There will be no overdose of back-slapping congratulations at the Springbok camp after crushing Australia 43-12 at Loftus on Saturday.
The 31-point difference was the third largest in 93 meetings between the two old foes, in a contest that began 90 years ago. The Boks scored six tries (two of which were penalty attempts) and dominated every aspect of the game.
If ever there was a time to sit back comfortably and say, “Nice job,” this is the time. But assistant coach Mzwandel Stake, even in the immediate aftermath of the victory, was already in an analytical mode.
“There are a lot of things we can improve, but we’ll take the score any day,” said Stick. “If you had said in the week we scored 43 against Australia, we would have said you were dreaming. But we have something to work on.
“There was a point in the game where we had a lot of entries into the Australian 22 and we didn’t convert – and there were line breaks too – and I think that’s where we need to keep improving.
“We have to make sure we convert those points into points – when we play against the All Blacks and Argentina, we won’t get 10 chances; we will only get four or five and you need to convert them.”
It’s time to enjoy the moment
Focusing on improvements is always a good trait, but the Boks should also take some time to enjoy the moment.
The provisional team, with new or very inexperienced combinations in most positions, played some fine rugby. Of course, there were some mistakes. But overall, it was a muscular performance peppered with skill and flair.
The bundle, especially Jean Klein and Marvin Urie’s locks, sets the tone with both physical and deft performances. Flank Marco van Staden bruised on contact, and fellow props Pieter-Steph du Toit and Duane Vermeulen dominated collisions.
It’s no surprise that Bok scrum smashed Australia, although there were very few lineups to give them the bonus comeback they deserve. If there’s one area of concern, it’s the line, where hooker Bunji Mbonambi battles to sync up with his players. Let’s put that on the rust and a new pair of row two.
Behind the pack, Manie Libbok was silky and sublime, while wings Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse were impressive. Arendse, in particular, has a knack for tryline finding.
The hat-trick was the first by a South African against the Wallabies since Jongi Nokwe kicked four goals at Ellis Park in 2008 as the Boks cruised to a 53-8 victory.
Arendse’s first attempt was an outing, but his second and third showed his best attributes.
For the second time, he ran a line down the blind side from deep, realizing that Bock’s rolling attack had worked its way up the field and gave him a few extra yards to work on.
Arendse also had the foresight to see that winger Marco Van Staden was about to collapse in the blindside with Mbonambi backing up on the tram line.
If you watch the replay, You see Arendse calling from a deep position as he begins his walk. His teammates were immediately alive to the winger’s tactic and executed two perfect passes for Arendsi to whip the opposite player from Solice Fanifalo on the outside.
That attempt demonstrated his vision and speed. His third attempt showed his mobility as he evaded three defenders just short of the goal line. There is hardly a weak side to his game.
While Arendse drew praise, the silent champion of the backline was the exceptional André Esterhuizen at centre. The Harlequins man has a huge physical presence but he has delivered so much more than that.
His passing is fantastic at times and his pace is understated as he beats defenders on the outside. Naturally, it was a formidable defensive obstacle as well.
This was Esterhuizen’s best performance in a Buk jersey. Four years ago, he was one of the unlucky few to miss the plane to Japan, but after another solid showing, coach Jack Nenaber will be hard pressed to let him out of the 2023 Rugby World Cup to France now.
There’s a lot to be happy about from Puck’s perspective and Australia coach Eddie Jones now knows the scale of the task he faces.
It was a wake-up call for the Wallabies, who have talked passionately about making history by winning at Loftus for the first time and taking the Boks physically.
But they simply couldn’t match the Boks in contact and from there the hosts’ confidence grew and Australia shook.
“We were outplayed everywhere,” Jones said after the game. “We got hit on set pieces, we got hit on the earn line, we got hit in the air.
“The only positive thing from the game was the first 20 minutes, where we tried to play at a little pace, we tried to turn the ball around and it looked dangerous. We couldn’t keep that effort up.
“Really disappointing. no excuses. We have a realistic assessment of where we are.”
Nenaber welcomed an additional 21 players to New Zealand on Sunday for next week’s clash against the All Blacks in Auckland. A group of 14 players traveled to New Zealand last Thursday to prepare for the match.
The All Blacks also showed ominous form, beating Argentina 41-12 in Mendoza, flexing their early muscle in this year’s World Cup.
Nenaber, rugby club manager Rasi Erasmus and Boko’s assistant Felix Jones left for New Zealand immediately after the Battle of Pretoria.
“It was always part of our plans for some of the players who took the Test against Australia to travel to New Zealand and, given some great performances today, we decided to take on a few more players than we had originally planned,” Erasmus said.
“We now have the luxury of having a group of new players to work with in New Zealand from Monday, and an experienced physical group will join them in Australia and they can add energy and momentum in training from Tuesday.
“We will analyze the game on our trip to New Zealand and then announce our squad to face the All Blacks on Tuesday.” DM
Additional Springbok players traveling to New Zealand:
Attackers: Thomas du Toit (prop), Peter Steve du Toit (flail forward), Dion Faury (forward forward), Stephen Ketchove (prop), Jan Klein (lock), Vincent Koch (prop) Frans Malherbe (prop), Bungi Mbonambi (hooker ), Trevor Niakan (plug), RG Sneeman (lock), Marco van Staden (wing), Duane Vermeulen (No. 8).
Backs: Lukhanyo Am (centre), Kurt-Lee Arendse (winger), André Esterhuizen (center), Herschel Jantjies (scrumhalf), Willie le Roux (full-back), Manie Libbok (flyhalf), Cobus Reinach (scrumhalf), Damian Willemse (back Utilities), Grant Williams (scrum half).