CAPE TOWN – The Springboks nearly pulled off a miraculous turnaround from the 57-0 disaster in Albany, going down 25-24 to the All Blacks at Newlands on Saturday.
Here are our ratings of the Boks…
Andries Coetzee: 5
Ran the ball back hard, although it was usually straight into the All Black defence. Kicked well downfield when he needed to, and generally solid under the high ball. But does he offer enough to provide a cutting edge on attack? No.
Dillyn Leyds: 6
Was closely marked by Rieko Ioane and the All Black cover defence, but stuck manfully to the task. Used his footwork to try and beat the first defender, although didn’t get many opportunities in space as his centres hogged the ball. Tackled courageously.
Jesse Kriel: 6
A much better display compared to the previous week against Australia. Tried to use his stepping skills to evade the All Black defence, but lacks that special touch in contact. Doesn’t possess the classical running lines of an outside centre, but solid in defence, including try-saver on Rieko Ioane.
Jan Serfontein: 7
Once again, sadly used as a battering ram instead of the silky midfielder voted the world’s best Under-20 player in 2012. Did bump off a few All Blacks along the way, and didn’t allow Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty any room to breathe. Needs to be allowed to operate in space, like he did against Australia to create Skosan’s try.
Courtnall Skosan: 5
Had his hands full marking Nehe Milner-Skudder initially, and never shirked defensive responsibilities. But not the same threat on attack in Test rugby that he is in Super Rugby. Due to shortage of scoring opportunities created for him, Skosan needs to take more initiative.
Elton Jantjies: 5
Always creating when on the advantage line, but still in the pocket too often. Was shot down when carrying it up himself, and had a mixed tactical kicking day. Inexcusable to miss his second penalty at goal, and kick charged-down for Crotty’s try. Still the best flyhalf in South Africa at the moment, but is he allowed total freedom by Allister Coetzee? We all know the Bok coach is waiting for Handré Pollard to be 100 percent fit.
Ross Cronjé: 6
Cleans the base quickly, but has to develop a sharper pass for Test rugby. Can hardly be blamed for the box-kicking debacle, as he was playing to instructions, which worked against his strengths. When he did snipe, Cronjé made a wonderful break, but failed to pass to an open Jantjies in the All Black 22. Well-taken try and good cover defence, but threw a ball-and-all pass to Skosan that resulted in the Ioane intercept try.
Francois Louw: 5
Put in an honest shift in defence, but totally out of position at No 8. Wasn’t much of a factor with ball-in-hand or at the breakdowns. Just seemed to be a yard off the pace of what was a real “throw the kitchen sink” game.
Pieter-Steph du Toit: 8
Played like he usually does as a No 5 lock, but the cut-and-thrust nature of the game meant he wasn’t really exposed in space as a flank in defence. Almost always got over the advantage line, ran interesting angles and took the game to the Kiwis. Competed at the breakdowns too.
Siya Kolisi: 6
Made some typically belligerent forays with ball-in-hand, and put in some big hits in defence. But not as involved in the play as in previous Tests this year, with the ball just not going his way. Worked hard at the rucks, although it was Malcolm Marx who made the most turnovers.
Lood de Jager: 6
Used his big frame well around the field, and made some incisive carries up the middle and manned his defensive post well. But as a five lock, needs to make a greater impact at the lineouts.
Eben Etzebeth: 8
A monstrous performance from the skipper. Bashed opponents out of the way and made metres virtually every time, and dished out some huge tackles too. And guess what? Started contesting at the front of the lineout again and made life difficult for the All Blacks. Positive approach as captain, most notably during the extended first half when he opted for a penalty kick to the corner instead of going for posts.
Ruan Dreyer: 4
Still heavily penalised in the scrums, caught scrumming in by the referee and battled with Kane Hames throughout. Decent work-rate in the tight-loose, but must sort out primary duty.
Malcolm Marx: 9
Immovable at the breakdowns, a giant on defence, largely accurate lineout-throwing. A New Zealand journalist gave him a full 10, but Marx needed to carry the ball a bit more to get it here. Should’ve been the Man of the Match, despite being on losing side.
Steven Kitshoff: 8
Finally got his first Test start in his 19th game, and showed what the Boks have been missing. Rumbled up the middle in typical fashion, high work-rate on attack and defence, and scrummed powerfully. Played 87 minutes in total – due to extra 10 minutes in the first half – and never stopped going.
Wilco Louw: 7
Made a huge difference in the scrums as a replacement for Dreyer, and cleaned-out rucks in brutal fashion.
Franco Mostert: 4
Didn’t really make an impact, perhaps due to heavy playing schedule in 2017
Jean-Luc du Preez: 7
Did well to be up in support for the try following Handré Pollard’s break, but what was more impressive was his handling skills. Has battled in that regard before, and threw an intercept in Albany, but at Newlands, he constantly kept the ball alive.
Handré Pollard: 7
Gets a high rating mainly due to THAT half-break – left Sam Whitelock for dead, and spun around in the tackle to Marx, who gave the scoring pass to Du Preez. But worryingly, injury-related departure after just 17 minutes due to a concussion test, and didn’t make it back.
Damian de Allende: 3
Ill-advised charge into Liam Sopoaga to earn a red card. Sanzaar said on Sunday that it should’ve been a yellow, but he still would’ve left the field and gave away the penalty that – with Marx scoring before the end – decided the game in the end.
Not long enough/Unused substitutes: Trevor Nyakane, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Rudy Paige – All three should’ve been used due to the extra 10 minutes played at the end of the first half.
Allister Coetzee: 6
Implemented the percentage tactics that he holds dear, and it nearly brought him the desperate victory that he needed and wanted. But while Coetzee would’ve won some reprieve from his bosses and Springbok fans, the “traditional” Springbok style is not sustainable.
It would be hard for the players to put in such an emotional display every week. Must continue to encourage a possession-based game, but needs to pick the right personnel to do that.
* Ashfak Mohamed is the Digital Sports Editor of Independent Media.