Francois Louw shakes hands with Sam Cane (AP)
Cape Town – Francois Louw chose a timely opportunity to
produce a rousing personal performance as South Africa ran New Zealand close but
could not muster enough of a cutting edge to beat them in Saturday’s World Cup
semi-final at Twickenham.
Louw tops the Sport24 Springbok ratings list for the
consistent bother he gave the All Blacks from his open-side flank berth before
the ever-plucky, pre-game underdogs were nosed out 20-18.
Considering that the Boks already have or very shortly will
bid farewell to several of their ageing leadership personnel like Jean de
Villiers, Victor Matfield and Fourie du Preez, the matter of a new national
captain – who knows, maybe coach too?will soon come under the microscope.
The Bath-based Louw has already been spoken of previously
among people who matter as possible skipper material, and as he is 30, can pretty
safely be said to have another RWC in him when the tournament is held in Japan
Whilst there are no guarantees he is still considered a
frontline candidate, at least he showed some inspirational qualities in the
pressure-cooker environment of this gripping semi; he is certainly the type of
player younger Boks can look up to and is worldly and well-versed in the
demands of playing at high levels in both hemispheres.
Whether someone like Louw eventually grabs the captaincy
reins or not, there will hopefully be widespread acknowledgement in the Bok
camp that they need to evolve their game more meaningfully to challenge once
more for rugby’s grandest prize.
As SuperSport pundit and past SA captain Naas Botha
fittingly enough put it afterwards, even as Bok resilience was widely praised:
“We had to create something to surprise New Zealand … we didn’t.”
Here’s how I rated
the Boks out of 10:
Willie le Roux: 6
Looked much more assured fielding high balls in first half
than against Wales last weekend, and made lovely line intrusion too. But faded
as game developed, and kicking was ordinary.
JP Pietersen: 6.5
If main job was to keep in-form muscleman Julian Savea
quiet, he mostly managed that. Competed well in air, beating Sam Whitelock
once, and might have streaked away for well-read intercept try but for NZ still
being on “advantage” from ref.
Jesse Kriel: 6
Perhaps if Boks finally realise now they must properly pep
up attacking game, the rookie will come more into his own in that department.
Nice early sniping run, and stuck to tackling guns.
Damian de Allende:
ABs used big Ma’a Nonu for much go-forward, so Bok No 12 had
defensive hands full. Didn’t waver, however … and showed own, occasional
stepping skills. Was turned over in contact at vital advanced stage of match.
Bryan Habana: 6
Two magnificent aerial ball wins after strong chases on
attack; feature of his RWC 2015. But must be marked down a little for 10
minutes in sin bin at inconvenient juncture in third quarter.
Handre Pollard: 6
Place-kicking superb, and unerring. One mini-break so nearly
spelled major trouble for NZ. But kicking from hand left much to be desired. Hurt
his back and came off in 65th minute.
Fourie du Preez: 7
Very intelligent and unflustered game-management, as many
might have expected. Took fearful facial knock before break, but played on
pluckily with increasingly swelling “golf ball” on one cheek.
Duane Vermeulen: 7
presence in Bok pack. Sound handling and plenty of grunt. Showed fine leg drive
and ball control off a scrum once, even as a Bok one in own quarter was on
pretty rare, worrisome retreat.
Schalk Burger: 6
Has been a Duracell Bunny so often at the tournament, and
played big personal part in harrying and flustering NZ during first half. But
the odd error crept in for the seasoned soldier; subbed on 64 minutes.
Francois Louw: 8
Won some mighty, morale-lifting turnovers for Boks; often
reserves best showings for when up against mighty Richie McCaw. Great engine
from “Flo” at Twickers.
Lood de Jager: 6
Missed tackle as Jerome Kaino romped over for early, first
NZ try. Stiffened his act at coalface thereafter, but still a suspicion that
injury against Wales impeded him a little. Pulled off on the hour for veteran
Eben Etzebeth: 6
To some extent, maybe this was one game too far for a man
who has put in such huge physical effort at tournament? Far from bad, but
probably shaded on day by great rival Brodie Retallick.
Frans Malherbe: 7.5
Very satisfying hour as starting tighthead, and seems the
post-RWC future in the spot. Powerful right shoulders and good industry outside
Bismarck du Plessis:
Made vital, alert tackle once on a rampaging Nonu and
scrummed decently. But must share some blame for Bok lineout woes, and not
quite as in-your-face in general play as SA fans may have wished.
Tendai Mtawarira: 6.5
Strong contribution at scrum-time, and busily involved in
stopping several NZ mauls or aiding SA ones. Rather quieter as a carrier in
this game, though.
Willem Alberts: 6
This was not a great day for Bok “bench power”; it didn’t
really materialise. Too many of the subs were either ineffectual or
error-prone, or both. So the Bone Collector nips in for the award as he largely
avoided gremlins and looked purposeful and physical in two stints on the damp
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