Cape Town – It may have been a two-out-of-four outcome for the Springboks on their November trip to Europe, but they took giant leaps forward as they fine-tuned their game ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup.
Here is how we rated the players across the four Test matches against Ireland, France, Italy and England…
Willie le Roux: 8
After doubts about his future, Le Roux answered his critics in emphatic fashion with some superb performances. Dovetailed superbly with Damian Willemse in the flyhalf channel, and brought variation to the Bok attack with his passing and kicking game.
Kurt-Lee Arendse: 9
The Bulls star was so good that he virtually forced Jacques Nienaber’s hand to pick him ahead of Makazole Mapimpi. Arendse has electric pace – which was seen in all its glory when he left Marcus Smith for dead at Twickenham – but is so courageous in defence and under the high ball as well.
Cheslin Kolbe: 7
Showed that he can still turn it on with a thrilling touchdown against Italy, where he plucked the ball out of the air from the kick-off, but he unfortunately injured himself in the process. Wasn’t as visible from fullback against Ireland, but kicked well at goal in Marseille.
Makazole Mapimpi: 5
It was a disappointing few weeks for a man who had started all his Tests until the French game, where he was on the bench, with Arendse now ahead of him. And when he was on the pitch, the ball just didn’t seem to go his way, although he chased kicks with his usual vigour and was solid in defence.
Jesse Kriel: 6
Almost always solid in defence, and made a few good reads to rush up and close down the space of the opposition. Still needs to convince with ball-in-hand, though.
Damian de Allende: 8
The rock of the Bok midfield, De Allende had to take on more responsibility in the absence of the injured Lukhanyo Am, and did so with flying colours. Enjoyed the extra space at outside centre against Italy, and showed how effective he can be when allowed to use all his skills instead of just being a battering ram.
Andre Esterhuizen: 7
His sole start came against Italy, and the former Sharks giant got stuck in with his renowned physicality, but also showcased some of his skills with a couple of deft passes and clever running lines.
Damian Willemse: 8
Had his best outing of the tour against England, where he pulled the strings on attack more regularly than in some of the other games – where Le Roux was prominent – and slotted two classy drop goals. Strong in defence as usual, and produced some sublime moments, such as setting up Arendse’s try at Twickenham, and the long-range penalty at the Stade Velodrome. Can be the long-term solution at No 10 if he sticks to being a playmaker instead of taking on the defence as a runner.
Manie Libbok: 8
Brilliant second-half display against Italy, where he delivered some sumptuous passes on attack, and kicked excellently at goal. Was a pity that he didn’t start against England, but now the Bok flyhalf worries should be a thing of the past heading into the World Cup.
Faf de Klerk: 8
Re-established himself as the first-choice scrumhalf with busy displays against Italy and England, where he threatened the defences with ball-in-hand and kept the momentum going on attack, while also rushing up in defence effectively. Stepped in as a back-up goal-kicker when required at crucial times, although his box-kicks went a bit too far against France.
Jaden Hendrikse: 4
Battled to clear from the base against Ireland, while his kicking game didn’t give the Boks much respite either – and he subsequently lost his spot to De Klerk.
Jasper Wiese: 7
Was his robust usual self in carrying the ball up the middle and putting in big hits in defence. Missed the France Test due to concussion, but still lacks those silky touches on attack to become a truly world-class No 8.
Pieter-Steph du Toit: 6
Seemed to find his groove against Ireland, where he was busy as a ball-carrier and chased down the opposition ball-carriers, but sent off with a red card after just 12 minutes against France for a dangerous clean-out – where he was a bit unlucky after being pushed by Kwagga Smith, which led to him missing the last two Tests due to suspension.
Franco Mostert: 7
We all know that Mostert never gives up, and his reliable engine was there for all to see as he filled in admirably for Du Toit at blindside flank as a ball-carrier and tackler. Won some crucial lineouts too, and is a solid option at No 5 and No 7 going forward.
Siya Kolisi: 9
An outstanding effort from the Bok captain, who improved with every game as he carried the ball strongly, made some big tackles and contested the breakdowns. Had his captaincy tested on and off the field following a number of controversial calls against Ireland and France, which led to the Rassie Erasmus ban, but handled the spotlight with aplomb.
Evan Roos: 7
Finally got a start on tour against England, and won his personal battle against powerful No 8 Billy Vunipola. Didn’t always have the space to make those famous runs that he does for the Stormers, but Roos took on the defence at close quarters, and got stuck in with the tackles as well.
Kwagga Smith: 6
Got his big break at No 8 against France after Wiese’s withdrawal, but didn’t really take his chance with an up-and-down performance in Marseille. Still made a considerable impact off the bench, though.
Lood de Jager: 5
Got injured after 55 minutes in a workmanlike display against Ireland and had to miss the rest of the tour, so his fitness is a worry heading into the World Cup.
Eben Etzebeth: 9
The outrage after he wasn’t even nominated for the World Rugby Player of the Year award said everything about the Bok No 4. Apart from the grinding work as the enforcer in the tight-loose, Etzebeth is getting more involved as a ball-carrier on attack, and chases box-kicks with relish.
Marvin Orie: 8
His Bok stocks rose considerably after a commanding outing against Italy, where he ruled the lineouts and kick-offs, and was an influential presence as a ball-carrier and defender. Continued in the same vein against England, where he packed down alongside Tygerberg High School mate Etzebeth.
Salmaan Moerat: 6
Got his lone start of the tour against Italy, and worked hard at close quarters to stop mauls and hit rucks.
Frans Malherbe: 8
The unsung hero of the Bok pack. Malherbe didn’t always get the scrum penalties that he deserved and was unlucky to be penalised at times, but stood strong in the set pieces, and rediscovered his penchant for carrying and tackling too – like he did during the 2019 World Cup.
Vincent Koch: 7
Made some impressive appearances off the bench in his Bomb Squad role along with Steven Kitshoff.
Malcolm Marx: 8
After an iffy display against Ireland, was outstanding with his renowned breakdown skills complemented by his impactful ball-carrying and scrummaging, as well as accurate lineout-throwing.
Bongi Mbonambi: 7
A couple of missed lineouts against France, but after that, Mbonambi grew in his performances, and was still the starting hooker against Italy and England, where he controlled the mauls well and found his jumpers.
Ox Nche: 8
Was part of a strong scrummaging front row throughout the tour, and made energetic contributions on attack as a ball-carrier and in defence.
Steven Kitshoff: 7
Wasn’t at his best as a starter against Ireland, but made a difference as a Bomb Squad member off the bench in the scrums, breakdowns and as a ball-carrier.