South Africa’s game against Namibia was never going to be the book of revelations for Rassie Erasmus.
Namibia rested a number of players, but despite that, when it comes to quality, they were never going to provide the Springboks with a big-enough challenge to seriously assess anything.
For the Boks, their second World Cup pool game was more about giving their fringe players a run and righting the wrongs of Yokohama.
Still, there were a few noteworthy occurrences in that game.
Again, it wasn’t a Test that would have answered a helluva lot of questions where Erasmus’ notebook is concerned, but be that as it may, here are three things that could qualify as “answers” from the Boks’ 57-3 win against their neighbours on Saturday.
1. Herschel not just one for the small stage
If Erasmus is planning on continuing with his “box kicks” game plan (it certainly doesn’t look like it’s just going to go away), then Herschel Jantjies on Saturday showed that he is the best option to go with, and not just against the minnows.
Box kicks, while a handy tool when done well, have become a source of frustration as big as seeing a French official in a matchday programme for South African supporters in 2019, and with good reason.
While Faf de Klerk’s quality is well known, this is one area where he has often done more harm than good. His box kicks, and his service sometimes overall, have become predictable, while he has also put his outside backs under considerable pressure with his kicks from the base.
Against Namibia Jantjies, on the other hand, executed it well and actually gave his wings real opportunities to chase and compete for the ball, while his service from the base was as crisp as we have come to expect from the Stormers talent. And that kind of productions shouldn’t be kept for Namibia and Canada at the expense of experience.
Definitely something for Erasmus to think about.
2. Nothing second-string about Saturday’s front row
The Bok front row wreaked absolute havoc at scrum time at the weekend, and their lineout functioned just as well. Ja ja, we all know the Namibia pack aren’t exactly the litmus test of set-pieces, but the front row of Tendai Mtawarira, Bongi Mbonambi and Trevor Nyakane has done just as well before. This time, though, it was Vincent Koch instead of Nyakane that starred during the pack-down, and he showed that the No 3 jersey by no means comes with Frans Malherbe’s name boldly stitched onto it.
The front row, while it probably won’t be the one to run out first in the games that really matter, on an individual front is way more than backup, especially where Mbonambi and Koch are concerned.
3. Damian still the first-choice No 12
Few other South African players give meaning to the sports cliche “form is temporary, class is permanent” quite like Frans Steyn does.
You can imply all you want that the 32-year-old perhaps indulged too much in baguettes or croque monsieurs while over in France, but he is still good. And he proved that in his starting berth at the weekend. He kicked well from hand and his defensive game was on point. Overall he was good, but I doubt it was enough to shove Damian de Allende out of that channel when it comes to starting.
Also, Lood de Jager’s monster performance again just showed the quality of depth the Boks have at lock, and while Franco Mostert will probably edge him in terms of selection when it comes to the big games, Erasmus’ specs would have been forced to look De Jager’s way, especially seeing as player management is key at a World Cup.