Bok report card – pass

Tank Lanning

Proper class …

Played 3 games on tour, won 3 … Played 12 matches this year, won 7, drawn 2 and lost 3 … On 86.05 points, ranked 2nd in the world behind New Zealand, who dominate on 92.91 points, and very marginally ahead of Australia 85.94 points …

A school report card would probably award a pass, perhaps with university acceptance, but with a need to use that time at university to learn and improve if Heyneke Meyer wants to remain at the helm to challenge the All Blacks …

It was a funny old game at Twickenham on Saturday … As tight as it gets with the result very much in the balance at half time. But that try after half time that bordered on the ridiculous – Juandre Kruger lost the ball in a drive from a lineout, Ben Morgan hacked it ahead – straight into JP Pietersen as it turned out. England then knocked the ball on in attempting to catch Pietersen’s “Charge down”, which put Willem Alberts on side, and the bone collector hung on to score the ping pong try – took the Boks to a 6-16 lead, and in effect it was game over!

England then had to chase the game against the best defence in the business in poor conditions … It did bring out the best of them via Manu Tuilagi, but the Boks could then afford to kick the ball deep and let England chase the game, and in those conditions, that was always going to be tricky.

England actually did bloody well to “Win” the second half after that, but the Bok’s three point half time cushion ended up being enough …

Skipper Chris Robshow looked very undecided come penalty decision time … with Owen Farrell virtually forcing the kick that took the score to 9-16 on him. And he then made a very bad call to go for poles in 78th minute … Sure it made the game a 1 point affair, but there was always going to be only a miniscule chance of scoring from resultant kickoff …

As it turned out, the kickoff from Lambie was on a tickie, and the Boks managed to eke out another tight win on tour. Were they lucky? Damn right they were … Did they play better rugby? At times, but conditions called for the game to played they way they did … Will they be happy? Meyer and De Villiers say they are so one has to believe them, but there have to be some doubts as to whether the Boks are on the right track …

Match stats courtesy of the SMH:

Possession: England 44%-56% SA, Rucks/mauls: England 109-63 SA, Line breaks: England 3-0 SA, Offloads: England 6-1 SA, Lineouts won against throw: England 0-6 SA, Run metres: England 651m-293m SA, Kick metres: England 760m-1001m SA, Tackles made: England 103-181 SA, Turnovers: England 25-17 SA, Penalties conceded: England 9-15 SA

A few more observations from the game:  

Ruan Pienaar’s first kick of the game was charged down – he could have passed to Lambie who had plenty of time. Is Pienaar the man to wear the number 9 jersey?

Nigel Owens officiating the scrums was horrific. He is either inept and should be sent to scrum school, or is a cheat. Alex Corbisiero was scrumming in, yet Jannie du Plessis was being penalised.

Pat Cilliers on for Jannie for second half … A very astute substitution by Meyer given the shoddy treatment of Du Plessis by Owens, but SARU must chase this up.

The first 2 Bok scrums with Cilliers at tighthead were not good, and then England replaced Corbisiero with Mako Vunipola. Great move for Cilliers, not so sharp from the Poms. Key question for Boks – Is there life after Jannie du Plessis?

Yes there is life after Bryan Habana … JP Pietersen is truly world class. But the two of them in tandem is what it is all about … They just need to be given a little more ball!

Pat Lambie probably also gets a university entrance on his report card, but opting for the grubber instead of keeping ball in hand in the build up to the Alberts try was a bad call, and the Boks were lucky to get away with the penalty that came from England making a hash of the charge down..

It was a properly gutsy call to go for the corner from resultant penalty though. Captain Jean de Villiers has been excellent this year, both in terms of his captaincy and his play.

Vermeulen’s pass to Pienaar from base of scrum deemed to have been passed back into the 22, even though the former had his feet in the 22. SA Referees Twitter account confirms that as the correct call, as ball was stationary and outside 22 when Vermeulen picked up.

