Test Match Review
South Africa vs England
23 June, 2018
Final Score: South Africa 10 – England 25.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Romain Poite (France), Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
The June International series between South Africa and England is done and dusted. South Africa won the series 2 – 1. A better result for the hosts than many South Africans and a whole lot of Englishmen had expected.
South Africa started the series as an assembly of youngsters with just a couple of older, more experienced heads to offer some guidance to the rookies. A new coach had taken the reins, a new captain had been appointed, and a whole lot of lessons had to be learned.
South Africa started the series without a team. Many felt that the series against England would be a very difficult initiation exercise for all concerned.
After the victory in the first Test there were glimmers of hope. The team of rookies had prevailed over the vastly more experienced England outfit. Of course there were still those that wondered whether one swallow was confirmation that summer was coming, and many warned against too much optimism.
The second Test confirmed that South Africa had turned a corner. The Allister Coetzee horror show of 2016 and 2017 was over. The second Test win gave South Africa the series, and the freedom to start looking for answers beyond the team that had prevailed in the first two Tests.
The third Test at Newlands was Rassie Erasmus’s chance to experiment, his chance to test some of his squad depth, and his chance to learn about his team. He has just over 18 months to find, build, nurture, develop, and solidify the team that he has to take to the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
He does not have the luxury of time.
He needs to do everything possible to test and learn, to experiment until he finds the format that he thinks stands a chance of winning the RWC.
On Saturday he had a bit of luck. He had the luxury of being able to “go to school” at Newlands.
And so he did – making five changes to the side that had won him the series as he rested the two hookers that had started and come off the bench in the first two Tests. He rested his flyhalf and fullback too. He changed his entire midfield, resting the combination that had knocked England back in both the previous Tests.
Perhaps some of his changes were questionable?
His choice of Chiliboy Ralepelle as starting hooker was a little startling. Ralepelle is not even a regular starter for his Super Rugby franchise. Perhaps a mistake? The benching of Schalk Brits as the reserve hooker was also perhaps a little weird. The 37-year old has retired from the 1st-class game. Was he just there as a teacher and mentor?
Maybe the decision to start Elton Jantjies was also wrong? The flyhalf’s frailty under pressure has become legendary, but we were told that Erasmus had spent time with Jantjies, guiding him and telling him what he had to work on. When Jantjies is on song, with the ball on the front foot, he can be one of the most exciting flyhalves in the world. Perhaps some guidance from Erasmus, perhaps some counselling had worked wonders with his BMT?
Perhaps the decision to make a wholesale change to the midfield was warranted. Surely Andre Esterhuizen had to be given a chance in the 12 jersey, and his combination with Jesse Kriel tested?
Warrick Gelant has been the name on everyone’s’ lips as a replacement for the wayward Andries Coetzee in the 15 jersey. We know he has the talent and the skills. He too had to be tested with a starting role in a Test match.
What then, did we, and Rassie Erasmus, learn from this game down in Cape Town?
Perhaps the weather gods could have been a little kinder?
A wet, heavy Newlands was a godsend for the embattled England team. They would be playing in something equivalent to home conditions as the slow, heavy field and the slippery ball gave them an advantage over the home side. They are used to playing rugby in miserable conditions. The South Africans are not.
However, the South Africans also have to learn to play in those conditions. Rugby is not always played on hard, fast fields in glorious sunshine. Up north, especially in the British Isles, the game is frequently a mud bath.
Newlands provided that opportunity.
In many respects the South Africans coped with the conditions, the forwards certainly did not mind the slower wet field.
However the real questions that needed answering were being asked in the back division.
Howe did they cope?
I guess we need to be blunt.
Some coped, and some failed miserably.
Elton Jantjies will not want to watch a replay of this Test match, ever. Nor will anyone else. He had a horrendous day in the Springbok 10 jersey. Perhaps his last?
From the very first he seemed unsure of himself and unsure of the conditions. His first attempt at goal, in the 5th minute, went astray, and he never seemed to recover from that moment. His tactical kicking and game management went missing as he either kicked the ball too far or too close, or straight into touch. When he feels the pressure he starts turning towards his midfield and moves towards them before passing, forcing them to go sideways from the outset. It is an instinctive turn away from the oncoming defensive pressure. He was quickly doing exactly that as the game picked up tempo on Saturday. His tactical decision making was questionable, and he started to drop deeper into the pocket as he felt the pressure from Tom Curry.
