Cape Town – Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points following the Springboks’ 37-15 win over France in the second Test at Kings Park in Durban:
1. Staunch Springbok defence
Saturday’s Test was characterised by heroic Springbok defence.
Brendan Venter has clearly made a difference in that regard and head coach Allister Coetzee deserves plaudits for roping him in.
The Boks’ defence was in tatters last year but on Saturday they were a far cry from the class of 2016.
According to statistics supplied by SA Rugby, the Springboks made 160 tackles, missing 20 for an impressive 89% strike rate.
Aside from the improved organisation on defence, the players’ commitment was also impressive – a case in point was when South Africa held off no fewer than 27 French phases of attack on their goal-line early in the second half.
2. France dominated the statistics
Yes, the Springboks’ defence was impressive, but the reason why they had to executive so many tackles was because France made most of the playing – especially in the second half.
The French dominated possession (66%) and territory (54%) and therefore only completed 59 tackles, missing 12 (83% success rate).
France made 563m on attack, compared to South Africa’s 443m and also carried the ball 172 times, far superior to the hosts’ 73.
However, the visitors lacked inventiveness on attack and remarkably could only make a solitary line-break.
In fact, at times they looked clueless what to do with ball in hand and it should be worrisome for a team historically renowned for its flair.
3. A deserved man-of-the-match!
Springbok flanker Siya Kolisi’s performance deserves a talking point on its own.
This was no doubt Kolisi’s best performance in a Springbok jersey – even better than his debut as a substitute against Argentina in Nelspruit four years ago.
Aside from scoring a spectacular try – where he intercepted by scooping the ball from his shoelaces before sprinting 22m to dot down – Kolisi was ferocious on defence and proved a menace at the breakdowns.
Kolisi also created Elton Jantjies’ late try when he ripped the ball from a French attacker, before launching an attack and off-loading to his flyhalf who had a clear run-in…
4. Touch and go try decision
The first try of the game awarded to France’s South African-born fullback Scott Spedding reminded me of an incident in the 2007 Rugby World Cup final when England wing Mark Cueto thought he had scored against the Springboks.
On Saturday, English TMO Rowan Kitt said he saw no conclusive evidence that Spedding had a foot in touch.
Cueto is still convinced he scored that try a decade ago and this past weekend’s decision would add credibility to his argument.
In the case of Cueto, there was one camera angle which showed a part of his boot touch the chalk.
Looking at replays of the Spedding scenario, there is perhaps a tiny bit of his boot touching the chalk, but the evidence is probably not conclusive.
One also needs to take into consideration that in this case the referee asked the TMO if he could give him “any reason not to award a try” – which was not the case 10 years ago…
5. Scrum issues
Reset scrums – all 7 of them – proved a rare frustration in what was an entertaining Test.
Referee Ben O’Keeffe had his hands full, as did South Africa’s loosehead Tendai Mtawarira – who had an intense tussle with Rabah Slimani.
‘The Beast’ was penalised once at scrum time and then later won a penalty back, before celebrating animatedly, which was perhaps the sign of a man knowing his position is under threat.
Mtawarira has not been his old self in recent times and Steven Kitshoff can’t be far from earning a starting spot.
The Bok scrum cannot be labelled a train smash but they have some work to do in that regard…