Cape Town – Phew! The Springboks ended their three-match losing streak with a blood-and-guts 31-29 victory over the All Blacks at the Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast on Saturday.
Elton Jantjies booted over the winning penalty with the last action of the match, and it was a deserved triumph as the Boks adopted a much more refreshing approach on attack, and produced the necessary fighting spirit in defence.
Here’s how we rated the Bok match-23…
Willie le Roux: 2
A nightmare evening for the Bok fullback. Unforgivable dropped ball from a kickoff just after Handre Pollard converted a penalty, which led to a try to Sevu Reece. Another poor tackle attempt later on Rieko Ioane, and Ardie Savea scored. Took wrong kicking options on attack too, and was replaced at halftime by Frans Steyn.
Sbu Nkosi: 6
Did superbly well to draw the last defender and put Damian de Allende over in the corner. Chased the kickoffs and box-kicks with his usual energy, although didn’t get many chances to carry the ball in space.
Lukhanyo Am: 9
Incredible start with a magical behind-the-back offload to Sbu Nkosi that led to Damian de Allende’s try – which is worth an extra point alone! Used some classy footwork to unsettle the defence, and tried to keep the ball alive. Strong defensive performance as well.
Damian de Allende: 6
Kept his cool to dart over for the first try out wide. Made one lovely line-break off the back of a lineout, but he didn’t have a teammate on his shoulder. Willing ball-carrier, and solid in defence.
Makazole Mapimpi: 7
Finally broke his try-scoring duck against New Zealand, with his 17th touchdown in 22 Tests. Contested the high-ball, and did well to retain possession despite having a few defenders on him at times.
Handre Pollard: 5
Still not firing on all cylinders. Missed the conversion for Nkosi’s try, although booted his penalties through the posts. Tried hard to bring his outside backs into play a bit more, but not enough of a threat as a ball-carrier himself. All Blacks also found some space around his defensive channel.
Faf de Klerk: 6
Was booed for kicking the ball straight down the pitch when the Boks had a chance to counter-attack, and again put up a box-kick into the New Zealand 22. But certainly played with more speed and looked for Bok runners on attack outside the first two channels.
Duane Vermeulen: 6
Still not as influential as he usually is after recovering from injury, but was a bit more involved this time. Took most of the high-balls and kickoffs that came his way, won the crucial breakdown penalty in the final minute, and made his fair share of tackles – although he missed one on Beauden Barrett that led to Ardie Savea’s try.
Kwagga Smith: 7
Had one of his best Tests. Showed his sevens skills by evading tacklers at close quarters with fancy footwork, and chased down the All Blacks runners all night long.
Siya Kolisi: 7
Won a terrific breakdown steal penalty, and again got stuck into the All Blacks with energetic tackles. Was a busy ball-carrier too, but had to go off in the second half after getting a knee to his neck from Brodie Retallick.
Lood de Jager: 6
Run the Bok lineout with his usual aplomb, although there were a couple of overthrows. Ran hard up the middle, and manned the front-line in defence too.
Eben Etzebeth: 8
Never stopped going in the physical stakes. Punched the ball up the middle, contested up-and-unders and the All Black lineouts… the list goes on. Had more of an impact than his great rival, Brodie Retallick.
Trevor Nyakane: 7
Was a strong ball-carrier in the first half, almost always getting over the advantage line, and made some solid tackles around the fringes. Was surprisingly replaced just before halftime.
Bongi Mbonambi: 8
Was in an angry mood, and took out his frustration on the All Blacks with a typically belligerent display. One outstanding run saw him place the ball just short of the line, and he controlled possession well at the back of the maul. A couple of lineout overthrows, though.
Ox Nche: 6
Made a couple of good carries in midfield, and was solid in the scrums and in defence.
Malcolm Marx: 6
Came on with the rest of the reserve front row before halftime, and kept up the heat on the All Blacks in the scrums.
Steven Kitshoff: 7
Apart from his powerful scrumming, Kitshoff carried the ball with verve into the All Black defence, and was a strong defensive pillar at close quarters.
Vincent Koch: 6
Was unable to control a superb offload from Kwagga Smith in broken play, but was part of a strong scrumming effort from the ‘Bomb Squad’ front row.
Franco Mostert: 6
Put his body on the line as usual, high work-rate.
Jasper Wiese: 5
Didn’t have much chance to run at the All Blacks, tried to get physical with the Kiwis in the last quarter.
Herschel Jantjies: 6
Made one dart soon after coming on for Faf de Klerk, but the referee awarded a breakdown penalty to the All Blacks.
Elton Jantjies: 8
Showed his class with a clever touch that led to Makazole Mapimpi’s try, as he delayed his pass just enough to draw the last defender, and kicked an amazing drop goal to put the Boks into the lead with a few minutes left, before landing the winning three-pointer.
Frans Steyn: 8
Came on at halftime for Willie le Roux at fullback, and made a telling impact with his big kicks downfield and brought the necessary solidity at the back. Produced some hefty touch-finders – including the late penalty to put the Boks back on attack inside the All Black 22, which led to the victorious Jantjies penalty.