During the time he was on the field he passed the ball just 9 times, and kicked it 8 times. He did not carry the ball once, and was tackled in possession twice, conceding turnovers on each occasion. He made 3 tackles and fell off two. (He did not miss a tackle, but falling off the tackle is no better than a miss!)
It was not a good day for Elton Jantjies, and he was pulled off the field rather to everyone’s relief.
Andre Esterhuizen came into the game carrying the hopes of many of the anti-Damian de Allende brigade. Esterhuizen is the big, bruising tackle-burst specialist that many want to see as the regular 12 for South Africa. Sadly, he did not do anything to convince anyone that he was a better alternative to De Allende. He carried the ball 5 times for 40 meters in total, making just one tackle burst and no linebreaks. He ran into contact all five times that he carried the ball, without any finesse or attempt to evade the tackle, mostly going into contact in an upright body position with the ball tucked, his head back, and leading with the free arm.
It was all very muscular and absolutely pointless. There is no chance whatsoever of passing a ball in that position, so the ball invariably went down into the ruck.
He did pass the ball six times during the game, four of which reached their intended recipient while two went astray, including an interception. He also made two handling errors.
Esterhuizen made 4 tackles and missed 2, but two of his tackles could be rated as dominant and knocked the England ball carrier backwards.
Question: Is Esterhuizen an alternative to De Allende? Answer: Based on Saturday’s game, no. (Based on the Super Rugby season stats, also no!)
The midfield combination of Esterhuizen and Kriel did not click in the pressure-free environment of Washington, and it once again did not click on Saturday. The two just did not seem to have an understanding of each other’s game and how to run off each other. A midfield has to play together, on Saturday the two seemed to be playing different games.
As for the blooding of Gelant at fullback, it could be termed a qualified success. He was mostly steady under the high ball, until he moved out onto the wing where he fumbled one badly, indirectly leading to an England try. His defence and positional play was good and he did not miss a tackle. He carried the ball 7 times, making 43 meters with the ball in hand, but was guilty of stepping and jinking without any real effect on the opponents, he was thus tackled time and again, and then turned over in the tackle. He coughed up four such turnovers. He made one good tackle burst but no linebreaks.
His passing was poor. There were two good offloads, but the hand to hand passing needs work. Just 3 of 6 pass attempts went to hand. He double-pump dummy-passed before actually passing on three occasions, in each instance selling the recipient to the defence. This is a basic touch-rugby move used against lumbering forwards and not acceptable in the big league! He also gave away two goalable penalties.
Chiliboy Ralepelle’s deployment at hooker did not pose or answer any questions. He is undoubtedly a true wildcard selection, with Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, and Akker van der Merwe, and probably Adriaan Strauss, all ahead of him in the Bok pecking order. He does not command a starting spot for his franchise and his inclusion in the Bok squad is questionable at best. His lineout throwing was solid, his scrummaging fair, but the rest of his game absolutely anonymous, although visible enough to the referee to bleed two unnecessary penalties.
Whatever the question was about Chiliboy, the answer is no.
England finished their tour of South Africa on a high when they claimed a 25-10 victory over the Springboks in the third Test, in Cape Town on Saturday.
The test was an evenly contested and mostly dour encounter as the teams slugged it out amongst the forwards for the most part. Underfoot conditions were wet and slow, with England having the advantage of knowing how to play the game in those conditions. They kept the game tight, minimised errors and kept slugging away as they know best.
Some Talking Points
Handling: South Africa need to work on their handling of the ball in wet conditions. On Saturday they made a massive 23 handling errors, against just 7 by England. Most of the errors were amongst the backs, although the forwards were by no means innocent. The Springboks more than doubled their total handling error count from the previous three June games (including the game against Wales.) Whether the handling problems were as a result of the changes in personnel or just the conditions is moot.
Offloads. The South Africa team has not made much use of the offload in the 4 Tests of the June window. Just 28 offloads in total, an average of 7 per game. This is in contrast to the way the Super franchises have been playing in 2018, where the offload count is usually in the mid-teens or higher.
