Springbok Rugby Championship win: Some thoughts

Springbok Rugby Championship win
Herschel Jantjies dives over to score in South Africa's Rugby Championship win against Australia. Photo Credit: SA Rugby

The Springbok Rugby Championship win against the Wallabies in Johannesburg on Saturday was the bit of good news South African fans needed.

Springbok Rugby Championship win

There was a lot of emotion on display as this was the first Test played by the Springboks after the untimely death of Springbok James Small as well as South African music icon Johnny Clegg. Clegg’s song “Impi” has been used for years to introduce the Springboks onto the field. Small’s young son and daughter were the Springbok mascots for the day.

Embed from Getty Images Nervous start

As the case normally is with an experimental team, the Springboks started off very nervously. Without being bad, the back three appeared uncertain under the high ball. Clearly there is work to be done here. Center Andre Esterhuizen in particular was frenetic in the opening quarter, ending up with a yellow card after an unnecessary high tackle. As game wore on, the team seemed to find their feet and put on an impressive enough display to win quite easily.

Springbok defense questionable

We have to appreciate that this Springbok team was largely a mix of combinations, so defense wouldn’t be their aspect of play. Reality though is that more settled opposition would have made them pay for some of their defensive errors. We can expect this to improve once Rassie Erasmus settles on his favoured combinations

They did not help themselves with the loose forward combination selected. Individually, there can be no real complaints about the players selected. The problem with a loose trio of Elstadt , Du Toit and Louw is that pace around the park is sacrificed. This goes further than the discussion regarding protecting or contesting for  possession at ruck time. Cover defense is also compromised.

Speaking of all things questionable, that would probably also apply to Victor Matfield’s dancing…

Wallabies wasted opportunities

The Wallabies will rue two wasted opportunities. Dane Haylett-Petty couldn’t handle the bouncing ball, knocking it on with the tryline at his mercy. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto scored for the Wallabies, only to have the try ruled out as the final pass was forward.

Much has been said of Taniela Tupou’s yellow card. Was his ruck clean out worthy of a yellow card or not? Whatever your opinion, we have to consider the wisdom of making that cleanout. The Wallabies already had the turnover penalty. Elstadt was no-where near the ball. If you put yourself in the position Tupou did, you cannot complain if the decision doesn’t go your way.

Depth

Erasmus now has depth he did not dream of when he started his tenure. Selecting European based players has helped, but consider the difference in playing stock at the moment. To name a few:

Scrumhalf was a problem. He now has De Klerk, Reinach and the emerging Jantjies. Bringing Frans Steyn into the equation gives him cover in three positions – flyhalf, inside center and fullback. Aside from emergency cover by Steyn at fullback, he has Warrick Gelant and Willie le Roux available. At loosehead there are the incumbents Tendai Mtawarira and Steven Kitshoff.  Lizo Gqoboka made his debut on Saturday and looks to have a long international career ahead of him.

It is early days in the 2019 international season, with a long road ahead for the Springboks. The difference this year is that they have had a year under Erasmus’s guidance and he is looking to play form players ahead of known names.

It just feels different in 2019. Here’s hoping…

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