Last week Saturday the Springboks took on the Wallabies in a massive encounter for both teams. This year’s Rugby Championship is a shortened version of the tournament meaning one loss can be fatal to your chances of winning it.
The Bok’s started well and in the eleventh minute had the lead after Francois Louw turned the ball over at the breakdown just inside his own half. From there some slick handling from the backs saw S’bu Nkosi flying down the wing with debutant Herschel Jantjies on his inside. Nkosi with one man to beat drew the defender onto him and set Jantjies on his way to a first try in his nation’s colours. Elton Jantjies would add the extra points as the Springboks led just twelve minutes in.
Australia would reply with a penalty in the seventeenth minute to make it 7-3, from the resulting kick off the Wallabies went the length of the field almost with a fantastic break from Samu Kerevi and finished off by Aussie flanker Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, however the TMO noticed that there was a forward pass from Kerevi to the try scorer and the try was ruled out. A close call for the Boks but the Wallabies showing how dangerous they can be in attack!
Andre Esterhuizen was shown a yellow card in the twenty-first minute for a high tackle on the Aussies fullback Thomas Banks. A silly error from the South African number twelve that could have been costly for the Boks. It perhaps galvanized the Springboks though as they managed a second try, just minutes later after Herschel Jantjies sent Peter Steph through a gap from just inside Bok territory. The lanky flanker then put through a beautiful chip kick that any flyhalf would be proud of and who was there but the ever present Herschel Jantjies in support of the kick collecting it off the bounce and caught just a meter from the try line. From there it was the forwards turn to try crash over the line and Lood de Jager did just that with a pick and drive. Elton again added the extra points as the Boks looked to have taken control of this one at 14-3 with twenty five minutes played.
The Wallabies would be next on the scoreboard when they set up a lineout just outside the Springbok five meter line but the Springbok maul defense was up to the task. Australia then decided to use their man advantage in the backs and sent the ball wide through the hands to Dane Haylett-Petty and while the Springboks scrambled tremendously well, the Aussie winger managed some how to get over the line for the Aussies first try of the afternoon, 14-10 now as Bernard Foley added the extra points. Ten minutes left in the half and the game on a knife edge.
Haylett-Petty should have doubled the visitors try count in the thirty fourth minute but was unable to gather the grubber put through for him by Foley after the two Aussies combined so well on the outside. All Haylett-Petty had to do was dot the ball down but the bounce of the rugby ball eluded him as he was left with egg on his face after he missed the chance when it looked easier to score. That was it for the first half action, a some what lucky lead for the Springboks going into half time but a lead none the less, 14-10 at the break
Another yellow card in this game this time on the Aussie’s side as Taniela Tupo was deemed to have come in late to the ruck, after the whistle and also doing so dangerously on a South African player, ten minutes in the bin for Tupou and Australia on the back foot. Moments later and S’bu Nkosi extended the Springboks lead. The Boks were camped in on Australia’s five-meter line and eventually the extra man told as good handling and patients from the South Africans created an over lap which they exploited with ruthless efficiency, Jantjies having a great game with the boot added the extras from near the touchline and the score was 21-10 after fifty five minutes.
The Boks were making hay of their man advantage and were in again just seven minutes later. After setting up a ruck just inside the Aussie twenty-two, Herschel Jantjies spotted that winger Haylett-Petty was in the ruck and therefore would be offside if he tried to tackle him. Showing great presence of mind the scrumhalf darted down the touchline for his second score of the game. Jantjies continuing his great debut and the Boks now taking charge as Elton again added two more points to his and the Springbok’s tally taking them out to a 28-10 lead over the Wallabies and the writing was on the wall for the Australians with just seventeen minutes to play.
The Australian’s would get another consolation try through Bernard Foley. Kurtley Beale made an immediate impact after coming on as he broke through the South African defense and threw a one handed pass to Foley who was in support. The Aussie flyhalf scored and converted the try to give the Wallabies a slim glimmer of hope with just under ten minutes to play, 28-17 to the Boks after seventy one minutes.
South Africa now needing another try to get back into bonus point contention had their foot firmly on the throat of the Australian team, pilling the pressure on them five meters out from the try line. Eventually the pressure told as replacement scrumhalf Cobus Reinach sliced through a gap near the ruck and went over for the bonus point try for the Springboks just after the full-time hooter had sounded. Jantjies added the extra points as the Boks ran out comfortable victors’ in this one 35-17.
From a home win like this we can pick out quite a few positive going forward for the Boks. The depth at scrum half and competition for places was looking bleak just a year ago but now with three scrumhalves in great form, that position is looking like a strength. Herchel Jantjies having a spectacular debut and continuing to show the form that got him into the Bok set up. His ability to sniff out where to be at the right time to me is his most important asset, always in support on the inside or outside shoulder when there is a break, reminding me of a certain Aaron Smith in his prime. The Boks defense must also be a positive, even though we got lucky a few times when the Aussies failed to execute, overall the defense stood firm. One other positive is the ruthlessness showed when presented an opportunity to score a try, something I’ve been critical of all season long with South African sides in Super Rugby. It seems as though the South African coaching staff have addressed that issue for now. The scrums were a great source of joy throughout the game and a huge momentum gain for us going forward.
Even in a win like we had at the weekend there are still things we need to work on. There were too many mistakes by the Boks that an All Black team would surely have capitalized on. We cannot afford to cough up the ball so often and not expect to pay for it in future. Elton Jantjies was superb with the boot on Saturday however his all-around play wasn’t great, he moved laterally eliminating space for outside back and not creating enough go forward. Another thing to work on is creativity in the midfield, no offence to Esterhuizen and Kriel but they seem like one trick ponies, a more experienced opposition midfield can exploit this key area of our team. You can’t count on luck against better teams.
A look ahead
Looking ahead to our next game against the world concurring All Blacks, Rassie has named a much change team to take on the defending champs in their own backyard.
Team: Steven Kitshoff, Malcom Marx, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert, Kwagga Smith, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen(C), Faf de Klerk, Handre pollard, Makazole Mapimpi, Damian de Allende, Lukhanyo Am, Cheslin Kolbe, Willie le Roux.
Subs: Bongi Mbonambi, Tendia Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, RG Snyman, Francois Louw, Herschel Jantjies, Frans Steyn, Jesse Kriel.
Overall, I think a stronger team than the one put out last week against the Aussie’s. I expect some a better performance from the Boks this week but I am not holding my breath for a win. While I think this team is capable of over turning the All Blacks I’m not confident we are quite there yet but I will be glad to be proved wrong on that one. My score prediction even though I don’t think we are ready is, 17-12 to the Boks. I think its going to be a real nail biter that could go either way but I’m going with my heart and not my head on this one. Either way it will be a great chance for Rassie to see how his team stacks up against the world champion All Blacks.