A problem is identified with some of the offloads as the carrier often lets the offload go without having identified a recipient. Jean-Luc du Preez was especially guilty of this mistake, both in the first Test and on Saturday when he came on as a substitute. Possession was coughed up needlessly.
Defence: The Springbok defensive system has improved beyond measure, despite some early wobbles in both the first two Tests against England. In each of those early phase time frames the team was guilty of adopting a narrow defensive alignment and it was found wanting on each occasion. Once the alignment was sorted, the defence held well. On Saturday they did not allow England space out wide in the initial phases of the game.
The Springboks made 354 tackles and missed 54 in June. An overall 87% success rate, which is a marked improvement over the defensive efforts of 2017 and 2017. The success rate against England was markedly higher, at 93%, with the overall percentage dragged down by the Washington game against Wales.
Leadership: During the Allister Coetzee era the single biggest problem identified within the Springbok set-up was a complete lack of leadership. This was not simply a captaincy issue, both Warren Whiteley and Eben Etzebeth did the captaincy job well enough, after an abysmal performance by Adriaan Strauss in 2016.
The leadership issue was about senior players providing the calm leadership and direction the juniors needed so desperately. Leaders set the example and take ownership of different aspects of the game. Nobody took ownership of the leadership role in the backs, resulting in some pretty desperate performances. For a brief while it seemed that Jan Serfontein would step up and take ownership, but he chose to go and play his rugby in France and his influence was gone.
In 2018 Handré Pollard has taken ownership of the back division, with some assured assistance from Willie le Roux and Damian de Allende. Pollard directs proceedings and manages the attack and defence. De Allende works at holding the midfield defences aligned, calls the fringe defence at rucks, and takes ownership of the direct attack. Willie le Roux has stepped into the mentor role with the two rookie wings and provides a calming voice when the head starts to hiss.
Duane Vermeulen has laid down a marker as the leader of the forwards, freeing up Siya Kolisi to captain the team.
There is a whole new attitude to accepting responsibility in the Springbok squad, and that is perhaps one of the best things to happen in 2018.
Work-In-Progress: The 2018 Springboks are a work-in-progress. After the abysmal Allister Coetzee era the results achieved by Rassie Erasmus are nothing short of miraculous. To bank a series win against England was both unexpected, and probably unlikely, just 2 months ago.
However, this team is far from the complete package. They are very much still in their infancy as a team. Huge challenges loom ahead, and difficult times too.
The baby-steps have been taken, now the team has to learn to walk properly, and then run.
Remember too that the likes of Malcolm Marx, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Coenie Oosthuizen, Pat Lambie, maybe Francois Louw, Warren Whiteley, Marcell Coetzee, and possibly even Frans Steyn are all still out there waiting to come back into the springbok fold.
Well done for what has been achieved in 2018, and good luck for the months that lie ahead. We are looking forward to watching you grow.
Individual Player Ratings
15 Warrick Gelant: 4/10
Shaky in many aspect of his game. Persists with the double-pump dummy-pass-and-then-pass instead of crisp, clean, quick pass of the ball. (Hallmark of his game at franchise level.) This telegraphs the pass, allowing defenders to close space, and for intercepts such as the one by Slade. Too many steps, sidesteps and jinks when straight running was called for. Fairly solid under the high ball, except for one serious error which coughed up possession and gave England the opportunity to set up the try. Good hand-off on Owen Farrell. Clever grubber for Kriel’s try. Two very costly penalties. One kick straight into touch. Much to learn.
14 Sibusiso Nkosi: 5/10
Created an opportunity when he finally got his hands on the ball. Competitive in most areas of his game. One very good steal. Lost a high ball in contact. Poor timing by Kriel robbed him of a possible try.
13 Jesse Kriel: 5/10
Butchered the timing of his pass when a try was on. Looked dangerous when running straight lines, but reverted to his side-ways moments of 2017 at times. One very good rip of the ball off Mike Brown. Good reactions to score his try. Solid on defence.
12 André Esterhuizen: 3/10
Seemed out of his depth. Ordinary. Carried the ball into contact in a very upright body position, with head back, ball under arm and leading with free arm and elbow. No chance of passing the ball out of contact, no chance of an offload. Missed a tackle of Jonny May early on, but seemed to settled into his defensive role after that. Not always dominant in the tackle with some hits just stops. One good counter attack.
