skilled for own good - but not making desired progress amidst ongoing positional quandary, either. Feeling remains that he occasionally tries too hard to provide the "unusual".

4.5
JP Pietersen: Just for a while, it looked as if form nightmare of early 2008 was over. Started to get more involved and gain confidence, but then rather subsided again. And injury kept him off park in the 53-8 romp.

Tank's pack report card:

9
Tendai Mtawarira: Proof that there is life after the legend that is Os du Randt. Awesomely powerful scrumming that has returned the Bok scrum to the top of the pile, while also making real yards with ball in hand and stopping very big people in their tracks with crunching tackles.

7
CJ van der Linde: A seriously competent tighthead prop who anchors the scrum well, gets the needed right shoulder, adds value in the tight-loose and is effective with ball in hand. Damaged his reputation (and rating) hugely because of his moronic head-butt on Sam Cordingley that led to his four-week suspension.

6
Bismarck du Plessis: A success story in that he made fantastic use of the unfortunate injury to skipper, John Smit. Destructive in the tight-loose, a powerful scrummager, but part of a relatively unhappy lineout and prone to losing the ball in the tackle.

6
Andries Bekker: Very effective in all the home games. Not a Bakkies replacement but then was never meant to be. Probably need a little more from him in the really tough stuff, though, but adds to the Bok lineout and grew in stature with every start.

6
Juan Smith: Along with Schalk, one of only two forwards to start every game. Certainly not quite at his world-dominating best we saw at the World Cup, but monumental at times. On the back foot, given the Boks' poor performance at the breakdown, he was forced into a much tighter role.

6
Pierre Spies: Fair to expect a little more from this great athlete, but improved with every game, eventually showing a little of what he is capable of in the final game. Still questions marks around his effectiveness in the really tight and tough games

5.5
Schalk Burger: Started every game. Unfairly blamed for the ineffectual work at the breakdown by the entire Bok side, the great player seemingly tried to take on a little too much. Monumental in his defence, he certainly made players look up before taking passes.

5
Brian Mujati: After a few "iffy" performances from the bench, provided a more than competent display as part of the run-on XV in the final game. Solid scrummager who does not yet do too much around the field.

5
Bakkies Botha: Part of a lock pairing that really got bullied off the park in the first All Black game, and it is not insignificant that Ali Williams and Brad Thorn were missing from the team the Boks beat. Did not have a chance to redeem himself in the home games but needed more from him as the "enforcer".

4
Gurthro Steenkamp: A primary reason for the Bok scrum coming unstuck in the first game against the All Blacks. Improved greatly in the second game, but having seen what Mtawarira can do, he is now looking to be a prop just short of international standard.

4
Victor Matfield: Very poor Tri-Nations indeed. He was sin-binned for a high tackle that could well have deprived the Boks of their win in New Zealand. Part of lineout that was well below normal Boks standards (losing six of them in Durban Test) and well off his best when taking the all-important kick-ins.

4
Luke Watson: Like a dirty smell, he has tended to hang around in this year's tournament. Replaced Burger with 20 minutes to go at Newlands, and failed to make any impact at all. Never getting a start, he was, in fact, not very influential at all from the bench.

4
Joe van Niekerk: Looked at sea in all three away games. Dropped passes, took tackles when he should have been looking to go wide, and then lost possession in the tackle. Not explosive or decisive enough for an international No 8.

3.5
Schalk Brits: Came on for Du Plessis in the second game and looked to have made an impact, but having started the third game was shown up to go missing in the big games and not offer enough at the collision and breakdown.

Coach:

4.5
Peter de Villiers: His entertainment value at press conferences is second to none, but the jury is definitely still out regarding his ability to take control of some of the best players in the world and get them on a park confident in their ability to take on all comers. Naive in his thinking that the ball can just be spread without doing some hard graft to get into the opposition half, it will be interesting to see if he learns from this wooden spoon performance.

Not rated due to a lack of game time:

Bolla Conradie: Only last few minutes in Wellington
John Smit: Only played in the first half of first game
Adriaan Strauss: Never started. On the bench for the home games
Danie Rossouw: On the bench for two of the home games

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

Sport24