The Springboks have made a cracking start to 2017, whipping the French 3-0.
Our five Independent Media rugby writers reflect on the Bok performance and choose, among other things, their man of the series, moment of the series and moment to forget ...
Jacques van der Westhuyzen - @jacq_west
MAN OF THE SERIES: Jan Serfontein: The inside centre got his chance when the likes of Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Damian de Allende were ruled out with injury and, boy, did he grab it. The Bulls man was a tower of strength in defence and he looked threatening every time he touched the ball. Pure class.
SIZING UP THE COACHES: Allister Coetzee’s selections were mainly spot-on, while the game-plan, too, suited those players. The addition of Franco Smith and Brendan Venter is clear to see and has boosted the team significantly - the defence is especially much-improved. With Matt Proudfoot and Johan van Graan, they look a happy camp.
STAR OF THE BACKLINE: Elton Jantjies. He went into the series with a question mark hanging over his head: Was he the real deal at Test level or simply a Super Rugby player? He showed he can wear the No10 for many years to come. He kicked superbly and his game management was top notch.
STAR OF THE FORWARDS: Franco Mostert. Well done to coach Coetzee for backing Lions lock Mostert. The fairly string-bean second row forward stood back for no-one, tackled like a man possessed and ran the line-outs like a seasoned pro. He, too, has a bright Bok future.
MOMENT OF THE SERIES: Ross Cronje’s try at Loftus when Warren Whiteley called the throw on him at the back of the line-out was wonderfully executed. It showed how aware the Boks were of the space available after the French fullback had been sin-binned. A close second was the line-out move involving Serfontein at Ellis Park on Saturday, which led to Eben Etzebeth’s try.
MOMENT TO FORGET: Warren Whiteley being ruled out of his home Test. He didn’t deserve that; not after playing such a big role in helping the team turn things around this season.
MAN OF THE SERIES: Franco Mostert. The Lions lock came into the series largely on Super Rugby form and continued his astounding work ethic. He gave everything in every minute of every match and, for a hitherto unheralded Springbok, he has set the standard regarding industry on and off the ball. Mostert played like every fibre of the jersey meant something to him
SIZING UP THE COACHES: Last year the coaching staff were, let’s be honest, nothing short of terrible. No idea for the players to follow, no plan, no nothing. In has come Brendan Venter to fix the defence and Franco Smith to give enthusiasm to the attack, while Allister Coetzee has overseen it all.
STAR OF THE BACKLINE: Jan Serfontein. This was the series where we finally saw Serfontein come close to realising the potential he showed when he won the IRB Junior Player of the Year in 2012. He was exceptional both on attack and defence at No12 and it is a huge pity that he is relocating his career to France.
STAR OF THE FORWARDS: Malcolm Marx. He was immense in every department except consistent accuracy in his line-out delivery. If he can get this right he can become as good if better than Bismarck. But as rampaging as he was in the loose and powerful in the scrumming, he HAS to get better at line-out delivery.
MOMENT OF THE SERIES: This was an easy one. When Siya Kolisi exploded through the French defence on the halfway line at Kings Park to ultimately offload to Elton Jantjies for the try, the second Test was won and the series secured. Kolisi was huge that match and made more than just this one telling moment.
MOMENT TO FORGET: The Boks ruled this series and while it is difficult to pin-point a watershed moment, I would say that the 42 000 at Kings Park, not to mention those watching on TV, would have been crestfallen at the concussion suffered by flanker Oupa Mohoje in that second Test. He has been the Cheetahs’ best player this year and has a lot to deliver at Test level.
Wynona Louw - @WynonaLouw
MAN OF THE SERIES: Siya Kolisi. After that second Test, he would have gotten my vote for this award even if he had been absolutely nowhere in the last one. He was exciting with ball in hand in the first Test, and in the second he was unstoppable. In Joburg, he was no let down either.
SIZING UP THE COACHES: Allister Coetzee is Springbok coach (some seem to think it’s Brendan Venter), so props to him for allowing the players to play the way they did and for his selections. Venter deserves praise for the Boks’ progress in defence. And the same can be said about Franco Smith’s attacking hand.
STAR OF THE BACKLINE: Elton Jantjies. Fullback Andries Coetzee had a solid series and Jan Serforntein was a stand out in the third, but Jantjies gets the nod for his consistent showings. Outstanding in the first Test, he handled the game with composure in the second. His was quietest at Ellis Park, but still pretty decent.
