Boks take France out
The hosts stayed on the positive side of the collisions and kept powering on as relatively hapless Frenchmen struggled to get though
It may have been against a French team shorn of its out and out first team regulars, but the Springboks showed just the right amount of encouraging signs in their convincing win over the visitors at last night. With this season all about erasing the scars of a year in which Allister Coetzee’s men won just four of their 12 tests, this first of three tests – not without error but full of attitude and desire – was a promising start.
Perhaps fittingly for two teams who didn’t field their out and out first teams for a variety of reasons, the game itself was subdued and scrappy.
During that time, the scrums, which saw the Boks swap number eight Warren Whiteley and blindside flanker Oupa Mohoje on their own ball, were a little unsteady to start with. But the steady stream of penalties from referee Glen Jackson’s whistle meant they got some measure of the French scrum.
With the springy Mohoje and Whiteley in the pack, it was a surprise that the Boks chose to use only two options in locks Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert in the first half.
When they did, like when they threw to Whiteley at the back of the line-out in the second half, it resulted in the yawning gap that gave Ross Cronjé a try on debut when the visitors had Brice Dulin in the sin bin for the early tackle on Courtnall Skosan that resulted in the Boks’ penalty try.
By and large, the hosts were on the positive side of the collisions, but, with the exception of the explosive Marx and the forceful Siya Kolisi, they are still in the market for go-forward merchants and out and out strike runners.
And it’s not often that people come to a rugby game to see the defence, but the Boks’ resistance was under scrutiny yesterday. While their structures weren’t exactly convincing out wide – where they were often breached – they more than made up for that with their attitude on the scramble.
But that didn’t exactly deter the visitors, whose first try – by outside centre Henry Chavancy – came from the simplicity of working the ball wide and chipping the advancing defence, with Chavancy knocking poor Jesse Kriel into next week for replacement scrum half Baptiste Serin’s try.
Of course, in such a developmental team, the players also had the spotlight on them – some from last season and the rest from those making their debuts for South Africa.
Of last year’s vintage, Marx, fly half Elton Jantjies and Franco Mostert put their hands up, with Cronjé the pick of a debutants list that included Raymond Rhule, Skosan and Andries Coetzee.
With the exception of those two stray line-outs in the first half, Marx was pace and power personified, and showed a distributive side to him, giving the assist that put Kriel away for the opening try of the match.
Jantjies kicked out once on the full early in the game, but after that he was his usual commanding self, directing traffic with authority and kicking well out of hand and at poles, kicking all of his kicks at goal and standing his ground in defence.
The industrious Mostert’s selection ahead of Pieter-Steph du Toit may well have been a masterstroke – this guy is simple: he makes his tackles, gets up off the floor quickly and avails himself for every carry.
Cronjé was all composure with his distribution and capped his debut with a try, while all the other debutants bristled with intent but didn’t quite have a similar influence.
PUSHING THROUGH Franco Mostert of the Springboks is tackled during the test against France at Loftus Versfeld yesterday