Birmingham – Halt the funeral plan ... some
of the most seasoned Springbok warhorses aren’t dead yet.
Fourie du Preez (Gallo Images)
South Africa struck back with brutal
control, physical relish and eventually some sparkle too, as they trounced
Samoa 46-6 in their World Cup Pool B fixture at Villa Park here on Saturday.
There was commitment and rich industry
across the park from the Boks, and whilst several up-and-coming players
certainly didn’t shirk their duties, this pleasing bounce-back occasion will be
remembered primarily for a handful of oft-pilloried veterans putting one across
the bows of their critics.
Members of the 2007 RWC-winning Springbok
squad rose to the assignment with special splendour: scrumhalf Fourie du Preez
rolled back the clock to remind of the qualities that punctuated his heyday,
Victor Matfield lifted his game immeasurably and JP Pietersen – who got the
party started with his opportunist intercept try – eventually bagged a
hat-trick as he showed the finishing qualities of a football striker at the famous
old English Premiership venue.
Other prior Webb Ellis Cup winners like
Schalk Burger and Bryan Habana were suitably vibrant into the bargain, while
captain Jean de Villiers showed some strong signals at last that he may be “getting
there” performance-wise ... even if there’s another concern over his health
after a late smack to the jaw.
how I rated the Boks out of 10:
le Roux: 7
Sound outing, after welcome recall.
Generally kicked well when required to do so in first half, and showed his
slippery qualities on attack when Boks opened up as game progressed. Came
within whisker of at least two tries.
Flirted with yellow card after silly high
challenge on Alesana Tuilagi, but otherwise a revelation after lean
international spell. Settled Bok nerves with brilliantly-read intercept score,
then showed sublime handling and other skills. Predatory qualities of old
suddenly flooded back.
de Villiers: 6.5
Much more decisive leadership this week as
Boks cleverly built an innings, as they say. Good leg drive on one occasion,
and his old sleight of hand became increasingly evident before he took another
worrying crack to the jaw late on; verdict awaited ...
de Allende: 7.5
Brought stealth and power to the No 12
channel; constant handful to Samoan defence even if some of his raids were a
little lateral. Tackled with great purpose as well. Damaged his right knee in
first half and later forced off in 48th minute.
Showed praiseworthy zest and gumption in
always trying to exploit the most minor of space. Rewarded for durability with handsome,
tearaway final try for Boks in 83rd minute.
Official man of match, even if that was
disputed by some in press-box. Still, the youngster showed fearlessness going
to the advantage line against the rugged Samoans, and after some early gremlins
(like an overcooked kick-off) became increasingly commanding at No 10.
du Preez: 9
This writer’s own choice as standout Bok
player. How refreshing just to see him complete as many as 73 minutes so
effortlessly! Gave the Boks key direction and sound game management at No 9,
and his tactical kicking and speedy passing were godsends as well.
Yes, there’s obviously a way to go to get
him back to vintage best after a 17-week layoff ... but what a Trojan to go the
distance on comeback. Supervised many lethal rolling mauls, and his
ball-in-hand bursts only seemed to become more frequent as game progressed.
Loves a good scrap, so always seemed likely
to rise to the challenge against these renowned combative foes. That old engine
just keeps going and going.
Another Bok stalwart to warm increasingly
to the challenge; now much nearer to own A-game again after injury layoff.
Worked tirelessly at close quarters.
Some critics felt he should be demoted for
this one: instead he got up for it superbly. Constant bastion of reliability in
first half, either at kick-off collections or the lineout, where he caused
mayhem on Samoan throw. Rousing applause as he left field on 55 minutes, sound
job done. Had ice pack on left leg afterwards – hopefully just a 38-year-old’s
Absolutely oozed aggression, right from the
kick-off when he went clattering in and won a penalty straight away. Maintained
lustre (but composure also) at coalface, and aided Matfield in ensuring lineout
angst for the opposition. Bits of deft handwork as well.
du Plessis: 5
Hurt a knee during first half, which
impeded his mobility a bit, but had been struggling anyway to achieve both a
scrummaging grip and efficiency in open play. Incurred penalty wrath of Wayne
Barnes at breakdowns too.
Not everyone favoured omission of Bismarck
du Plessis, but give the 50-capper his due: tigerish display for 68 minutes
including some concerted carries and near-deadeye efficiency with his lineout
Blew hot and cold ... there were more
“Beeeast” chants this week, indicating that he had some forceful drives. But
scrums were often poor by Boks, so must take some responsibility there.
de Jager: 7.5
You just can’t seem to keep the
spring-heeled young athlete out of the fulcrum of the action this year, whether
he is starting or making an impact off the bench for the national cause. Took
over the baton from a firing Matfield with ease – and no lack of venom -- after
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing.
Rob is attending the Bok pool phase
of RWC 2015 to provide news and analysis for Sport24 readers.