STAR OF THE FORWARDS: Eben Etzebeth. Malcolm Marx’s heroics in the first Test were amazing and Franco Mostert also deserves a mention for his good work throughout the series, but Eben Etzebeth …it’s his stop-you-in-yourtracks tackles, his line-out work (especially in the first Test), and his bulldozing runs, especially in the last Test, that earn him the title.
MOMENT OF THE SERIES: Marx’s monster run down touch in the first Test, the interplay between Warren Whiteley and Marx in the second, Coetzee’s run, quick reaction off ground and offload to put Serfontein away in the first Test … there were a few. But Kolisi gets this one for that intercept try in the second Test.
MOMENT TO FORGET: Hougaard’s performance in the third Test is something I’d rather forget, especially after Ross Cronjé’s performances in the first and second Tests. His often-wobbly passing put Jantjies under some pressure. He became slightly better as the game progressed, but nonetheless, he looked out of his depth.
Darryn Pollock - @DarrynJack216
MAN OF THE SERIES: Jan Serfontein. With the renewed Boks strutting their stuff for all to see, there were a few honourable mentions for man of the series, but it was very hard to look past Serfontein. The former World Player of the year had this latent potential waiting to be unlocked, and it seems the Springboks of 2017 have the key.
SIZING UP THE COACHES: Coaches selected by Allister Coetzee have been the difference. He has been able to pick Franco Smith and Brendan Venter in attacking and defensive roles respectively, and guess what? – the attack and defence of the Boks has been superb, while the head coach has been able to focus on his man management.
STAR OF THE BACKLINE: Elton Jantjies. He has been the form flyhalf for two years running now and while last year was one to forget, he has matured into a true Test flyhalf that can deal with the heat. The faith in him has paid dividends, and he can now duke it out with the world’s best and be his own best.
STAR OF THE FORWARDS: Siya Kolisi. Kolisi was on the precipice of being messed around by the Springboks with their intention to mould players to fit. This year Kolisi has been asked to be himself, and he has done so with aplomb, taking his Super Rugby form forward to the national level with no fuss.
MOMENT OF THE SERIES: It may seem small, but Rudy Paige’s try, and the subsequent celebration as the little man was engulfed by the whole team in celebration, was a huge sign. It proved the Boks are a happy team, playing for each other, and hell bent on succeeding.
MOMENT TO FORGET: The hasty branding of MTN’s sponsorship logo on the jerseys. It says a lot about the positives of this series when the worst thing to be witnessed was the bright yellow clashing oval of MTN’s logo on the Bok jersey.
Vata Ngobeni - @Vata_Ngobeni
MAN OF THE SERIES: Jan Serfontein. Gone is the Serfontein of old who backed his barnstorming runs over his overwhelming creative talent. Now his ability to get the ball out wide to his outside backs and tenacious defence has come to the fore.
SIZING UP THE COACHES: As much as Franco Smith and Brendan Venter’s contribution has been lauded by both players and coaches, it has been the man management of Allister Coetzee that has ensured it’s come together nicely for the team.
STAR OF THE BACKLINE: Elton Jantjies. The flyhalf hardly put a foot wrong throughout the series. He got the backline going with his appetite for the running game, creativeness on attack and pin point goal-kicking.
STAR OF THE FORWARDS: Franco Mostert. He did his primary job well in the lineouts but it was his tireless toil especially on defence that earned him the praise. His willingness to be the first to charge into the dark areas of forward play, will certainly secure his place in the Bok team for a long time to come.
MOMENT OF THE SERIES: Jesse Kriel’s try at Loftus. It was in one moment in the first Test that everything that had been bad about the Boks a year ago became everything good about them this year. Andries Coetzee got tackled in mid-field and instead of dying with the ball, he showed good appreciation of the laws in placing the ball and quickly picking it up before offloading to hooker Malcolm Marx. Marx unselfishly threw a pass to Kriel who sprinted diagonally to score.
MOMENTS TO FORGET: Mohoje and Whiteley injuries.They were dubbed the unlikely loose trio but after just one Test together Siya Kolisi, Oupa Mohoje and Warren Whiteley had formed a near perfect combination. It was sad to see Mohoje fall victim to concussion in the second Test, denying the Boks a vital line-out and defensive exponent.