The Springboks played well, albeit not consistently so, to pip England in the first test at Kings Park this weekend. Let’s rate the individuals on their performances.
1) Beast Mtawarira. Held his own in the scrums and was very busy at the breakdown. Not one of his most dominant performances, but a pretty good showing nonetheless. 6/10
2) Bismarck du Plessis. Worked hard all over the park and lineouts were pretty good, considering how new the locks both are. Discipline was kept high and made some strong runs. 7/10
3) Jannie du Plessis. A pretty good showing from Jannie, with one nice burst up field the highlight (even if he took the wrong option once he was through!). Scrummed pretty well and made some good tackles. 6/10
4) Eben Etzebeth. Not a bad debut, with lineouts, in particular, working well. Looked for a bit more aggression and fire with ball in hand, but that will come as he settles at this level. 6/10
5) Juandre Kruger. Solid at the set piece, with a few nice touches with ball in hand. A promising debut, with plenty more to come. 6/10
6) Marcell Coetzee. Made plenty of tackles and also carried the ball strongly throughout the match. Played with a confidence that belies his youth and showed that he has a great future ahead of him at Test level. 7/10
7) Willem Alberts. The best forward on the park, bar none. Alberts bashed English players aside with abandon, both with ball in hand and when making smashing tackles that knocked his opponents back and halted their momentum. 8/10
8) Pierre Spies. Did plenty of work with ball in hand an proved a safe lineout option – however, was too often found wanting in terms of actually crossing the advantage line and giving his team genuine go-forward. Work-rate was high, though, often putting in the unseen donkey work. 6/10
9) Francois Hougaard. Stood out on defence, where he was one of the Boks’ best, but was inaccurate and slow when clearing the ball from the base. Decision-making was at times also a little off, with some of his play verging on the selfish. 6/10
10) Morne Steyn. Directed the traffic pretty well from flyhalf and stood firm on defence. Only his goal-kicking let him down which very nearly proved disastrous for his team. 6/10
11) Bryan Habana. South African’s best back, Habana was back to his devastating best with pace and guile complemented by a work rate second-to-none. Turned many a so-so kick into a very good one with his superb chasing work. 8/10
12) Frans Steyn. Looked a little pedestrian and one-dimensional on attack, but made up for that with some superb pressure defence which kept the English midfield honest all day. He’s a big piece of meat, is Fransie and he knows how to halt momentum with big tackles when the moment arrives. 7/10
13) Jean de Villiers. A nice performance from the captain, who kept the troops inspired and focused throughout. Defence was very good, given the 120kg behemoth he had running at him all day and also scored a nice try. 8/10
14) JP Pietersen. JP did what JP does so well, popping up all over the show to put in a neat little touch – or a big tackle – when required. Had little ball go his way, but put in a lovely little draw and pass to send captain de Villiers in for his try. 7/10
15) Zane Kirchner. A nervy performance from the fullback who, while keen to try things on attack, failed to ignite very much and was also guilty of some ill-directed kicking from the back. Replaced at half-time, whether due to injury or form we don’t know. 4/10
16) Adriaan Strauss. In hist first test appearance in some time, the Free State captain was very solid indeed. 6/10
17) Coenie Oosthuizen. A very good showing from the debutant, who scrummed impressively and used his bulk to great effect with ball in hand as the English started to tire. 7/10
18) Flip van der Merwe. Played for the last 22 minutes in place of Etzebeth, but did little to catch the eye in that time. 5/10
19) Keegan Daniel. Appeared for just a few short minutes at the end, not long enough to rate.
20) Ruan Pienaar. Sparked new life into the Bok backs when he got on, with service that was an improvement on Hougaard’s. 7/10
21) Pat Lambie. Added some neat touches and threw himself into the game with real gusto. 7/10
22) Wynand Olivier. Played for fewer than 10 minutes as a blood replacement for Habana. Not long enough to rate.