Cape Town – A ton-of-bricks performance up front by Duane Vermeulen, coupled with some great moments of artistry and anticipation from Willie le Roux in the backline, went a long way to teeing up the Springboks’ 28-0 romp over Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday.
The South African effort was based much more around raw power and clattering commitment in the collisions than it was silky skills, for the most part, but it was all too much for the Scots who were just too uncreative on attack – not to mention demoralised by awesome Bok defence – to be able to bother the scoreboard themselves.
Here’s how I rated the Boks out of 10:
Willie le Roux 8.5
Arguably his best, most rounded Test match yet; great statement about his ability to excel at fullback in European conditions. Safe under high balls, tactically sound and alert on defence, but his ghosting into the line and then cross-kick for JP Pietersen’s try was the game’s highlight from a skills point of view. Intercept try of his own was a reward for the way he sums up situations for his team’s benefit.
JP Pietersen 7
Much more sprightly than last week, when he still looked rusty against Wales. Fine finishing for his try after Le Roux’s lead-up work, and also produced one memorable, drive-him-back cover tackle on a rare dangerous Scottish foray.
Jaque Fourie 6.5
Still not quite firing in the way pre-2012 Bok fans – not to mention Lions and Stormers faithful – remember. But he’s getting there.
Jean de Villiers 6.5
Made sure no Scottish traffic got through his channel, even if this disgracefully cutting-up pitch was no fitting playground for his attacking skills. Desperately close to bagging one of his legendary intercept tries on one occasion.
Bryan Habana 6
Not the best “first 40” the old pro will ever experience, but then only redoubled his effort to get involved after the break. Turned and tracked back with admirable stealth for diving, fingertip prevention of Scottish try late on.
Pat Lambie 7
We’re still waiting for that really genuine “ooh and ah” performance from Lambie at Test level. In fairness, though, he was efficient and workmanlike here, including making his tackles with gusto and taking good options at No 10, though he did fluff one pretty easy penalty.
Fourie du Preez 7
Still a few slightly irksome rough edges to the veteran’s game, but mostly very decisive and suitably urgent at scrumhalf.
Duane Vermeulen 8.5
Superbly committed: made several decent mini-gains with ball in hand in driving play, managed the back of the scrum smartly, but strongest point was some thunderous tackling that will have left many aching Scottish bodies.
Willem Alberts 7.5
It’s a concern that he walks a near constant, injury tightrope, but as coach Heyneke Meyer reminded, that’s just because of the type of player he is. Like a tank in first half before having to be subbed for Marcell Coetzee.
Francois Louw 7
Got through plenty of work where the proverbial sun don’t shine, even if he will have more profound days as a ball-carrier. Victim of reckless cleanout by serial meanie Jim Hamilton late in match that worryingly required stretcher mode of transport off pitch.
Flip van der Merwe 7.5
Impressive day in the engine-room on the slow, soft Murrayfield surface. Worked his socks off in all departments required of him … and discipline seemed refreshingly better, too.
Bakkies Botha 6
Fairly solid hour of comeback Test activity after a long absence, even if not quite at vintage, robust best. Deserves credit for his muscular contribution to some concerted Bok rolling mauls, though.
Frans Malherbe 6
Was putting himself about purposefully until injury cruelly cut short his second Bok start after 37 minutes. Probably wished there’d been more scrums before his departure, to try to compellingly tick that box.
Adriaan Strauss 6.5
Industrious as ever, until the Boks let Bismarck du Plessis loose off his pitch-side exercise bike just after hour mark. It must be said: lineouts went awry after Strauss exited.
Gurthro Steenkamp 5.5
We still haven’t seen the best of Steenkamp’s qualities both in the scrums and in open play for the Boks since he made France his home base. Just seemed a more forceful Bok during his Bulls years, yes?
Coenie Oosthuizen 7.5
Much more game-time than usual, thanks to Malherbe’s exit before half-time … and showed his gratitude for that. Suitably solid on the tighthead side at scrum-time, and used his juggernaut frame to great effect in general play, including registering try from unstoppable maul off lineout.