CAPE TOWN – It’s been an up and down year for the Springboks, with coach Rassie Erasmus ending the year on a 50% record, winning seven out of 14 games. Rugby writers Mike Greenaway, Vata Ngobeni, Wynona Louw and Jacques van der Westhuizen give their views.
Highlight of the season: No brainer this one ... The win against the All Blacks at the “Cake Tin” was all the more spectacular given how poor the Boks were in losses to Argentina and Australia prior to this match. But a monster effort on defence and clinical conversion of opportunities sealed a famous win.
Lowlight of the season: The meltdown in Mendoza was disappointing, particularly after the Boks had soundly beaten the same Pumas the week before in Durban, but for sheer incompetence, the miserable loss to the Wallabies takes the cake. The Australians themselves were poor, but the Boks contrived to be even worse.
Bok of the season: There were handling errors from Pieter-Steph du Toit against Wales, but that barely registers when you consider the consistent excellence he delivered across the season. Handre Pollard made a late charge for this award, but Du Toit’s ceaseless industry seals the deal. His tears in Wellington will never be forgotten.
My Bok rating: 6/10
Highlight of the season: Undoubtedly the Boks’ historic win against the All Blacks in Wellington. Not only did they come into this encounter on the back of two successive defeats against Argentina and Australia, but they were playing the best team on the planet. The Boks defended ferociously and made the best of the little attacking opportunities they had.
Lowlight of the season: The two losses against Argentina and Australia away from home in the Rugby Championship. The Boks had no business being on the losing side of these encounters as they were by far a better team on paper and through performance in the build-up to the competition.
Bok of the season: A close one between Du Toit and Aphiwe Dyantyi. However it is the consistency in performances from Du Toit that sees him edge out Dyantyi, with the versatile forward hardly putting a foot wrong be it at flank or in his traditional position at lock.
My Bok rating: 5.
Highlight of the season: While beating the Kiwis in their own backyard is a feat, the players that were introduced to Test rugby this season have also created many fine moments. It was good seeing the likes of Dyantyi, Sbu Nkosi, Cheslin Kolbe, Damian Willemse and Embrose Papier make their Test bows. It’s even better knowing that their best is yet to come.
Lowlight of the season: Nothing can be lower than that mess in Mendoza and Brisbane, but a few other performances sure have come close. The fact that it’s not clear what the Boks’ game plan is has been a worrying issue this season, and the apparent tendency to persist with things that don’t work (like the box kicking and wings’ defensive roles) is a problem.
Bok of the season: Dyantyi’s World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year award says enough about his debut season, but another player who has given South Africans multiple reasons to get excited about the Boks’ wider channels is Nkosi. His skill and ability to read the game is superb. We’ve seen it.
Jacques van der Westhuizen
Highlight of the season: The 36-34 win against the All Blacks in Wellington was special because it came off the back of a poor showing against the Wallabies a week before. The Boks made a whopping 235 tackles in a match where they trailed 12-0 inside a few minutes. But their passion and desire to win carried them through.
Lowlight of the season: The Boks bossed the All Blacks in virtually every department and led 30-13 with 20 minutes to go at Loftus Versfeld. They were going go back-to-back after winning in Wellington a few weeks earlier. But they dropped their guard and let the visitors score 19 unanswered points to snatch a 32-30 win.
Bok of the season: Several players enjoyed a good 2018, but Pieter-Steph du Toit stood out from the crowd. He has become the integral member of the pack and his move to No 7 is now done and dusted. In the famous Wellington win he made 24 tackles and was the star of the performance.