11 Aphiwe Dyantyi: 5/10
Not suited to the wet ball and soggy field conditions. One very good line break. Very poor under one high ball. One crucial intercept.
10 Elton Jantjies: 2/10
Poor. Sloppy, inaccurate and low on game management and control. Tactical woes continued. Overcooked kicks, under-cooked kicks. Started with a missed penalty kick in the opening minutes and went downhill from there. International flyhalves do not knock the ball on under the high ball (twice) or when receiving the scrambled pass. Kick charged down too. Bounced off the tackle on Mike Brown
9 Faf de Klerk: 6/10
Usually it his sniping efforts and quick ball play that gets him the plaudits. This time he was shut down in the close-in wet-ball game, but certainly stood up in defence. One huge hit on Nathan Hughes. His box kicks weren’t as accurate as last week.
8 Duane Vermeulen: 7/10
One silly fumble of a high ball, seemed way too casual as he went to catch it. Good over the ball with one super steal. Not quite as imperious as the first two Tests, but still an enormous presence and influence.
7 Pieter-Steph du Toit: 8/10
Best of the Springboks on the day. Flank or lock, he stood up to be counted. Seemed to be everywhere on defence. Impressive work-rate. Vital cover defence on Jonny May. Strong carries and solid in defence. Extra lineout option too.
6 Siya Kolisi: 6/10
Worked hard in the collisions, and over the ball, though he was cleaned out too easily. Made some good tackles, but slipped off a couple. Not given the space he enjoys. A bit quiet as captain. A fair day at the office, but not as good as he has been in the first two Tests.
5 Franco Mostert: 6/10
Once again submerged in the world of the dark places. Did his job in every respect. Not the roaming role he plays at franchise level, he had to be the “enforcer” and what he had to do well enough. One bone-shaking collision as he ran over Henry Slade in the build-up to Kriel’s try.
4 RG Snyman: 5/10
Did the basics well enough, one good carry in the second half. Did his job without much to report. Quieter than in his first two tests. Job done at the lineouts.
3 Frans Malherbe: 6/10
Better than last week, seems to be getting some match-fitness back. Technically good in the scrums. Solid at the scrum. Better in open play with a great counter-ruck. Was wrongly pinged in one scrum when Marler bored inwards but held the line at all other times. Good tackles.
2 Chiliboy Ralepelle: 3/10
As South Africa’s fourth or fifth choice hooker his lineouts were solid enough, but that is where it ended. Silly penalties, especially when pretending to roll away but did not! Gave England two goalable penalties for the half-time lead. Not strong enough in the hard stuff.
1 Tendai Mtawarira: 5/10
A quieter day by the Beast. Not the same penetration when carrying the ball, but one good run again. Solid enough in the scrum but seemed to struggle with his footing in the wet.
16 Schalk Brits: 4/10 (On for Ralepelle, 44th minute)
A “fire-brigade” player? A fifth/sixth choice hooker, given his pre-retirement swansong moment? Not quite sure why he was in the match-day squad. Good lineout throws, and solid enough in the scrums, but anonymous elsewhere.
17 Steven Kitshoff: 8/10 (on for Mtawarira, 44th minutes)
Couple of massive drives with the ball, a couple of really big tackles. Brought his usual power to the scrum, although he was very questionably pinged in one when it looked as if Sinckler had given way.
18 Thomas du Toit: 5/10 (on for Malherbe, 44th minutes)
No impact in the scrums or elsewhere. Made a few tackles but that was it.
19 Jean-Luc du Preez: 4/10 (On for Snyman, 58th minutes)
Is finding that Test rugby is a bit difficult. Does not seem to be able to step up his pace or intensity. Some good carries, some tackles. Some silly passes.
20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe: 4/10 (on for Kolisi, 65th minute)
A bit lightweight for the wet-weather game. Prefers to roam out wide and could not make an impact in the harder driving mauling game.
21 Embrose Papier (on for De Klerk, 75th minutes)
Not enough time to be rated.
22 Handré Pollard: 6/10 (on for Jantjies, 58th minute)
The ball seemed to elude him when he replaced Jantjies. The pass would always go to someone else just when his calm game management was most critically required. Struggled to get into the game. Added value once he found his feet, but made no real impact in the slower conditions.
