Lood de Jager (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - If what doesn’t kill you makes
you stronger, then South Africa should be well nigh invincible for the
remainder of the World Cup.
About the only positive thing you can say
in the aftermath of an earth-shuddering day for rugby – and not just our
beloved, crying country - is that most Springbok players managed to get to
their feet and find their emotionally-bloodied way to the tunnel in Brighton on
They have lived to fight another day,
following a stunning 34-32 upset at the hands of Japan’s Brave Blossoms,
although that assignment looms uncomfortably quickly: they must pick up the
pieces to face the famed brutality of Samoa just a week up the road in
The Boks were truly caught cold by the
planet’s 13th-ranked nation in their RWC 2015 opener at the Community
Stadium, all sorts of grotesque failings coming to the fore.
A massive turnaround task lies ahead for a
shamed, presumably highly shell-shocked group of players.
Look away from their game one performance
cards if you are squeamish ...
how I rated the Boks out of 10 in Brighton:
Many preconceived views on this player ...
yet one of the better Boks on this ghastly day, in truth. Moment of early
ball-in-hand promise, some gutsy front-on tackles and a big touch-finder just
before halftime. Not type to pull a game from fire, though.
Body language of this senior pro perhaps needed
to be better – morose sort of game, though deserved to be irked by Bok inability
to create proper space for their fliers.
Did try hard to make things happen, working
desperately to wriggle out of low tackles and earning mini-break or two. Fatally
swatted off in lead-up to popular winning try, though.
de Villiers: 4
Looked, frankly, like the under-pressure
veteran he is; had an effect on his normally vibrant leadership. Couldn’t get
into space, plus some rare blemishes in defensive positioning.
So little came his way as an offensive
factor that it is hard to judge him. No glaring errors, which is something?
Wasn’t empowered enough to take charge:
lots of forwards seemed to smash it up laboriously off Pienaar. Glimpses of
promise, but also a horribly shanked kick into touch straight after break.
All he really did was serve as a shovel.
And not always the zippiest one, at that. No hint of verve or inspiration, and we’ve
said this about him often before.
Arguably the hardest-working Bok player, to
his credit. That mustn’t be overlooked. But also a bit too cavalier and prone
to mistakes; could have protected ball better when in possession.
du Toit: 4.5
Tough gig having to come in as late
blindside flank replacement for Willem Alberts. No special “wow” factor (where
did we see that from SA as a whole?) but stuck determinedly enough to his guns.
Long way off his best, albeit another Bok
who is well short of a recent gallop. Struggled for turnovers as the intended
main man there, but did other solid work at close quarters.
For little it’s worth, lock combination was
probably Boks’ best by position. Matfield was right in the trenches for the
duration, including trying to lead by example in dramatic closing minutes when
SA were heavily under cosh: good stuff for man of 38.
de Jager: 6.5
Highlights Bok muddy waters in selection
that he probably wouldn’t have played had Eben Etzebeth been fully fit! But not
for first time in 2015, possibly the standout SA player. Consistently
industrious in tight-loose, and lovely athleticism for tearaway try.
du Plessis: 4
Made bright enough start in open play; good
mobility and purpose. (Was he denied only a second Bok career try by poor TMO
work?) But his game receded rather violently, along with Bok fortunes.
du Plessis: 4
Always the sort of player to push
boundaries, and sometimes that works amazingly. But here he was heavily pinged
at breakdown or offside line - three penalties - so unavoidably has to be
Particularly innocuous and disappointing, I
thought. Turned over in an early carry, and the bug just spread through ranks.
Struggled for real scrum oomph, too.
du Preez: 6
Adriaan Strauss and Siya Kolisi also tried
valiantly to light the fire off bench, but the roughly 25 minutes of activity -
at last! - from the ageing scrumhalf maestro did at least provide crumbs of
comfort for what lies ahead. You just felt the tempo lifted a notch in the
position from ‘FDP’.
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing