If you should take anything from the Springboks’ first try at Newlands in the third and final Test of the series against England, it’s that they should just play, regardless of the conditions.
You needed only to see “Impi” slip as he ran out of the tunnel with his usual energy to get an idea of the underfoot conditions. The match itself revealed a lot about the wet pitch, but that slip should have said enough.
After two weeks of impressive comeback wins by the Springboks in Johannesburg and Bloemfontein, the quality of Newlands’ (possible) farewell Test was certainly dampened by the wet and windy Cape weather as both teams struggled to get going and wet-ball mistakes popped up throughout the game.
The fixture was never expected to be a highly entertaining affair, weather reports making sure of that very early in the week already. And in the build-up to the contest, new Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus said that they would have to adapt to the conditions.
A number of aimless kicks, especially in the first half and despite other available options, was an example of that. The only points scored in the first half were couresty of a penalty kick by flyhalf Elton Jantjies – after missing his first attempt early in the game – and two by England skipper Owen Farrell (3-6 half-time).
Farrell added three more points early in the second half (3-9), but it was the Boks who got the first try – and it’s how they got the try that was impressive. It was the piece if play that showed why they should still “play” even if the weather doesn’t seem to agree.
It was the finest moment in the game from the Boks, and it came when fullback Warrick Gelant spotted space in England’s 22 and sent an accurate grubber into the in-goal area after he had received a pass following a ruck. Outside centre Jesse Kriel made sure of the chase to score a converted try which took the score to 10-9. That try was superb not only because it put the Boks in the lead, but also because of the vision, the execution and the chase it produced. The creator of that try would have had many eyes on him as soon as the whistle signalled kick-off, as Erasmus was keen to see how the attack-minded Gelant would go in unfavourable conditions, and it’s a test he passed.
The Springboks didn’t manage to hold onto that lead, however, as Farrell slotted a penalty that put them in the lead again (10-12), and stretched that lead at the end of the third quarter with another successful shot at goal (10-15).
It was Jonny May’s converted try that gave them a stronger lead (10-22) after a clever kick-pass from flyhalf Danny Cipriani. May was again threatening out wide, just like he was in the first two Tests, while Farrell had a flawless outing with the boot and also made their lead a more commanding one when he added a penalty kick in the last quarter (10-25).
While the Boks didn’t manage to make it a series whitewash, the fact that they won the series and introduced a few talented individuals is at least a box to tick going forward.