Home Sport What the Springboks’ November tour revealed

What the Springboks’ November tour revealed

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Unfortunately, it wasn’t all roses and peaches, and here Mike Greenaway and Morgan Bolton share their thoughts on the recently concluded November tour.

Marvin Orie of South Africa wins a line-out during the Autumn Series International Rugby Test at Twickenham Stadium, London. Picture: Tim Williams, Action Plus, Shutterstock, BackpagePix

Johannesburg – The Springboks finished 2022 on a fantastic note when they absolutely dominated England at Twickenham this past weekend.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all roses and peaches, and here Mike Greenaway and Morgan Bolton share their thoughts on the recently concluded November tour.

Something that we learned

MIKE: A suspicion I have long held about this Springbok team was confirmed at Twickenham – when the Boks decide a game simply has to be won and they completely empty the tank, no team can live with them.

The infuriating thing is they then go walkabout for a few games before again pulling themselves together and blasting a team off the park. They did it in Nelspruit when they made the All Blacks look puny, only to not pitch up the next week at Ellis Park.

In Australia, they folded in Adelaide and then in Sydney were earth-shattering. On this tour they were pretty good against Ireland, France and Italy but against England they were next level.

MORGAN: I couldn’t agree more, Mike.

The Boks get much grief for sometimes being one-dimensional, or so their critics will drone on about.

But against Italy and England they showed that they can be the complete package when their forwards and backs click. They ground down both nations up-front, and then unleashed their dangerous backs, who eviscerated the opposition.

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If that is the game plan going forward, then the defence of the Webb Ellis Cup is in good hands. Despite what World Rugby would have us believe, Eben Etzebeth is the best player in the world at the moment; and I will die on that hill.

He is the man

MIKE: Speaking of Etzebeth …

There have been a number of revelations this year, notably Damian Willemse blossoming at flyhalf; Jaden Hendrikse with his steady hand at scrumhalf and Kurt-Lee Arendse scoring seven tries in seven games to emphatically announce his arrival on the international stage …

But the man is 100% Eben “The Angry” Etzebeth and how he could be excluded from World Rugby’s Dream Team should be the subject of a Rassie Erasmus video inquiry. Actually, hold that thought, let’s not encourage him!

But seriously, Etzebeth is a one-man demolition army and the toughest, most feared player on the planet. Ask Wallabies prop Alan Alaalatoa …

MORGAN: A lot of supporters will be blinded by the brilliance that was Arendse. It is true, the 26-year-old was excellent and deserves all the plaudits.

But, to my mind, Willie le Roux was arguably the most important player in the Bok set-up, and his role within the backline invaluable. Le Roux kept the attack ticking over, creating momentum with his plays. He joined the line with aplomb and generated front-foot ball with slick passing and distribution.

He was calm and collected in defence as well.

I would go so far as to say, it was his presence that allowed Willemse – who was great in his own right – and Arendse to truly shine.

The great disappointment

MIKE: It would have been nice to wipe the smug smile off the dial of the whining Johnny Sexton in Dublin, and the Boks deserved to win in Marseille, but the biggest disappointment was off the field where the Erasmus saga boiled over … and over once more.

Bok fans appreciate his passion – he won the country a World Cup and he is desperate to defend it. But when you have Bok legends such as Victor Matfield, John Smit, Bob Skinstad and Bryan Habana imploring Rassie to put a sock in it, you have the public mood well summed up.

Erasmus is now in talks with World Rugby and the best possible result would be the referees improving and the SA director of rugby keeping quiet.

MORGAN: Losing to Ireland was an irritation, to be sure, and Erasmus was surely a distraction, but the defeat to France is the one that really hurts.

The Boks should have won that game, despite being down to 14-men and finishing the match with 13. Pieter-Steph du Toit was rightly distraught, hiding his dejected face behind clasped hands, but he would have been heartened by a courageous display from his teammates.

The Boks played like men possessed for 70 minutes, silencing a vocal Stade Velodrome in the process. Nevertheless, as the disquiet within the stadium grew, so did the pressure on referee Wayne Barnes.

He certainly cracked under their influence in the last 10 minutes, making homeground calls more frequently, including a yellow card to Deon Fourie that ultimately cost the Boks the game after a spirited fight-back.

In danger of extinction

MIKE: It is likely Elton Jantjies has played his last Test because in his absence Manie Libbok and Willemse have taken their chances, but the door is not totally closed.

I would be most worried if I was a Bok wing and my name was not Cheslin Kolbe or Arendse. Makazole Mapimpi is under pressure but Sbu Nkosi is the one who is in danger of dropping completely out of the picture.

MORGAN: I can only agree with the Jantjies assessment.

The flyhalf has a massive mountain to climb if he is to travel to France within this Bok squad next year. His personal drama aside, there might just be no rugby reason to pick him for the World Cup.

Willemse must be a shoe-in regarding playing in the No.10 channel – and fulfilling that utility-back role – while Libbok accounted for himself in the limited time he was on the field. If Handré Pollard is fit, then those will be my choices to cover flyhalf.

November tour rating

MIKE: If Erasmus could have influenced the referees better, the Boks could have beaten Ireland and France where they did not get the rub of the green at the end of both matches. But they shook off the narrow losses and were superb in Genoa and London. My rating B

MORGAN: Due to SA A’s poor showing against Munster and Bristol Bears, but a fantastic victory over the English, my rating is a middling C.

@FreemanZAR

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