Warren Whiteley and Ross Cronje’s Springboks shares rose even more in their absence as the Boks comfortably beat France in Johannesburg to secure a three-nil series win.

Whiteley, as he had done with the Lions, immediately galvanized the 2017 Springboks. He led though an infectious enthusiasm, with calmness and also with skills more associated with loose-forwards from an era where rugby was a sport and not a business.

Whiteley is an outstanding Super Rugby player and in this first season as Springbok captain he was equally impressive as an international player. He played well and led well. His unavailability for the series finale was made easier because there was no significance to the series result, but the significance was that it immediately gave the Springboks a different feel – and it’s one that was less exciting, inviting and imposing.

Sharks youngster Jean-Luc du Preez was efficient as a No 8 but he was not Whiteley. The two have different skills and the Springboks, against France, were more potent with Whiteley’s skills at No 8 and Du Preez playing as the big blind side loose-forward ball carrier. This allowed for one of Siya Kolisi or Jaco Kriel to play to the ball.

The Springboks in the third Test win were forced to rejig the back row combinations because of Whiteley’s late withdrawal but it was a reminder that three good individuals don’t necessarily make as good a combination.

Kriel, Kolisi and Du Preez all enjoyed good individual matches but they lacked that something extra we saw from a Bok loose-trio built around Whiteley in the opening two Tests.

Cronje, at scrumhalf, was another whose importance was emphasized in his absence.

Cronje’s skill set is understated but hugely effective. He may lack the maverick presence of Francois Hougaard and Faf de Klerk, but Cronje is currently the best exponent of scrumhalf play in South Africa. He does the basics well, reads play exceptionally and Elton Jantjies, at flyhalf, looks decidedly more settled when Cronje is on his inside.

The Whiteley, Cronje and Jantjies axis worked a treat in the first two Test wins, but there wasn’t the same fluency or authority from Du Preez, Hougaard and Jantjies as a collective.

The Boks won easily and they were never troubled in the Test series.

France were outmuscled, outthought and outplayed.

You can only beat who is in front of you, and the Boks can only be judged on who they have played.

Just how the Boks will shape against Argentina, Australia and New Zealand in the Rugby Championships is something we will only know once those first round games have been played.

What the Boks did achieve against France was to reignite the optimism of the South African sporting and rugby public. They played with vigour and they played with respect for each other, the jersey and the paying and supporting public.

For this they must be applauded.

*This article first appeared in Business Day Newspaper

21 Responses

  1. Slappes

    Yip. Agree keo. AC should also be given some credit. However, don’t think the boks are on the Abs level yet… But damn, it’s better than last year . Let’s see if some of the old bloggers return..😁

    1. Keo

      Agreed re Allister. He is the head coach and he agreed to bringing in Brendan. He also had to make the call on Whiteley as captain and invest in the core of the Lions players. Fair play to him and I have written as much from the moment he picked his squad for the French series.

      For me it’s baby steps and take each opponent (one at a time). We must lose this obsession with the All Blacks and focus on getting strong and winning consistently against whoever we play and ultimately with that consistency we’d at least have a 50-50 shot at the All Blacks.

    2. Carol

      Hi Slappes….

      I have given some of the old bloggers the heads up about the revamped ‘Keo’…..
      Hoping that they are revved up and ready for action!!
      I think they have just got out of the habit!!

      1. keo

        Cheers Carol

        put the word out that the pub has opened again and the pub is only as good as those who make the pub enjoyable – meaning you and the many who banter here.

    3. blueboy

      This was a really good website until he joined up with SA rugby magazine and it was a stuff up but I’m glad
      its back cos I had some really good times on here

  2. Slappes

    Keo, this is south Africa. The rugby public expects the boks to beat everyone. Sad but true. One wish , just one, I want the boks to beat the Abs at newlands.. to silence the cape abs😀

    1. Keo

      How many Cape ABs are there really – maybe 100 out of a crowd of 49 000 – and what has always bemused me is the support for the Crusaders in Cape Town, when I could understand the support for the Blues, Canes or Chiefs given the strong Maori and Samoan influence but the Crusaders (demographically) are the Bulls of NZ and vice versa in context with SA.

      I would much have preferred the AB Test v Boks to be at Cape Town Stadium because it is one of the modern wonderful stadiums, but before we think of the AB’s I’d just want us to whip the sorry Aussies and struggling Argies.

    2. Keo

      Newlands takes 49 000 the Cape AB’s number about 200 in that 49 000! I just want the Boks to be consistently competitive and get to a point where the subject matter re the All Blacks and Springboks isn’t limited to the one Test out of 10 in which SA wins and the one Test out of 10 in which the All Blacks lose.

  3. cab

    Hey Carol – howzit going with you? How are Grant10 and JR?

    Where are the kiwis? Cane and Poppa. Yip, I will bring tissues for their tears.

    1. Carol

      Yeyy there is life on Keo, Hi cab. Grant10 still alive and kicking, I will have to get hold of Puma I think he is our link with the Kiwi bloggers.
      Mostly in touch with Robzim. Hard to believe it was 8 years since I met so many Keo bloggers in South Africa during The Lions Tour ! Good times.
      How are you doing?

      1. Keo

        And the Lions are back here in 2021 – so I take it Carol you will be here. Thinking about doing a Keo pub evening in the UK on end of year tour with a couple of thought provoking rugby minds.

        1. Carol

          I would be sorely tempted to do another SA Lions tour. The atmosphere in The Shark Tank and Loftus for the Test Matches was just fantastic.
          The sea of red fleece jackets was a source of amazement to the Saffa locals!! However it did not prompt a win for the tourists!
          My personal highlight was being about 50 yards from Monty as he ran on to soothe Morne Steyn’s brow and offer some helpful words and a kicking stand! lol
          Keep me in the loop re the Keo Pub Evening!

  4. Cab

    Howdy Keo. About time you’ve come out of retirement. I was about ready to give up on the Boks, but looks like they’ve turned the corner.

    1. keo

      Never give up on the Boks – there’s too much in this country’s talent pool to be down for too long. As with England, things can be turned around in a year. What sets NZ apart is the consistency in their game (in terms of performance and success). It’s that consistency that we need to aspire to, but for now any Bok win is a bloody good win.

  5. blueboy

    I was on this site a few years ago but then keo u joined up with the SA rugby magazine and it all went into meltdown from there.I hope this post gets posted.

  6. blueboy

    Under AC the boks had their worst season ever and he keeps his job Jake White won a world cup in 2007
    and gets fired how does that work out

    1. Keo

      It came down to a hefty payout that SARU last year couldn’t afford. I was very critical of AC and that a change wasn’t made but also understanding of why they didn’t make the change. They have in many ways added strength to the coaching structure through the experience of Brendan Venter and he and Allister combined effectively in the French series. Rassie Erasmus’s return as the Director of Rugby is also very good for the SA Rugby and the Springboks as the head coach reports to the Director of Rugby on rugby matters and not an executive committee. The signs are very promising of improvements in many areas and perhaps Springbok rugby needed to experience it’s worst ever year to finally put in place effective structures that support a strong collective.

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