The Boks turned in a vastly-improved performance on Saturday to extend their unbeaten run against the English to 7 test matches. Let’s see how they performed individually.
1) Beast Mtawarira. A superb performance from the big man – the Bok tight five kept the English under the cosh all day and the front row, in particular, were dominant throughout. Beast was prominent on the drive and on defence. The best he’s been on this tour. 8/10
2) Bismarck du Plessis. A deserving man of the match, Bizzie was on fire and went out of his way to atone for a poor showing against the Scots. Lineouts and scrums were flawless, while he made huge impact with ball in hand as well as (particularly) on defence. 9/10
3) Jannie du Plessis. The anchor in the Bok scrum, Jannie deserves special praise for dominating his highly-rated opponent, Andrew Sheridan. The big doctor has emerged as the Boks first-choice tighthead and the opportunity of some continuity in selection is doing wonders for his game. 8/10
4) Bakkies Botha. Added his usual hard edge to the Boks pack and deserves a special mention for maintaining a high level of personal discipline despite, at times, ridiculous levels of provocation from the English pack. Bakkies lived up to his billing as part of the best tight 5 in world rugby. 8/10
5) Victor Matfield. Reigned supreme in the lineouts and deserves some praise for the way the Boks eschewed the kick-at-all-costs approach in favour of some more intelligent rugby. Guilty of some selfish play in the first half which robbed his team of a scoring opportunity. 7/10
6) Deon Stegmann. In a pack AS DOMINANT as this one was, we were all hoping to see more of the openside flanker. For a fourth test in succession, he was anonymous, both at the breakdown as well as in open play. Made his tackles, but that’s about it. 4/10
7) Juan Smith. Another close candidate for man of the match – Juan was everywhere and kept the English defence busy all afternoon with his surging runs. A tyro on defence as well as a more-than-useful tail lineout option. 9/10
8) Pierre Spies. We all know Spies is a front-foot player and he was pretty useful behind a dominant tight five. Full of running and always keen to take on the defence. Did, however, cost the Boks a try by not feeding Gio Aplon after a lovely break. 7/10
9) Ruan Pienaar. A very solid test match from a player who has blown hot and cold on this tour. Pienaar kicked less and his distribution was for the most part very good. When he did put the ball to boot, he generally found space and turned the opposition. 7/10
10) Morne Steyn. On a day where the Boks finally elected to give the ball a bit of air, Steyn showed why he is not the right flyhalf to use for such a game. His passing is ordinary in the extreme he put his centres under huge pressure through inaccurate distribution. Missed a few relatively simple kicks at goal too. 5/10
11) Lwazi Mvovo. Had far more opportunities to get involved in the game than he did on his debut against Scotland and for the most part, acquitted himself well. Was unfortunate not to hold onto a tricky pass from Steyn in the first half that may well have resulted in a try, but made amends with a trademark score in the second period. Solid on defence throughout. 7/10
12) Jean de Villiers. Mastermined the Bok rush defence which unsettled the English backs on the few occasions when they did have the ball. Offered nothing at all on attack, though, as part of a centre pairing that lacked any rhythm or fluency. 6/10
13) Frans Steyn. Proved again, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he is not an outside centre. Showed a lack of basic handling skills and generally offered nothing on attack, apart from one clever offload to Spies in the tackle. Looked marginally better at fullback later in the game, but his all-round form and conditioning will add fuel to the fire suggesting that the club game in France is a good few levels below where he needs to be to excel at test rugby. 4/10
14) Gio Aplon. A brave player who made the most of the limited opportunities presented to him. Did well to get into a good supporting position on occasions, only to be denied the pass that would have set him away. 6/10
15) Zane Kirchner. Let it never be said I can’t admit when I’ve been wrong. Zane, on this occasion, was incredibly good at fullback and delivered his best showing in a Bok jersey to date. He was the best of the Bok backs by quite some margin. 8/10
16) Adriaan Strauss – not on long enough to be rated.
17) CJ van der Linde. Performed admirably in the scrum (against a by-then broken English pack), but ensured a 12-point reversal by trying to be clever when the Boks had a 3-man overlap. 5/10
18) Flip van der Merwe – added huge physical presence when he came on ensure that the pack went from strength to strength. An impressive player who looks the part at this level. 8/10
19) Willem Alberts – Flew all over the field, putting in huge tackles and making ground with ball in hand. Scored his third try in as many tests to cap off a remarkable debut tour. 8/10
20) Francois Hougaard – Came on at wing and acquitted himself well, although he was frustrated by a similar lack of opportunities to Aplon. A highly versatile player with great skills and a never-say-die attitude. How did Province let this kid go? 7/10
21) Pat Lambie – Came on for a minute at the end, in a game that was screaming for his brand of rugby all along. Not long enough to be rated, I fear.
22) Adrian Jacobs – Added a much-needed creative spark in the centres when he came on and made us wonder, for the umpteenth time, how come he has never been picked to start on this tour, with the other centre options so clearly not up to it? Pulled off a clear try-saving tackle towards the end as well, just to further dampen the ardour of the “Adi-Jacobs-Caren’t-Tekkel” brigade. 8/10