Cape Town – After all the fallout from Mendoza, guess what: the Springboks are still on top of the Rugby Championship log!
The Boks may only be ahead of the All Blacks on points difference (65 to 29), but it’s a whole lot better than this time last year, when they had just six log points compared to their current nine, which should give coach Heyneke Meyer and his team lots of confidence for their coming away trip to Australia and New Zealand.
And there were many other good things to come out of the Mess of Mendoza that will mean a lot to the Boks at their hoodoo grounds in Brisbane and Auckland.
The South Africans have won only two matches out of 11 in Brisbane, with their last win in 1971, while they have a similar record in Auckland (two wins and a draw out of nine games), having last won at Eden Park in 1937.
The main plus-point for the Boks was the goal-kicking prowess of Morné Steyn. The ace flyhalf was the match-winner in Mendoza with a 100% record, slotting six out of six. His general play wasn’t too bad either, getting the Boks out of trouble with good, lengthy touch-finders, while standing his ground in defence as well.
His goal-kicking touch left him in 2012, most notably in Mendoza and Dunedin against the Pumas and All Blacks. Steyn missed two crucial penalties that would’ve won the game for the Boks against Argentina, where he kicked four out of six, while he had a dismal one out of five record against the All Blacks in a 21-11 defeat.
But in the last two weeks, Steyn kicked 12 out of 13 at the FNB Stadium and six out of six in Mendoza.
What will also be different for the Boks going into the Wallaby Test is the form of Duane Vermeulen.
Last year, the big WP No 8 was also coming back from injury, and hadn’t played much Currie Cup rugby before making his long-awaited Test debut against Australia in Perth. By his own admission, he was short of a gallop at the Subiaco Oval, as the Boks ran out of steam after leading at halftime to go down 26-19. He was much better the following week against the All Blacks in Dunedin.
After yet another long injury layoff this year, Vermeulen had a reasonable comeback game against Argentina in Johannesburg, but was arguably the best Bok on the field in Mendoza at the weekend.
He was powerful with his ball-carries, was intimidating in defence, and had a high work-rate.
So, he will be 100% ready for Ben Mowen and Kieran Read in the coming weeks, and that is a crucial physical dimension to the Bok loose trio alongside Francois Louw and Willem Alberts.
It was a day to forget for the Boks in Mendoza, but there is still more than enough positives for Meyer to truly believe that his team can win in Australia and New Zealand.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
@duane_vermeulen: Tough game tonight but a win is a win and we’ll take our 4 points one step better than last year and one step in the right direction #Bokke
WHO TO FOLLOW
@wjjleroux: The Bok fullback was on his first Test tour in Argentina, so check him out.
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