Played 2, won 2 … Can’t really argue, and new coach Heyneke Meyer can feel relatively satisfied.
Relatively, I say, as the Boks are yet to muster a full 80 minute performance. But that will come, and one can just imagine the damage a Boks side playing the last 40 minutes of the first Test, and the first 40 minutes of the second Test would cause!
The first half saw some incredible carries from almost every forward as the Boks dominated the English physically, a much crisper service from Francois Hougaard, and some slick passing out wide. No team in the world could have lived with them in that form.
Things unraveled slightly in the second half when the Boks were forced to replace man mountain Willem Alberts for the much slighter Keegan Daniel, and Juandre Kruger with Flip van der Merwe due to injuries, while at the same time Meyer made what proved to be a slightly dodgy call, choosing to replace both Du Plessis brothers, who had been enjoying amazing outings, with Andries Strauss and Werber Kruger. The pack started coming second to a Thomas Waldrom infused English 8, and at the back, the Boks were forced into using Wynand Olivier at centre while Frans Steyn stood in for the injured Pat Lambie at the back … Olivier proving yet again that he does not have what it takes to play at this level …
Thanks to JP Pietersen , the Boks withstood the English fightback, and pull of a series winning victory, but it was not a half that they will file at the top of their memory banks …
My player ratings:
15 Pat Lambie – 6.5
Only played one half due to an ankle injury. Did not play a huge role in the Bok dominance, as that was happening up front. Nothing massively untoward, but then nothing hugely exciting either.
14 JP Pietersen – 9
One is loathe to hand out 10’s in this game, but I cannot remember him doing much wrong. Yet I can remember him rounding off a scintillating try that he started deep in the Bok half in the 70th minute to close out a game that had suddenly become a contest.
13 Jean de Villiers – 7.5
One cannot blame the skipper for the pack’s second half implosion, or for the fact that he suddenly had Wynand Olivier as a playing partner. Played his part in a few of the tries, carrying and defending well.
12 Frans Steyn – 6.5
Still running at men rather than space. Is blunt force trauma rathe than surgical precision. But played his part in the first half flow, and keeping Tuilagi in check.
11 Bryan Habana – 6
Did not do much wrong, but the game was played up from this weekend and the ever industrious wing just did not get much ball.
10 Morné Steyn – 6
A big reason for this man being in the Bok side is his metronomic multicolored right boot, and it went AWOL on Saturday again. Ironically, not the worst distributor in the game though.
9 Francois Hougaard – 8
If last week was dark, this was a ray of sunshine. Benefitting from a Bok pack that was making mincemeat of the English, Hougaard was crisp with his delivery, and a menace with ball in hand.
8 Pierre Spies – 8
Speaking of rays of sunshine … A much talked about and long awaited return to form in a game that saw him taking the ball at pace and making yards with ball in hand. Was a real factor in the Bok pack’s first half dominance.
7 Willem Alberts – 9
More destruction from the human wrecking ball – both on attack and defence. Direct, blunt, and to the point, the visitors had no response to this Bok weapon.
6 Marcell Coetzee – 7.5
Taking to this hybrid fetcher /carrier role very nicely indeed. Industrious on defence, yet also making a few good carries. Slightly MIA as things went pear shaped in second half
5 Juandré Kruger – 7
The new Bok lineout captain took off from where he left off last week, coordinating a slick Bok lineout, and making himself useful round the park. Off injured in the second half.
4 Eben Etzebeth – 7
Not yet having the impact on international rugby that he had on Super Rugby, but he is growing into the enforcer role with each minute. Not scared to mix it with the big boys, and part of a hugely impressive and physical performance in first 50 minutes.
3 Jannie du Plessis – 8
Having seen what happened to the Bok scrum in the second half, I think we can stop questioning Jannie’s contribution to the Bok scrum as the crucial tighthead prop. And now carrying the ball well.
2 Bismarck du Plessis – 9.5
Pietersen took the glory and the official MOTM, but this was Du Plessis’ best performance in Green and Gold, and it was quite simply brutally magnificent! Inspired the pack to their early destruction of the English pack with a bullocking runs that would have shattered granite.
1 Beast Mtawarira – 6.5
Part of a pack that dominated early on, but also part of a scrum that got badly man handled in the second half when all the changes had been made.
16 Adriaan Strauss – 4
Part of a massacred scrum and seemed to opt out of rucks and mauls even when the Bok pack were back peddling in the last 20 minutes
17 Werner Kruger – 4
Also part of a desperately poor Bok scrum, but one that was hugely disrupted and missing the human tree trunk that is Willem Alberts.
18 Flip van der Merwe – 5
Did not seem to do too much wrong, and got through the donkey work, but part of a new Bok pack that came second in the last 20.
19 Keegan Daniel – 6
Tough to follow in Alberts footsteps, and in a pack that looked to have less balance with two fetchers, but did get round the park quickly, having an impact at the breakdown.
20 Ruan Pienaar – 6.5
Not being afforded the same ride Hougaard was afforded in the first half, Pienaar was not as authoritative as he was in the first Test.
21 Wynand Olivier – 4
With enough time to settle, instead of proving critics wrong, he proved yet again that he does not seem to be able to take the step up to International level.
Not enough time on the park to warrant a rating:
22 Bjorn Basson