An ‘ugly’ per­for­mance, but a com­pre­hen­sive vic­tory for hosts

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - SPORT - JAC­QUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN

It was, how­ever, the Boks’ third against the vis­i­tors this June, en­sur­ing a se­ries clean-sweep which gives coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee the per­fect plat­form for big­ger chal­lenges ahead in 2017.

It was also the first win by the Boks against France in five Tests at the venue.

It was al­ways go­ing to be a big ask af­ter in­spi­ra­tional leader War­ren White­ley cried off be­fore kick-off with a groin in­jury. He’d been nurs­ing the prob­lem through­out the se­ries and af­ter it flared up on Thurs­day af­ter­noon it was de­cided to with­draw the Lions man from his home Test.

With fel­low Lions star, scrumhalf Ross Cronje, also miss­ing be­cause of con­cus­sion, the cru­cial eight-nine-10 com­bi­na­tion that worked so well in Pre­to­ria and Dur­ban was bro­ken, and it showed.

The com­mu­ni­ca­tion and flu­ency be­tween the re-jigged back-row, with Jean Luc du Preez at No 8 and Jaco Kriel com­ing in on the blind­side flank, and the new-look half­back pair­ing, in­clud­ing Fran­cois Hougaard at nine, just didn’t gel as well as coach Coet­zee would have liked.

That said, Kriel en­joyed a barn-storm­ing per­for­mance af­ter sit­ting out the first two Tests, but lead­ing the way for the home team was on-day cap­tain Eben Etze­beth, who be­came the Boks’ 59th cap­tain, fel­low sec­ond row part­ner Franco Mostert and then, at the back, Jan Ser­fontein. The mid­fielder was in­volved in plenty of the Boks’ at­tack­ing game, and he was su­perb on de­fence, and even took a li­ne­out ball, which led to Etze­beth’s try just af­ter half-time.

The Boks though were way off the stan­dard they set in the first two Tests. They made han­dling er­rors, missed their men in the li­ne­out, and fell off the type of tack­les they made in Pre­to­ria and Dur­ban. It was not a per­for­mance to re­mem­ber.

France dom­i­nated for long pe­ri­ods and had the bet­ter of the home team in sev­eral ar­eas, but even so, they still didn’t man­age to break down the spirit or re­solve of the Boks. With all the ball they had – and they en­joyed tons of pos­ses­sion at times – they still didn’t man­age to score a try, so hats off to Coet­zee’s men for that.

Af­ter ab­sorb­ing plenty of early pres­sure the Boks got on the board first through an El­ton Jan­tjies penalty and then Jesse Kriel went over in the cor­ner in the sev­enth minute af­ter an ex­cel­lent kick into space by the fly­half and a chase and tackle by Ser­fontein. That would be the only real high­light of a first half that can only be de­scribed as an arm-wres­tle.

Jan­tjies and Jules Plis­son traded penal­ties be­fore the teams changed sides with the Boks 16-9 up, but it quickly be­came 21-9 for the hosts fol­low­ing Etze­beth’s try from a fiveme­tre li­ne­out.

Plis­son would soon knock over a fourth penalty, but when Mal­colm Marx went over from close range in the 62nd minute it was pretty much game over. Re­place­ment Rudy Paige sealed the deal late on with an ex­cel­lently taken try af­ter col­lect­ing a super pass from Bongi Mbonambi.

Job done this June. Now for the Rugby Cham­pi­onship and the real test for the Boks.

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