A crowd of 55820 supporters saw the Springboks whitewash France 3 – 0 in their Test series, wrapping it up with 35 -12 win in Johannesburg.
Springboks Whitewash France
South Africa– Tries: Jesse Kriel, Eben Etzebeth, Malcolm Marx, Rudy Paige. Conversions : Elton Jantjies (3). Penalties: Elton Jantjies (3)
France – Penalties: Jules Plisson (4)
The Springboks were dealt a blow before kick off, with captain Warren Whiteley ruled out of the game with a groin injury. Lions openside flank Jaco Kriel moved from the bench to the starting team, with Jean-Luc du Preez moving to the number 8 position. Kriel’s place on the bench was filled by Lood de Jager.
The Springboks missed Whiteley’s captaincy as well as the line out option he offers. Their lineout was wobbly throughout the game and to be fair, it did look as if both teams concentration levels were below par as there were far too many basic handling errors. The game was always going to be at risk of being a typical dead rubber affair, with South Africa already wrapping up the three match series courtesy of their wins in Pretoria and Durban.
We could see the influence of the new assistant coaches, Brendan Venter and Franco Smith. The risky exit play passing the ball across their posts in their own in goal area was unexpected, as was filling the lineout with backline players. That play ended with Eben Etzebeth’s try. The Springboks defensive line also held strongly and when the time was right to do so, they rushed up in unison to snuff out many of France’s attacking opportunities.
Depth at scrumhalf is a genuine problem at the moment. Francois Hougaard dwelled far too long on the ball before clearing it to the first receiver, allowing the French defence to either reorganise themselves or rush up to put the Springboks attack under pressure. His time as a Springbok starting scrumhalf is surely done.
Head Coach Allister Coetzee has made a point of saying that the terrible season that the Springboks experienced in 2016 was “water under the bridge” and he had moved on from those results. Unfortunately for Coetzee though, 2016 will always be the yardstick that his 2017 season will be measured against.
We take a look at a few key points coming out of this Test series.
You Get What You Pay For
The Springboks opted for a “budget” group of coaches to support Head Coach Allister Coetzee in 2016. It is pointless regurgitating our previously analysis of this other than to state that some were too inexperienced and others were out of their depth. The assistants that Coetzee now has at his disposal come at a far higher price, but you do get what you pay for.
In 2016, The Springboks were assembled a week before the first Test against Ireland. In 2017, the bulk of South Africa’s Super Rugby players were invited in batched to three separate Springbok training camps prior to assembling the final squad. The country’s Super Rugby coaches were also invited to two rugby “indabas” to plan the road ahead for the game.
We now await the conclusion of the ever-changing story regarding Rassie Erasmus. It would be major win for South African rugby if he returns to the Director of Rugby position he previously held.
Reward Form Not Reputation
In 2016, Coetzee stated that the Lions game plan was not suitable for Test rugby. There may be a touch of truth in that, but selecting players who are out of form, playing staid, clueless rugby doesn’t work at Test level either. In 2017, the Lions form the spine of his Springbok team. As the leading South African Super Rugby team in 2016 and 2017, it is surely logical that the Lions represent a large portion of the national squad and therefore elements of their game too.
The Springboks are Building Impressive Bench Strength
The Springbok bench is a lot stronger than it was in 2016 and the impact that players such as Steven Kitshoff and Pieter-Steph du Toit are making off the bench, bringing a high work rate with them for the final quarter, has helped the Springboks to close out games during this series. The quality of replacements will only improve once players such as Pat Lambie, Handre Pollard, Oupa Mahoje, Ross Cronje and Damian de Allende are available for selection.
History Repeats Itself
The date of this game, 24 June is a significant one in South African rugby as it is 22nd anniversary of the 1995 Rugby World Cup win. To mark the day, the famous passenger jet flyover was re-enacted.
This is a Springbok team that is pulling itself up by their bootlaces. They were at an all time low in 2016 and are trying to rebuild their reputation from scratch. It has been difficult to judge the relative strength of this French team and the Springboks will be tested by far stronger teams. What they do have though is a base to work off. An improved pattern of play and a lot more potential in terms of the rugby intellect that they have now have available to them. Only time will tell how much this group of players and coaches can improve and become a real force in world rugby again.
15. Andries Coetzee 14. Raymond Rhule 13. Jesse Kriel 12. Jan Serfontein 11. Courtnall Skosan 10. Elton Jantjies 9. Francois Hougaard 8. Jean-Luc du Preez 7. Jaco Kriel 6. Siya Kolisi 5. Franco Mostert 4. Eben Etzebeth(captain) 3. Ruan Dreyer 2. Malcolm Marx 1. Tendai Mtawarira
16. Bongi Mbonambi 17. Steven Kitshoff 18. Coenie Oosthuizen 19. Pieter-Steph du Toit 20. Lood de Jager 21. Rudy Paige 22. Frans Steyn 23. Dillyn Leyds
15. Brice Dulin 14. Nans Ducuing 13. Damian Penaud 12. Gael Fickou 11. Virimi Vakatawa 10. Jules Plisson 9. Baptiste Serin 8. Louis Picamoles 7. Kevin Gourdon 6. Yacouba Camara 5. Romain Taofifenua 4. Yoann Maestri 3. Rabah Slimani 2. Guilhem Guirado (captain) 1. Jefferson Poirot
16. Clement Maynadier 17. Xavier Chiocci 18. Uini Atonio 19. Paul Jedrasiak 20. Loann Goujon 21. Maxime Machenaud 22. Francois Trinh-Duc 23. Vincent Rattez