For my 2 cents worth, I thought this was a good game from South Africa without it being a commanding one.
Only the 4th match into the Heyneke Meyer era, and after a very long and hard Super Rugby season, the number of injuries, the tiredness of the Sharks players in the Springboks and the short preparation time, these are all contributing factors that will always make the early games in The Rugby Championships seem a bit loose.
This was also very evident in the Australian Wallabies vs New Zealand All blacks match where a number of balls were spilled, knock-on’s, errors, etc was the prevailing trend.
This will improve, and I expect to see a much better performance in the next set of matches.
I have penned my feelings, lets open the debate and have your reactions to the match.
As a team, I thought the Springbok players played well.
The front row, after the loss of Bismarck du Plessis with a knee ligament injury (out till the end of the year) stood up well to the much vaunted Puma front row, without being commanding, and although Pat Cilliers did nothing wrong, our depth at prop is a concern for me, as is our depth at hooker.
A very bad bit of luck for Bismarck du Plessis, and I hope that he recovers well and quickly.
Having now called up Craig Burden to the squad, there isn’t a lot of hooker depth left!
At lock both Eben Etzebeth and Andries Bekker had very good games, I thought, and if Andries Bekker is making the radical step up under Heyneke Meyer, it can only be good.
The looseforwards all had a very good game, Marcell Coetzee’s work rate is phenominal and he really put in the hard yards. Willem Alberts was… well, just Alberts and Keegan Daniel was a worthy replacement for Pierre Spies.
At Scrum half, Francois Hougaard had a much, much improved game, his kicking game has improved no end and his reading of the game was much improved. He is for me, though, just taking that extra milli-second to get the ball out, often putting in that extra step just before passing.
Ruan Pienaar highlighted that when he came on, and he too had a very good game.
However you can see that Francois Hougaard is improving, is a quick learner, definitely has the ‘X’ factor, and will become a top scrumhalf in time.
Morné Steyn had his metronomical kicking boots back on yesterday – I said I would eat my words if he did, and I do! 11 Kicks out of hand, 15 passes and 2 runs, are his statistics, as well as 5 out of 5 over the posts, some from very difficult angles. He made 5 tackles, and missed none. One can and should be very happy with statistics like that! Perhaps Morné Steyn just needs a few more runs, just to mix up the play a bit.
Both Frans Steyn and Jean deVilliers were quiet yet solid in the centres, both missing 1 tackle each, but yet they did enough without setting the stage alight. With all the hype around Frans Steyn, I think he was hunted down and watched like a hawk to an extent. Jean deVilliers gave away 2 penalties that I can remember, both for holding onto the ball on the ground – certainly in 1 of those occasions, but possibly both, I felt he could have off-loaded.
Bryan Habana had a very good game on the opposite wing from where he normally plays and he is certainly seeing some better form, and I think it’s no co-incidence that his form slumped when he left the Bulls and he has gone back up to form since teaming up with Heyneke Meyer again. Long may it improve!
Lwazi Mvovu had a quiet game – he managed only 14 running metres as compared to Bryan Habana’s 78 running metres. Lwazi Mvovo also missed a tackle. I would perhaps liked to have seen Francois Hougaard taking over his spot on the left wing and Ruan Pienaar coming on a tad earlier, just to add a bit of flair, but those are minor issues.
At fullback, Zane Kirchner also had a solid game without being particularly exciting. He was very good under the high ball, and certainly looking for work but he wasn’t really tested on defence too much – only having to complete 1 tackle!
I also would have liked Heyneke Meyer to have brought Patrick Lambie on for Zane Kirchner for a while. I think it would have opened up a few different scenarios and chances – perhaps some interchanges with Morné Steyn, taking a slightly flatter ball at flyhalf on attack would have given the Springboks a few options to get the ball distributed quicker.
All in all, a much improved game from the Port Elizabeth (Nelson Mandela Stadium) England Test, but a long way to go still.
The Springboks missed a big chance to take 5 Log points from the game, and that might cost them – The All Blacks will not let an opportunity like this slip, I can almost guarantee you, and that should make it very difficult for the Springboks to take the overall title. The Springboks MUST come away with 5 Log points next week in Mendoza, Argentina! Anything less is not acceptable!
Unfortunately the Argentinian Pumas are not a great team (they will improve radically over the next few years in this competition), and apart from their spoiling tactics the Springboks should easily overpower them, even in Argentina.
In the ruck and maul, the Springboks really need to tighten up, there were several occasions during the game whaere the Pumas were turning ball over far too easily.
As has been mentioned by other people a couple of times – it is part of Heyneke Meyer’s game plan, so the kicking element is going to remain, but I think that sometimes we would have far more options keeping the ball in hand, rather than just gifting it to the opposition.
Tighten up the loose balls, knock-on’s, vary the play a bit and we have the makings of a very good team and game compilation. Couple with that the return of the light duty’s and sick report’s for depth and Bob’s your aunty.
If you are interested, I have attached the team statistics, courtesy of espnscrum.
|H||BW du Plessis||0/0||0||0/0/1||0||0||0||1||0||0/0||0/0||0||0/0|
|P||JN du Plessis||0/0||0||0/1/2||8||0||0||0||2||5/1||0/0||2||0/0|
|(R)||van der Merwe||0/0||0||0/1/4||7||0||0||0||0||5/0||1/1||0||0/0|