The Bok loose trio of Vermeulen, Alberts and Francois Louw is right up there with the best in the business. Stealer, Carrier and Fetcher … Game changers all of them.

Eben Etzebeth’s penalty was absurd. He kicked the ball away, Ben Youngs took offense, and he was actually first to put his hand in the face of the big lock. Only the size of the Bok lock’s paws made his more noticeable.

The England scrum may have been good, but they lost 6 of their own line outs, and in game where the Boks were looking to play in the opposition half, that is goodnight nurse.

Stuart Barnes is a really good analyst – he handled the try (JP accused of being offside at Lambie grubber by fellow commentator), Etzebeth penalty, and Farrell’s attempted Gary Owens very objectively, and offered good insight.

Quote of the day from Barnes: “England have not been passing well for 9 years now … It does not seem to be an important skill for England anymore … In New Zealand it is!”

Over 81 000 people braved the conditions to be at the game. The Boks still have impressive pulling power.

There are plenty “Hit me” faces in the England side … Stuart Lancaster (That crease above the right eye is kreepy), Owen Farrell, Danny Care …


  1. Tank, Nigel Owens, like his counterpart Wayne Barnes has always been pedantic, mystifying and inconsistent – so Saturday was really no different. However, was his ineptness at scrum time any different to what happened in the first half of the first test SA v British Lions when Mtawarira got away with murder – is it any different to what we see Saturday after Saturday when props put a hand on the ground and every now and again get blown for it, scrum halves put the ball in skew and fly halves kick off 1-3m in front of the line. Even Craig Joubert lets these things go, yet they are against the laws. At the end of the day, i don’t think anyone is 100% certain as to what they are going to get from any ref from Saturday to Saturday.
    Barnes is 100% correct – it also applies to SA. As for the university pass mark – the standard of education must have declined – not that it was any better the previous 4 years. I am just so glad to see the manner in which Duane Vermeulen took his chances – may we never see Pierre Spies wearing the No8 jersey again for SA.

  2. I would like to know…

    Once Robshaw had indicated poles, and Owens had signalled – he was unable to change his mind. As per the rules the kicker is then forced to kick at goal.

    1. What would have happened had Farell, kicked a deliberate up and under to chase down, albeit in the direction of the posts ?

    2. What would have happened had Farell just kicked to touch anyways ? – my guess on this one, is a scrum awarded to the Boks from where the kick was taken.


    1. @Ivan,

      Once a team (Robshaw) indicates that they intend to kick for goal, they must “kick at goal”. And it can’t even be a drop kick: “The kicker may place the ball directly on the ground or on sand, sawdust or a kicking tee approved by the Union.” No punting up and unders. If you really want a drop kick at goal then you can have one without signalling the intention. Place kicks to touch are expressly forbidden anyway. (Some used to do that for accuracy in the old days, pre-1980 I think).

      The interpretation of whether the kicker “kicked at goal” from the tee or did something else such as deliberately going for touch or a high restart is, as always, at the judgement of the referee. “The referee is the sole judge of fact and of Law during a match.”

      The sanction would be a scrum to the opposing team at the place of the penalty, subject of course to the usual advantage law of playing on or taking the lineout, 22m restart etc. Alternatively, the ref is free to invoke Law 10.4(l) “Acts contrary to good sportsmanship. A player must not do anything that is against the
      spirit of good sportsmanship in the playing enclosure.
      Penalty: Penalty Kick”.

      Incidentally, the penalty attempt by Ruan Pienaar at the end of the first half against Ireland stretched this a bit. 60 metres plus the angle, with no real hope of going over but it burned about two minutes of yellow card time with the clock already past 40 minutes. Great call by the captain.

  3. Absolutely fair point re refs getting a lot wrong, especially come scrum time, but my word, it was obvious on Saturday, with many people noticing …
    Yes, I hear a pass mark for matric these days is a mere 30%! And with the year and HM has had, he gets more than that. But I hope his free ride to Varsity means he will do some homework 🙂

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