Bryan Habana (Gallo)
Cape Town – It was done industrially and
the Springboks have certainly played more complete and accurate matches ... but
all that matters is that they have lugged their way into the RWC 2015
A moment of decision-making and execution
magic between seasoned pros Duane Vermeulen and Fourie du Preez was the
critical turning point as the latter’s blindside try in the 74th
minute made all the difference on the scoreboard in a 23-19 quarter-final
triumph over gritty Wales at Twickenham on Saturday.
For those lamenting the often
one-dimensional nature of the Bok game-plan in this one, and the way they kept
running into a red brick wall at times, popular SuperSport pundit and former
national coach Nick Mallett later offered the following perspective: “Don’t be
negative ... remember that if you’d told all of us after Japan that we would be
semi-finalists, we’d have bitten your hand off.”
There is plenty for South Africa to work on
for improvement purposes ahead of their date in the last four next weekend, but
a gratifying aspect of this toughed-out victory was the way several of their
veterans or at least near-vets led the effort in the trenches.
Schalk Burger was official choice as man of
the match, but other stalwarts like Vermeulen, Bryan Habana and Du Preez – some
of them 2007 winners – were right up there for commitment and gumption on a
how I rated the Boks out of 10:
le Roux: 5
This was a decided off-day for the
mercurial character, although he showed ticker for his perseverance that led to
some improvement as the game wore on – including one snaking burst that
troubled the Welsh defence. Generally blunder-prone, though, including
misjudgement of a high ball that led to try against Boks in first quarter when
the No 15 was at his shakiest. Some innocuous kicking.
One brilliant aerial win in a fierce
one-on-one, and looked fairly dangerous on the relatively few opportunities he
had to gallop into space. Some rock-like defence.
Tough day at the outside centre office for
this promising youngster, still on Test training wheels in so many respects.
Found going hard as Welsh attacked early and repeatedly with ball in hand. Made
way for Jan Serfontein during second period.
de Allende: 7
Strong on his feet, as usual, and got into
some half-gaps against dogged Welsh defence. But key feature in this fixture
was his penchant for the well-timed turnover – including a beauty two or three
minutes before final whistle.
Still waiting to nudge ahead of Jonah Lomu
for most RWC tries, but heck, it wasn’t for any lack of effort! At least two
turnovers when Boks under cosh, and always competing, harrying, hustling.
Made place-kicking look thoroughly
effortless initially, then had a brief spell of yips as well. But also banged
over well-judged dropped goal, amidst 18-point haul, and made his tackles. Some
gremlins in tactical kicking, however.
du Preez: 7.5
Thoroughly efficient rather than
awe-inspiring for large parts of game, as Wales did everything they could to
disrupt or blunt the little general. But earns a full extra point on my card
for sublime anticipation and cool-headedness in the working of his
match-winning try ...
some storming metres on occasion, and always one of the more precise Bok
players on a day when imprecision was too often a team feature. Always in
market for a poach, one natty ‘SBW’ offload ... and then crisp, key involvement
off back of scrum in Du Preez’s try.
Twenty-six carries! That is quite some
statistic, and underlined yet again that Burger just doesn’t “do” anonymity in
a Bok jersey. Always big on scrambling defence when required, too. The veteran
was official man of the match, even if I rated him a fraction below one or two
others, for the little it matters. Maybe Boks overdo using him in No 10 channel
Visiting pundit Lewis Moody called
beforehand for more carrying and linking by the open-sider, who does this well
for Bath. He responded to good degree, especially in first half; one terrific
charge. Customary good industry at close quarters.
de Jager: 6.5
Wales had clearly done their homework on
the tall-timber ball-carrier; tribute to his lively pool-phase play at this
tournament. So they closed his channels down pretty often ... but that didn’t
mean he was “quiet”. Also confident on own lineout ball, though possibly needed
to help “clean” more in Boks’ scratchy first half.
Seldom shirks coalface duties, and that
applied again here. Some unusual concentration lapses, and penalised once or
twice at rucks.
Perhaps not quite enough evidence yet to
suggest he should be automatic starter now in tighthead spot? Boks had some
good scrums, and disappointing ones. Pinged for a side entry, but couple of
du Plessis: 6
Made important early tackle on meaty wing
George North when danger signs flashed. Dropped a ball in contact once, but
showed courage in returning to park after treatment to what first seemed fairly
serious forearm/hand injury.
Not one of “Beast’s” better Test matches,
in truth. Failed to really impose himself at scrum-time and few of his
trademark, forceful drives on display.
I suggested during lead-up week that the
Bone Collector might yet make a mark on this World Cup ... and even in a mere
12 minutes in this one, he made a vital, brawny contribution against a tiring
Welsh side. Big carries and hits, and was in safe possession a second or two
before the Boks kicked the ball out to secure the win. Adriaan Strauss, Trevor
Nyakane and Jannie du Plessis pulled their weight, too.
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing.