Rugby World Cup Review

South Africa vs Namibia

Venue: City of Toyota Stadium, Toyota City
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Andrew Brace (Ireland)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

I guess that there is only one comment we could make after the Springboks comprehensively thrashed their northern neighbours from Namibia. 

It is all pretty much as expected.

One has to keep perspective too – this was, effectively, the Springbok dirt-trackers – the “B” team who would play the Wednesday games in the tours of those long ago golden olden days. These are the travelling reserves that are part of the team, but often carry the tackle-bags when the first team starts oiling the gears before a big game.

Yes, they have much to play for – they are all Springboks, they all want to be considered as first choice selections – and they undoubtedly have ambitions too! 

But the reality is that they are the second stringers.

With that in mind, we must take cognisance of the fact that they are sent onto the field to do exactly the same job as that expected of the first teamers. They must play to the same game plan and patterns, to the same tactics, the same set-play moves, and with the same focus and commitment. 

That is exactly why they are in the squad and critical to the wellbeing of the whole – if one of the first teamers gets injured or in unavailable for whatever reason, they must be able to step up into the team and do the job as well as the man they are replacing. They also serve to keep the first-teamers on their toes – if they lose form or focus there is somebody looming over their shoulders. It is healthy competition for that coveted starting jersey. 

They are only second-stringers up to a point, they are still Springboks, with a job of work to do.

From the kick-off it was evident that there were two teams of hugely differing class out on the field. The Springboks kicked off and immediately started to build unrelenting and unyielding pressure on the Namibian goal line. They monstered the scrums, the lineouts, the rucks, and mauls. They dominated the midfield and out wide. They took a grip on the Namibian throat, and never let go. And that is the way the game was played, for the most part.

It was fairly evident that the Springboks started to coast later in the game, the grip on the Namibian throat loosened a tad, even if it never quite let go – the job was done, the intensity could lift a little, there was no need to risk injury or fatigue with the bulk of the World Cup still looming ahead. Some die-hard fans will yell “Not good enough” and “Why wasn’t it 80 – 3?” or “the All Blacks would have scored a 100” and so on, but those yells display a certain lack of understanding of the job that was there to be done: Win it, earn the bonus point, and then have some fun. 

There is a critical need to maintain fitness, energy, and long term focus too. There is simply no point at all in risking life and limb for one more score – take it if it presents itself, but be aware of the dangers.

From a Springbok perspective, we were not really interested in the score once the bonus point had been banked. From that moment onwards we were looking at the players out on the field as potential first-teamers laying down markers to suggest that they should be the first choice in their respective positions. 

Were they?

I leave that question hanging for you to ponder. My comments will be given in my Individual Player Assessments.

From a Rugby World Cup perspective – Job Done.

Was it perfect? Far from it.

Individual Player Assessments:

South Africa

Warrick Gelant: 5/10

I was disappointed in the number of errors made by the fullback. He often seemed to think that rugby was a sport for a team of one, and that he did not need to pass the ball to anyone else, with promising moves and superb attacking possession wasted as a result. A knock-on in open play was excused by the television commentators as “slippery ball” but I would suggest that he took his eyes off the ball, a basic error that an international full back should not be making. There were pleasing aspects to his play too. Some good running and flair at times, some good positional awareness. Some slick offloads and good support play. But, is he good enough to challenge for a starting spot against the bigger fish in the RWC pond? I think not.

S’bu Nkosi: 5/10

It must have been a hugely frustrating afternoon for the man with some of the best finishing mongrel in the world of rugby. He just did not get enough ball. The team’s tactics seemed to be focussed on playing wide to the left and keeping it close on the right, depriving him of any opportunity to work his magic. One set-move off the back on a lineout briefly created the space he needed, but Schalk Brits managed to break through the Namibian tackle, and hung onto the ball instead of giving the pre-planned offload and the opportunity was lost – Nkosi was likely to have scored in that moment as the door was wide open. Not his fault the captain did not pass! Nevertheless, he did his best to try and get involved, roaming around looking for work and trying to inject himself into broken play. Admirable against the minnows, but it left his wing channel wide open for counter-attacking by better sides than Namibia. His kick chasing seemed a tad uncertain at times. Is he better than the incumbent Cheslin Kolbe? I think not.

Lukhanyo Am: 5/10 

I do not know. This was a game in which he should have had a field day, busting the line, setting up his wingers, and creating chances, but he seemed to fall a tad short in every department. (Save for defence, where he was very good. Although he had very little to do.) One complete misunderstanding with the Beast that should have led to scoring opportunity. In truth, he had some very good moments, but there were far too many anonymous minutes in this game. His starting spot in the “A” team might be in jeopardy.

Frans Steyn: 6/10

Ran straight, ran hard, and seemed more focussed than in a long time. Had a very good first half, but seemed to run out of gas later in the game. Showed good strength in possession, and carried the ball well, with one superb break. Some huge tactical kicks and a massive touch-finder in second half. Penalised for high tackle once. Defended well. Is he an alternative first choice at 12? I think not. Maybe a better choice at 13 though? Certainly should be on the bench.

Makazole Mapimpi: 6/10

Gets 7/10 for his finishing, but only 4/10 for his defence, which seems very iffy when he is forced to turn and chase or run cover. Scored two good tries, but perhaps missed two more. It was a fair day at the office, but should have been so much more. Better kick-chasing than in the previous week. Is his spot in the “A” team safe. We may see a change here.

Elton Jantjies: 3/10

A brutal assessment of the flyhalf’s game is that he cost the Springboks at least four clear try scoring opportunities. The massive score of 57-3 should have been much much bigger, and the problem lay with the man charged with dictating the game. He simply wasted the momentum ball given to him by the gut-busting forwards by doing really silly things. Going the wrong way twice, selfishly hanging onto the ball at least three times when a pass wide had the overlap. One desperately hesitant moment where he seemed surprised to a) get the ball, and b) have to decide what to do with it, so he got caught in static possession! Yes, Elton-fans, there were some very nice touches, but there were far too many sub-par moments and erratic decisions. His tactical kicking sucked. An over-cooked penalty to the corner, fumbles and handling errors, a turnover in contact, and that missed conversion from almost in front. This in a game where he did not have to deal with any of the pressure that he so dreads.  He should not even be on the bench for the “A” team.

Herschel Jantjies: 6/10 

It was interesting to watch the youngster playing to the team game plan with box-kicks which are not usually part of his own personal play. His kicking was well weighted and served to apply pressure on the opposition, which was a positive for the scrumhalf. He did the basics well, and can perhaps only be faulted for missing two clear scoring chances when he got the ruck ball on the Namibian goal line and passed it when space had opened up for him on the side of the ruck. Somehow he missed the opportunities he usually swarms all over. I was more than a little surprised at how conservative he was with the ball in hand, he should have produced a couple more of his own sniping runs. His pass to Mapimpi for the try was certainly forward! Remains the best available after Faf de Klerk.

Schalk Brits: 8/10

Led the team with aplomb, even a smile and a quick word to his opponents along with the constant encouragement for his own players – the elder statesman dispensing wisdom. Treated the referee with good old-fashioned respect, and seemed to enjoy every second of his game. Was the link in at least two tries, scored one of his own, and showed remarkable skills and fitness levels for such old bones! His grin is what rugby is supposed to be about. He might well be worth a spot on the bench for the “A” team if they need a utility player who can also hook.

Kwagga Smith: 6/10 

Played a high tempo game and was not really needed in the tough stuff, which gave him the opportunity to play wide and loose. Beat 3 defenders, made two very good clean breaks, plenty of tackles, and managed a good turnover. Yet he was not quite as visible as one would have expected. I expected much more in broken play………..Do not expect to see him in the “A” team soon.

Francois Louw: 7/10

Had a field day bossing the rucks and tight-loose exchanges. Took on the role of the fetcher and allowed both his fellow loosies the freedom to hang off the pile-ups. Often imperious in the collisions, he tackled well, cleaned well, ran great support lines. I lost count of the turnovers he won and the number of times he slowed the Namibian ball down. Great day at the office. Will remain the bench-warmer for the “A” team.

Lood de Jager: 8/10

A great shift from the big man. Powerful in the carry, huge in the tackle, but he was the boss in the lineouts, managing the mauls and drives with superb skill. Made 14 carries, beating a bunch of defenders, including a clean break and managed a good turnover. He can step into the first team at any time. He may well get a bench seat for the “A” side soon, and could start for either of the two regulars too.

RG Snyman: 7/10

He gets a high 7/10, because he did the second row basics very well. Yet I am disappointed with the lack of impact he had in the game. Yes, he did his work well in the scrums, lineouts, rucks and mauls, but this was a game where he should have rampaged in the loose, and did not. Plenty of grunt in the tight exchanges, but we know that he can carry the ball as well as any lock on the world, and we know he has the hands and the vision to link and pass, offload and smuggle the ball, and it was in those little things that I felt he was underperforming. Might just find his slot on the “A” team bench is a bit wobbly.

Vincent Koch: 7/10

Yep, he is ready to challenge Frans Malherbe for a starting role, anytime. He was massive in the scrums, and his opponents will be nursing bruised egos and well as sore limbs! Good mobility in open play, too. 

Bongi Mbonambi: 8/10

Three years ago Bongi was a liability at scrum time – he just seemed unable to get a shove going when it was needed! No more. Of the two top hookers in the Bok scrum selection, (Marx and himself) he is probably the better scrummager now. Superb game management in the mauls, massive in the tackles, power in the clean-outs, and a nuisance in open play. Covered plenty of territory too. A really good day at the office. He could start a Test for the “A” team any day.

Tendai Mtawarira: 6/10

Massive in the scrums, and powerful in the carry, he did seem a bit anonymous at times – coasting along, if you like. But then a veteran of his quality and experience will know that he has to conserve his strength for bigger opponents and occasions – he was not needed in the trenches! Did his job, end of story. His role in the “A” team lineup remains unchallenged. 

Replacements

16 Steven Kitshoff 6/10 (on for Mtawarira, 70th minute):

Carried on where his predecessor left off, and added a bit more in the midfield. Made one monstrous tackle on a Namibian who will be nursing a bruise or two. Will probably continue to start the big games.

17 Thomas du Toit 4/10 (on for Koch, 46th minute):

Underwhelming in the scrums. Yes he was solid enough, but the scrummaging power was missing after Koch left the field. Made a couple of carries but, once again, seemed to lack power. Is he fit enough for Test rugby?

18 Eben Etzebeth 5/10(on for Snyman, 58th minute):

Solid enough, though obviously coasting as he simply enjoyed the run. The game was over and the entire team seemed to be coasting along waiting for the time to tick past. Dominated his opponent in the lineouts, and his physicality was evident in the rucks and mauls, Made a couple of carries and one big tackle. Frightened a couple of really rapid passes out of opponents as he rushed towards them.  Still one of the starting locks, and boss of the front of the lineout.

19 Siya Kolisi 7/10(on for Smith, 53rd minute):

He had a ball, and is obviously starting to find match-fitness and form. Made his tackles, won a turnover and scored a try. Added some mongrel to the counter-ruck, and was generally in the face of the Namibians in his time on the field. He can start any Test.

20 Franco Mostert 5/10(on for Mbonambi, 64th minute):

Much like his starting lock partner Etzebeth, he was coasting along and simply enjoying the run. The game was over and he was stretching his legs, nothing more. Made all his tackles. Remains the boss in the middle of the lineout, but might be challenged as a starting lock by Lood de Jager – can cover the flank though.

21 Cobus Reinach 5/10 (on for H Jantjies, 57th minute):

Some good tactical kicks, but actually wasted the possession as the game coasted to the inevitable finish. One nice clean break. Not challenging the two scrumhalves ahead of him at the moment.

