CAPE TOWN – South Africa’s 16-16 draw with New Zealand at the weekend was an impressive result.
It’s not every day that one feels like celebrating such an outcome, in fact, more often than not, it’s a frustrating end ... or, as players and coaches always put it, like kissing your sister.
For the Springboks, though, there was nothing dull or uninspiring about the result in Wellington.
They weren’t the favourites heading into the contest at the Cake Tin, and while I doubt anybody expected a runaway win for the All Blacks, the Boks wouldn’t have been the bookies’ tip, and a draw was probably never even considered. When is it ever in rugby?
There are a list of positives the Boks can take out of the Wellington Test, and the individual performances of some players certainly made the cut.
There was the obvious man of the moment, scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies, who scored that stunner of a try in the 79th minute.
There was Faf de Klerk, whose relatively short time on the field (he went off for a concussion test in the 45th minute and didn’t return to the field) was made to matter by his play until then.
Cheslin Kolbe was all over as he tackled anything that moved, aced the aerial challenge, produced some promising runs, and then there was that little chip that led to Jantjies’ try.
If there was an award for the most Man of the Match nominations in a Stormers or Bok jersey, Pieter-Steph du Toit would take it.
On Saturday he again popped up everywhere in support, made the second most tackles for the Boks, carried with intent, and announced his presence at the rucks.
And then there were Trevor Nyakane and Kwagga Smith - two men who showed that that they can also deliver at Test level.
Nyakane came off the bench and immediately made an impact at the set-piece after the Bok scrum wilted a bit in the second half. On defence, he was also a presence.
It’s superb to see not only the depth the Boks have when it comes to their props, but also the quality of those options.
One of Nyakane’s finest traits has always been his ability to move around the park, and the “swinger” option he offered can also be considered a positive.
Not to say that there was real doubt regarding his ability as a scrummager, but at the pack-down on Saturday, he again showed how he can impress with his basic duties as well.
Smith was all over and racked up the most numbers in the tackles-made column. We were allowed to enjoy a couple of bursts from him with ball in hand, and he also contributed at the breakdown.
He didn’t seem to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the Test. It didn’t seem as if that was only his second Test match since making his debut against Wales in Washington last year. He didn’t look out of place.
While Smith didn’t create a gamebreaking moment or thrill with the number of ball-in-hand displays he treats fans to so often in Super Rugby, Rassie Erasmus had absolutely no reason to doubt if he made the right decision in backing Smith such a big game.
He and Nyakane made statements in different ways. Nyakane showed that perhaps the digits in his Tests-played column should have been higher by now, and Smith showed that he’s not just a Super Rugby superstar.
In a game with a number of laudable individual efforts, these two men deserve an applause of their own.@WynonaLouw