It was Willie le Roux’s 50th Test and the Springboks nearly pulled off a special win for him, going down 32-30 to the All Blacks at Loftus Versfeld.
Here’s how we rated the Boks…
Willie le Roux: 7/10
Stuck to the conservative Bok game plan in the first half with a few kicks and handled the high ball well, but came alive when he cut the All Black defensive line in classical fullback style at the start of the second half to set up Jesse Kriel’s try. A pity that he didn’t get a win in his 50th Test.
Cheslin Kolbe: 6.5
Lovely step inside to evade Beauden Barrett’s no-arms dive, and got the ball on the line for a try. Still not enough space created for him to have a full go with ball-in-hand, but as usual, he was tenacious in defence and looked for work all over the field.
Jesse Kriel: 7
Where was the second-half Jesse Kriel all year long? After more battering-ram type work in the opening 40 minutes, the Bulls centre brought his home crowd to their feet with a smart step and stunning acceleration to score the first Bok try. He played with the kind of energy on attack and defence that we all know he has.
Damian de Allende: 6
Ran a superb line off Siya Kolisi’s shoulder to dot down near the posts. Had to carry the ball into the All Black defence in the first half, although some of his passing let him down. Defended strongly.
Aphiwe Dyantyi: 5
The ball just didn’t go the speedster’s way in this game, and the few times it did, he was closely marked by the All Blacks. But more must be done by the inside backs to get him into space, as he has tremendous pace and a lethal step.
Handré Pollard: 7.5
Slotted a brilliant 50-metre-plus penalty to stretch the Bok lead to 10. Controlled things well tactically according to the coach’s instructions, but would’ve liked to have seen him look for the offload in the tackle when carrying it up. Excellent goal-kicking.
Faf de Klerk: 7.5
Back to his busy best. De Klerk was snapping away at the All Black fringes, got the ball out quicker than last week, and even his kicks were better. Chased down New Zealand ball-carriers.
Francois Louw: 5
Battled to get over the advantage line with ball-in-hand. Tried hard at the breakdowns, but was beaten to the loose ball by Sam Cane. Played like the flank he is despite being stationed at No 8, and conceded a few penalties.
Pieter-Steph du Toit: 7
Again a physical dynamo for the Boks. Got over the advantage line, made his tackles. An intimidating presence throughout.
Siya Kolisi: 7.5
We’ve seen how his work-rate has improved steadily during 2018, and the Bok skipper took his play to another level with THAT offload to De Allende, especially as he was guilty of not passing to open teammates in previous Tests. Strong on defence. Should’ve opted to set up a lineout instead of asking Pollard to kick his second penalty through the posts.
Franco Mostert: 6
Solid as usual in the lineouts, and always a willing ball-carrier and tackler. Was unable to stop Ardie Savea for the winning try, although it was right on the line and his height made it difficult to get low enough.
Eben Etzebeth: 7
Apart from his expect ‘blood and thunder’ upfront, Etzebeth gets an extra point just for that wonderful offload in the tackle in the Jesse Kriel try, as he found Steven Kitshoff, who spun it out to a flying Kriel. That offload is something Brodie Retallick does for the All Blacks.
Frans Malherbe: 5.5
Had a fair old battle in the scrums with All Black loosehead Karl Tu’inukuafe. Cleaned out at the rucks.
Malcolm Marx: 7
The Lions hooker was a huge presence with his powerful surges up the middle, and again worked hard at the breakdowns to contest All Black possession. Was accurate with his lineout-throwing.
Steven Kitshoff: 7
Showed why he started ahead of Tendai Mtawarira. Never stood back for Owen Franks in the scrums, hit the rucks, made tackles, and showed good hands in lead-up to Kriel’s try.
Leading substitute: Damian Willemse – just for that step alone that left Ryan Crotty for dead! And he got his back-handed offload away to Franco Mostert…
Filthy step and offload from Damian Willemse. pic.twitter.com/eDmx0Oohrm