Keo.co.za rates the Springboks in the Test against France at Newlands.
15 Zane Kirchner (5) Broke superbly early in the game but didn’t have the pass to finish. This must be a concern. Otherwise had few attacking opportunities because of the Springboks’ largely pragmatic approach and was seldom asked to field high balls. Although still in the infancy of his Test career, Kirchner has much to do to silence his critics.
14 Gio Aplon (8) Seemingly answered some questions about his physical aptitude for Test rugby when he bumped off Maxime Mermoz (then reignited the debate when violently floored in the 22nd minute), before stepping the cover defence brilliantly en route to the tryline. He then showed that that he has the pace for a Test rugby winger by collecting the ball on his 22m line and smoking the French defenders. Those were rare attacking opportunities in a match where he was largely reduced to chasing box kicks. Good positional play and defence outside of the earlier mentioned incident.
13 Jaque Fourie (7) Supported Habana in Spies’s try then floated the pass to the rampaging No 8. He is still becoming accustomed to playing alongside Wynand Olivier, and there were moments of miscommunication on defence. However, he is the glue that binds the Bok backline and the intelligence he shows when in possession on attack is one of his underrated qualities. What he gives up in pace, evident when he failed to cross the whitewash after slicing the defensive line in the 64th minute, he makes up for in grey matter.
12 Wynand Olivier (6) Little space to operate from set plays and few attacking opportunities in general play. Didn’t disappoint but never thrilled and needs to develop the skill of creating chances in that tight environment because it will seldom be on offer. Defensively good.
11 Bryan Habana (6) Intercepted the pass then shrugged off three tackles in creating Spies’s try. However, you couldn’t help but believe that three years ago he would have blitzed the French and finished the move himself. On defence his hard pushes off the line pressure the French carriers and receivers and ensured that the opposition got no joy in the wide channels.
10 Morne Steyn (6) Solid rather than spectacular, and did what was requested of him. He has displayed his ability to play to a game plan but needs to vary his play if he is to be considered amongst the elite flyhalves in world rugby. His most notable attacking contribution was a floated pass to Steenkamp for the prop’s try.
9 Ricky Januarie (5) His box kicking was a mix of ordinary and OK, and this was particularly pertinent because the Springboks have come to rely so heavily on excellence in that facet of play from Fourie du Preez. His distribution was adequate, but he is regularly caught making his play decision only when he arrives at the ruck, thus allowing the defensive line to set. Needs to develop those aspects of his game above all others.
8 Pierre Spies (7) Ran a great supporting line to score the Test’s opening try. However, his true test was always going to come how he coped behind a pack that didn’t enjoy the ascendency and came through that test well. The French routinely posted two defenders on him, which nullified his potency with ball in hand but created holes in the defensive line when the ball was recycled. The fact that he never disappeared in a match pattern that didn’t suit his strengths says he is growing into a more complete N0 8.
7 Francois Louw (8) He is busy shattering the generally accepted rules about what physical dimensions an openside flank needs to have to be effective. He runs intelligent defensive lines and this is why he is able to have a crack at slowing or turning over possession as often as he does. His contribution at the breakdown stifled France’s attacking flow and made his team’s defensive task significantly easier. Looks a comfortable fit at Test level and promises to be a key player for the Boks this season.
6 Schalk Burger (5) Carried strongly but wasn’t the force at the gain line his coaches would have hoped him to be. His sheer physicality on attack and defence meant he was always a menace but needs to match amplify his threat by busting the line more often than he does.
5 Victor Matfield (6) Watching live how he infiltrated the very psyche of the French hooker and his jumpers was wonderful. This of course is his primary role but also made valuable contributions in defence. Led the side well in John Smit’s absence, ensuring composure and sustained focus on the game plan that had made them successful.
4 Danie Rossouw (7) – Seems to have carried his Super 14 form into the Test arena and will be difficult to displace, even when Bakkies Botha is eligible. His physicality and work rate make him a formidable opponent and those two qualities were central to the Boks’ success this afternoon. His first half hit on Lionel Nallet ensured the French hard man was a non-factor for the remainder of the contest and his brutal cleaning of rucks meant there’ll be some sore bodies in their camp.
3 BJ Botha (6) Inconsistent at scrum time, mixing solidity with vulnerability in an average scrummaging performance. His defence around the track was good but needs to up his ruck hits.
2 John Smit (6) Injured and substituted at half-time but like Botha delivered a mixed bag at scrum time. One has to bear in mind that he only recently returned to the position at Test level and should improve along with his front row wingmen under the tutelage of Os du Randt. Never lacked any physicality with ball in hand and a force when cleaning at ruck time.
1 Gurthro Steenkamp (7) Excellent all round performance. His scrummaging has improved exponentially in the couple of months since his nightmare of late 2009 and his work rate in defence and accuracy and power at the tackle point was a sight to behold.
16 Chiliboy Ralepelle (6) – (On at half time for John Smit) Showed he has the capacity to play at this level if given the opportunity. Scrummed well and was effective when carrying in the loose. Will improve if he is invested in.
17 Jannie du Plessis (5) – (On in 57th minute for BJ Botha) – Scrummed relatively well without being dominant and worked hard in defence.
18 Flip van der Merwe (5) – (On in the 60th for Danie Rossouw) – The debutant ensured sustained physicality amongst the tight five on attack and defence.
19 Dewald Potgieter (5) – (On in 51st minute for Schalk Burger) Rabid tracking across the park and strength in the collisions made him a like for like replacement for Burger. Will grow in stature as the Test season progresses and looks a natural replacement for the Stormers man.
20 Ruan Pienaar (5) – (On in the 66th minute for Morne Steyn) Controlled the game relatively well when he came on but never injected the game breaking quality his coaches would have been looking for.
21 Juan de Jongh (5) – (On in the 60th for Wynand Olivier) Punched above his weight on defence but had few attacking opportunities.
22 Jean de Villiers (5) – (On in 62nd minute at wing for Zane Kirchner) – No opportunities to carry the ball.
Peter de Villiers and coaching staff (7) - This side was clearly physically prepared and clinical with the chances they had. There are areas of their game that need attention, like their scrummaging and ball protection in contact as well as the box kicking of their primary kickers, but overall an impressive effort.