3 talking points from Springboks, Lions second Test: Rassie’s ’Carte Blanche’ insert was a master stroke
Share this article:
Given the tense talk prior to the second Test between the Springboks and the Lions, there was always going to be drama in the match itself. Tensions were bubbling dangerously high from the first whistle and while the game will not be recalled as a classic, it brimmed with intrigue. Mike Greenaway looks at three hotspots from the Springboks’ 27-9 victory.
Untamed Lions could be caged by citing commissioner
One of the items in Rassie Erasmus’ Thesis on Unfairness that he pinned to the door of World Rugby last week was that the Lions like to portray the Boks as brutes who do not know the laws of rugby and simply rely on a power game to steamroll opponents. Well, video footage of the second Test suggests the Lions are no angels themselves and in the case of Maro Itoje, we have a leading Lion who appears to have scant regard for the well-being of Damian de Allende, never mind the laws. Itoje is caught on camera kneeing the neck area of the prone Springbok centre. If there is anything remotely funny about this, it is that when De Allende objects by pushing at the lock, Itoje flings his arms in the air as if he has been terribly wronged. This wasn’t the only occasion that Itjoe theatrically attempted to milk a penalty because he had been “bullied”. But the Best Oscar Award must go to flyhalf Dan Biggar. During the fracas that raged after the Cheslin Kolbe aerial collision, Biggar suddenly flung himself to the ground as if shot by a sniper from the empty stands, without a Bok in touching distance. Methinks he has been watching too much football. There is also footage doing the rounds of fullback Stuart Hogg’s mouth possibly making contact with the arm of Willie Le Roux. It could just be Hogg’s mouth accidentally brushing the arm, so let’s give the Scot the benefit of doubt. Willie will clear that up in time.
Rassie’s “Carte Blanche” insert was a master stroke
Perhaps the most fitting candidate for Man of the Match was referee Ben O’Keefe. I thought he had an exeptional game, especially considering the scorching heat on the officials. Has there ever been such a hullabaloo about refereeing fairness before a Test match? Probably, now that I think about it. Putting pressure on the referee pre-match is as old as the game itself and was an art perfected by Eddie Jones when he was coach of the Wallabies. His verbal spats in the media with the likes of Clive Woodward and Jake White regarding the opposition’s law transgressions are the stuff of legend. Jones not long ago desribed it as “theatre”, and Rassie’s 62-minute production was of an award-winning standard. Rassie wanted his players to be treated with fairness and respect, and if that was lacking in the first Test, it wasn’t in the second. I thought New Zealander O’Keefe was firm, fair and thorough. Heck, the first half was 63-minutes long. That’s an extra 13 minutes which was mostly used to ensure correct decisions were made.
Springbok leaders stood tall
If there was one moment that perfectly encapsulated the pride this country should feel about the Springboks —the heroes that two years ago gave this troubled country such unbridled joy — it was the tandem effort of Siya Kolisi and Lukhanyo Am in valiantly preventing Robbie Henshaw from scoring a try. The Irishman had gathered a chip from countryman Conor Murray on the Bok tryline and simply had to fall to the round to score, but the Springbok captain and vice-captain flung themselves underneath him and green cloth miraculously came between the ball and the ground. If ever there was an example of “putting your body on the line”, this was it. Kolisi was immense and Am arguably had his best ever game in a Bok jersey, and that is some contention because he has been consistently good in his 15 Tests. At 27, Am is three years Kolisi’s junior, so when the captain hangs up his boots, Am is his natural successor.