23 Willie le Roux: 6/10 (On for Nkosi, 50th Minute)
Brought a sense of purpose to the back division, spent a lot of time playing aerial ping-pong as he tried to turn the England team and send play into their half of the field. Showed intent on the attack.
15 Elliot Daly: 6/10
Kicked a penalty dead when it could have caused serious pressure on the Springboks. Kicking from hand inaccurate. Good with ball in hand as he created the extra-man.
14 Jonny May: 8/10
England’s man of the series. Scored yet another try. Good under the high ball, good on the chase, good defence, and asked questions whenever he had the ball in hand.
13 Henry Slade: 5/10
Ordinary day after an ordinary series. Too easy to slip in the tackle, and no cover defence at critical moments. Made one good intercept. Got run over by Mostert in the build-up to the Springbok try.
12 Owen Farrell: 7/10
Kicked like an automaton. Superb accuracy off the tee which gave England a win, at last. Much better as captain, showing leadership of the right kind.
11 Mike Brown: 6/10
Best game on tour, suited to the slower game and conditions. Covered the fullback slot effectively when Daly went roaming. Much better on defence and solid when carrying.
10 Danny Ciprian1: 6/10
Seemed a bit anonymous in the first 70% of the game, then he started to enjoy himself with some deft little moments. Good hands, good little kicks. Superb little kick that game Jonny May his try. Started to find Farrell and worked well together.
9 Ben Youngs: 6/10
A very steady game by a man who knew how to play the conditions. His kicking game emerged after being off-key in the first two Tests. A bit slow at the rucks.
8 Nathan Hughes: 5/10
Got driven back in the tackle time and again, just could not make his size count. Fell off the tackle a couple of times, and seemed to be a yard too slow, even in the Newlands conditions.
7 Tom Curry: 8/10
Great game by the flanker – took the game to the Springboks on the ground and in the carry. Worked hard to stop the Springbok ball carriers. Shut down Faf de Klerk’s space and time, and put pressure on Jantjies.
6 Chris Robshaw: 6/10
Far more suited to the slower pace of the wet game. Had a busier day that in the first Test. Was better in the collisions too, instead of falling back in the tackle he stood stronger. A better day at the office.
5 Maro Itoje: 5/10
Better discipline, and far less niggle than in first two Tests. Solid, but not much more. Good in lineouts. Made some good tackles too.
4 Joe Launchbury: 6/10
The power in the England engine room, again. Wholly suited to the slower wet conditions he made his mark in all the phases of the game. Very solid in the lineouts, but he did seem to turn away from his support when carrying the ball.
3 Kyle Sinckler: 6/10
Another player that thrived in the wet, slower conditions that he is used to. Good carries, close in, scrummed fairly well, although he crumbled under Kitshoff’s power.
2 Jamie George: 5/10
Struggled at the lineouts, with his radar completely put of sorts. Did not impose himself in the loose, though he was better around the fringes. Made a couple of good tackle/stops.
1 Joe Marler: 6/10
His scrumming angles have always been an issue and he was allowed to get away with a couple of bum-out inwards scrums, with Malherbe getting unfairly pinged for one. Enjoyed the slower wet game which allowed him to get involved in the loose and at the breakdowns. Good cleaning out, although he did spend some time playing beyond the ball without catching the refs eye.
16 Luke Cowan-Dickie
17 Alec Hepburn
18 Harry Williams: 5/10
Sent on to try and stop of hold the power of Kitshoff. Struggled, although the entire England pack caught the Springboks napping in the final scrum.
19 Jonny Hill
20 Mark Wilson: 6/10
Made a good impression as soon as he came on. Bust and quick around the field. Charged down Elton Jantjie’s kick attempt.
21 Sam Simmonds
22 Ben Spencer
23 Denny Solomona
Three minutes, not enough time to be rated.
For South Africa:
Pens: Farrell 6
South Africa: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 S’busiso Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Jean-Luc du Preez, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Willie le Roux
England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Jonny May, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Owen Farrell (c), 11 Mike Brown, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Maro Itoje, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Jonny Hill, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Sam Simmonds, 22 Ben Spencer, 23 Denny Solomona