Boks sweep third test

CityPress - - Sport - SIMNIKIWE XABANISA sports@city­press.co.za

Play­ing in the wake of the dis­rup­tion of cap­tain War­ren White­ley’s late with­drawal, the Spring­boks put in a dis­jointed per­for­mance, but still beat France to seal the test series 3-0 at Ellis Park last night. On the 22nd year to the day af­ter the Boks beat New Zealand to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup, Al­lis­ter Coet­zee’s men put in a per­for­mance big on in­dus­try and abra­sive de­fence to snap the vis­i­tors’ sur­pris­ing record of not hav­ing lost to them at the venue in the four pre­vi­ous matches there.

The re­sult – a four tries to none vic­tory in a match in which the hard­work­ing Eben Etze­beth led by ex­am­ple – is a com­pre­hen­sive series win with scores of 37-14, 37-15 and 35-12 from the three games.

The game went pretty much along the same lines as last weekend’s test in Dur­ban, where the French kept knock­ing on the door early and kept get­ting re­pelled by a ra­bid Spring­bok de­fence.

While the French def­i­nitely looked to be the team do­ing most of the cre­at­ing, the Boks’ in-your-face line-speed in de­fence al­most al­ways spooked them into the wrong pass, a han­dling er­ror or a sim­ple turnover.

The Boks’ first try, by out­side cen­tre Jesse Kriel for his fifth in test rugby, was a case in point.

His cen­tre part­ner Jan Ser­fontein ripped the ball in con­tact and flanker Siya Kolisi snaf­fled the loose ball, the re­cy­cling of which ended up with debu­tant prop Ruan Dreyer mak­ing the sec­ond rip of the ball in the move­ment and mak­ing the scor­ing pass to Kriel.

An­other déjà vu mo­ment from last weekend’s game was a barn­storm­ing per­for­mance by Ser­fontein, who stole ball, found time to take line-out ball in the sec­ond half, broke the line and tack­led him­self to a stand­still in an ef­fort that re­minded many why he was the world ju­nior player of the year in 2012.

For all their de­sire, the Bok per­for­mance was big on heart and short on clin­i­cal ex­e­cu­tion. The Boks’ 16 first-half points were all due to the French mak­ing er­rors grate­fully pun­ished by their hosts, what with fly half El­ton Jan­tjies kick­ing just about ev­ery­thing over these days.

A big part of why the Boks were scrappy was they had to rely on bread crumbs to build their bak­ery in the game be­cause the set piece let them down in the first half. Dreyer may have won a penalty with his first scrum in in­ter­na­tional rugby, but he promptly con­ceded two to back that up.

And while White­ley was sorely missed as an op­tion in the line-outs, hooker Mal­colm Marx’s throw­ing left a fair bit to be de­sired, some­thing the Bok team management tried to fix by in­tro­duc­ing lock Pi­eter-Steph du Toit at flank.

It also didn’t help that the ex­pe­ri­enced Fran­cois Hougaard didn’t bring the same calm to the base of the scrum as the con­cussed Ross Cronjé.

The re­sult was a free-for-all match that re­warded the Boks’ in­dus­try and sharp­ness to the loose ball.

To their credit, though, the bench again made an im­pact for the hosts as Steven Kit­shoff, Bongi Mbonambi and first-time try scorer Rudy Paige gave the im­pe­tus that helped the French dis­in­te­grate to­wards the end of the game.

For all their blunt­ness in at­tack – they kept try­ing to bully the Boks in con­tact – the French have some promis­ing players in their ranks, namely flanker Ya­couba Ca­mara, the cu­ri­ously named prop Jef­fer­son Poirot and out­side cen­tre Damian Pe­naud.

Ca­mara, an ex­cep­tional line-out for­ward, is all in­dus­try on the ground and in the air, Poirot is strong and ex­plo­sive, and for­mer French fly half Alain Pe­naud’s son, who made his debut last week, is a slip­pery cus­tomer.

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