CAPE TIMES – There were many questions ahead of the Springboks’ three-Test series against England, especially after that disappointing 20-22 defeat to Wales in Washington DC before Rassie Erasmus zoomed in on Eddie Jones’ team.
How the team would go after a couple of dreadful seasons and what Erasmus’ influence would be were of course at the top of the list, and after four Tests under Erasmus - including the one at the RFK Stadium - I look at five things that stood out in the Springboks series win.
1 Rassie off to a good start
When it comes to the recent history of the Springboks, a good start was hugely important, and it’s something that Erasmus has got right. From fielding a transformed team to rewarding top form (as could be seen in his selections), Erasmus has certainly approached a few key things very well.
And then of course there’s the fact that he’s achieved some positive results after a couple of seasons of record lows.
2 S’bu Nkosi is a Bok must
It might seem premature to say that the Springboks need the young winger, but if you’ve watched him closely this season, you just might agree that he can certainly become a key figure in the Bok backline. The Sharks flyer has shown his power, reliably solid defence and obvious skill in Super Rugby, and his performances with the Boks have been just as promising, especially in the first Test at Ellis Park.
He might still have a work-on or two, but he can become a quality international winger as he continues to grow.
3 Jantjies’ BMT still MIA
The Newlands Test wasn’t exactly a big one per se as the series was clinched in Bloemfontein. But it was a big one for different reasons. It was a big one to assess depth and for the players who got their run-on chances to show what they can do.
It was a big one because of the weather, and seeing how the Boks would go in those conditions was important. And it was a big one for Elton Jantjies, who had another chance to convince that he has what it takes to be an international flyhalf.
But he didn’t do that. In fact, that outing was probably the one that proved that maybe he isn’t. There’s no doubt that Jantjies is a talented, exciting player, and the conditions certainly were unfavorable, while his forwards could also have done better.
But at Test level you just can’t make those kinds of mistakes, not in any conditions. And with his latest performance, it’s safe to say that the green No 10 jersey is Handre Pollard’s to lose.
4 Increasing depth
There were many positives in this series, and the depth that was exposed in a number of positions was one of them. Although a start for Embrose Papier in the last Test would have been superb, the fact that such an exciting prospect was involved in the Boks’ international proceedings is great.
Warrick Gelant also introduced himself as a definite option at fullback with an impressive performance in testing conditions. Sikhumbuzo Notshe, off the bench, did his fair share to contribute to the Boks’ success.
In the front row South Africa’s depth in the No 2 position was highlighted, especially in Armand van der Merwe, while Thomas du Toit has presented himself as a growing tighthead and Steven Kitshoff continued to show his worth.
There’s also good depth at lock if you consider the rise of RG Snyman and the fact that there’s still guys like Eben Etzebeth and even JD Schickerling on the injury list.
5 More time is needed
The Boks’ series win over England should be enjoyed, it should be celebrated. It was much-needed.
But it also showed that there’s still a good number of things the Boks need to work on, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Nobody can expect this Springbok team to fix all their past woes in four weeks, and while things like defence, the aerial contest, tactical play and adapting to wet conditions need to be on their to-do list in terms of improvement, there were also a lot of positives.