22 Damian de Allende 6/10 (on for Am, 56th minute):

Brought immediate go-forward to the midfield when he joined in. Some sublime touches as he moved the ball into the wider channels. It would be interesting to see him at 12 with Steyn at 13. Remains a first choice at 12.

23 Cheslin Kolbe:

Not used.

Namibia

To be fair to the Namibians, any assessment of their players must take into account that it is no fund having to spend your afternoon defending and defending and defending again and again, with the only respite being time behind your own posts waiting for yet another goal kick. Such games can be soul destroying, and an assessment of a player’s performance has to take into account his commitment in a losing cause.

15 Johan Tromp: 4/10

Struggled with positional awareness at fullback and was caught out of position too often for comfort. Had very few opportunities with the ball in hand.

14 Chad Plato: 5/10

Manfully stood his ground against attack after attack. Did not get a single chance to run with the ball. Did his job.

13 Jacobus Greyling: 4/10

Made most of his tackles, and had a run or two, but was overshadowed by his opponents.

12 PJ Walters: 4/10

Struggled to contain Frans Steyn, but tried hard. Not much more to say. Made a valiant effort, although it brought very little reward.

11 Lesley Klim: 5/10

Did not disgrace himself, making his tackles and trying to go forward when he got the ball. Limited opportunities.

10 Cliven Loubser: 6/10

Struggled manfully with the pressure that was brought to bear. Quickly learned that Tier One teams play the game much faster than he is used to, with the pressure on his distribution and his exit kicks ramped way up. Showed glimpses to suggest that he could become a good one, if given the opportunity in bigger clubs and competition. Made all his tackles.

 9 Eugene Jantjies: 4/10

Put some pressure on his opposite number, for a while, and then seemed to vanish. Missed far too many tackles! I expected more from him.

8 Adriaan Booysen: 6/10

Bravery in adversity, he tried to stand his ground against the rampant Springboks.  Made all his tackles.  Not much opportunity for anything else.

7 Muharua Katjijeko: 5/10

Made 10 tackles and missing just two, but got no chance to show anything else.

6 Thomasau Forbes: 6/10

Worked his guts out. Made five carries, six tackles and two turnovers. The best of the Namibian forwards.

5 Tjiuee Uanivi 5/10 (captain):

Showed some naivety regarding the Laws of the Game when he suggested that foul play when the clock was stopped did not warrant a card. Tried hard to control and motivate his team, worked hard on defence, made all his tackles, took his own lineout ball, made a couple of carries.

4 Johan Retief: 4/10

Anonymous in a game where his entire team was completely overshadowed. Tried hard on defence. Made a couple of meters with the ball in hand. Nothing else worth mentioning. 

3 AJ De Klerk: 2/10

Overpowered in the scrums, and that sucked everything out of his game. Made a tackle or two.

2 Louis van der Westhuizen: 5/10

Tried hard in a losing cause. Good on defence, making 11 tackles, missing just one, and won a turnover. Struggled in the scrums.

1 Desiderius Sethie: 2/10

I do not think he will want anyone to talk about his performance. It was poor. Period. 

Replacements:

16 Obert Nortjé (on for Van der Westhuizen, 76th minute):

Not enough time to be rated.

17 André Rademeyer 4/10 (on for Sethie, 50th minute):

Brought some stability to the scrums. Made all but one of his tackles.

18 Johannes Coetzee 2/10 (on for De Klerk, 50th minute):

Brought some stability to the scrums. Made all his tackles, but a really silly yellow-card marks him down.

19 Prince Gaoseb:

Not used.

20 Janco Venter 4/10 (on for Booysen, 50th minute):

Came on to help defend, and that is all she wrote. No real impact.

21 Wian Conradie 4/10 (on for Forbes, 50th minute):

Came on when the Bok’s were coasting along and having fun. Had a few runs, but was stopped in his tracks, and made all his tackles.

22 Helarius Kisting (on for Plato, 78th minute):

Not enough time to be rated.

23 Johan Deysel 4/10(on for Walters, 50th minute):

One silly bit of off-the-ball foul play that he somehow found very funny, but that was the sum total of his contribution. Below average on defence.