If the Boks do go all the way, much of it would be down to Pollard staying injury free and managing the Bok game as coolly as he has been doing
THE Springboks complete their pre-World Cup build-up on Saturday with a friendly against the Pumas in Pretoria with so many important boxes having been ticked in their triumphant Rugby Championship campaign.
They now possess belief, they are in high spirits, have a refined game plan that works for them and, most importantly, there are players in form to implement their strategies. Here, we look at five players that finished the Championship in red-hot form.
The 30-year-old’s performance against the Pumas at the weekend was the best by a Bok prop since a youthful Tendai Mtawarira smashed British and Irish Lions prop Phil Vickery at Kings Park in 2009. Actually this was even better, The Beast would not mind acknowledging. In smashing his direct opponent in the set scrums, Nyakane earned a host of penalties for Handré Pollard to goal.
But that was only a part of his impressive 50-minute performance. His ball carrying was excellent, and then he made a staggering 15 tackles. He has surely ousted Frans Malherbe from the tighthead starting position for Japan.
Every World Cup-winning team has an exceptional flyhalf in charge of proceedings and the Boks certainly have one in Pollard, who is in the form of his life going into the World Cup. If the Boks do go all the way, much of it would be down to Pollard staying injury free and managing the Bok game as coolly as he has been doing.
Against the Argentineans, he was imperious. He took the ball to the line with confidence and power, asking perpetual questions of the defence. His impressive 31-point haul included two well-taken tries in which he perfectly read the play and then had the power and finesse to go over. His long pass to create Makazole Mapimpi’s try was pure class.
Rassie’s decision to bring Kolbe back from France continues to be handsomely rewarded. He has gone from being a fringe player last year to being the heart and soul of the Boks. Short in physical stature he is big on courage. His tackling is gutsy and effective, he chases kicks all day long and has a sizzling sidestep on attack. And in Salta he delivered an astonishingly adept cameo at scrumhalf when Faf de Klerk was in the sin bin.
He played so well there that Erasmus could consider him also as a third scrumhalf option which would free him up to bolster cover in another position.
The hooker is playing so well that Malcolm Marx is undoubtedly looking over his shoulder. There is now not a lot between the two and it was interesting to see how fiercely Marx played when he came on for Mbonambi in Salta … he knew he had a tough act to follow.
Competition clearly brings out the best in these Bok players. Mbomambi is a born scrummager but what is standing out more and more is his management of the driving maul, which so often sees him propelling himself over for a try.
Pieter-Steph du Toit
The 26-year-old has been so consistently good for so long now for the Boks that it seems odd to highlight him as a stand-out player but that is what he continues to be.
When he was taken out of the second row and installed on the blindside flank last year he immediately flourished and is now one of the best in his position in the world. His turbo engine runs all day as he relentlessly charges the ball up or throws himself into tackles.
If any Bok deserves a break this week for the friendly against the Pumas it is this work horse.