For everything that the Boks lacked last week, they brought it all along this week.
Last Saturday evening the Boks seemed bereft of any ideas, with no innovation shown whatsoever.
Yesterday, however, there was a sense of purpose and more than one indication that de Villiers and the Bok brains-trust have given good thought to a strategy and as to how to best utilise some of the new ELVs. All in the space of a week. Magnificent.
We saw good innovation in the line-outs and a perfectly effected set piece off the back of the scrum by Joe van Niekerk for Pietersen’s try.
It was everything that we were expecting last week when the Boks tails were up and they had much more time to prepare for the first test. But, all in all, I’ll take it much the same a week later.
So, first up, congrats to de Villiers, Muir and Gold. The improvements were remarkable, the drive was there and so was the direction. And the results are remarkable – you lot made history yesterday and it’ll got one helluva long way to silence de Villiers’ critics. Well done.
But while much praise is reserved for the coaching staff this all would never have happened with some serious dedication and motivation from the players. There were several who stuck up their hands starting with Butch who put last week’s demons behind him to deliver a superb performance. His restarts were as good as they get continuously putting New Zealand under pressure after they scored points. Continuously he was able to single out Andrew Hore and make him accept the restart on the side-line with the Boks closing them down there. Good planning and well executed.
Other notables were Adi Jacobs who seems to be improving every match, the large hard men in the engine room, being Bakkies and Matfield , and the man-van-staal himself, Schalk Burger.
If there was any doubt about who is the hardman in world rugby at the moment then Schalk Burger surely decided that when he demonstrated his impression of a brick wall to stop Ali Williams in his tracks. All round though Schalk was dynamic, involved, aggressive – in short, everything we love him for.
Then there was Ricky Januarie. Ridiculed not too long ago for attacking the pies in the off-season, dropped a few weeks ago for a disciplinary offence, he was superb. Biting around the fringes all game long, it was eventually a moment of genius on his part that was to be the difference between the two sides. Could this be the defining moment in Januarie’s career? Fourie de Preez is going to struggle to reclaim his place if that is the fact.
The players singled out above are by no means the only to have played well – I thought it was actually a pretty damned good team effort and easily the best I’ve seen the Boks play for a considerable amount of time. The players looked composed and calm and focussed on the task at hand. There was none of the niggle of last week and none of the distractions on the field, no matter how many distractions there were off the field during the week.
So now it’s on to Australia next week and then three in a row in the Republic following that. While the pressure has increased for the All Black’s it surely has been released on the Springboks.
Savour the moment lads and keep on doing whatever you started doing last Monday.
As for the game, well I thought it was a cracker and one of the best games, let alone tests, that I seen in years. It lacked the flurried intensity of last week but was just as physical and made up for this with a see-saw game that kept you on the edge of your seat until the last minute. A very enjoyable game to watch and I felt it very well-controlled by the referee with very little controversy. The sin-binning of Matfield I felt was undeserved on the basis of the tackle alone but with both teams on their last warning, the referee was boxed in and had no choice but to show him the door.
Yes, of course there are things to work on and areas to tinker, but this is as good as it gets. And suffice to say that de Villiers has done what no other Bok coach could do, win in Dunedin.
If I’d been asked before the tour to New Zealand if I’d be happy with one from two, I’d have smiled and answered definitely. The tour was a bit rocky to start off but we’re leaving New Zealand with the job done. This feels as good, if not better, than beating England in the final of the World Cup last year.
I haven’t given New Zealand any credit in the passage above and for that I must apologise. They were their usual excellent self and played incredibly well with a very inexperienced side. You expect no less from any kiwi side and this side is going to grow into a wonderfully successful team given time.
Well done to all concerned for providing a fantastic Saturday morning’s viewing pleasure, because it was a pleasure to watch that game.Tweet