The Rassie Erasmus era may have gotten off to a bit of a wobbly start on the weekend, but a healthy dose of realism would serve disillusioned Springbok fans well. The Washington Test against Wales was a misstep from the start, and the Bok’s second-stringers were always going to struggle with so few tried and tested combinations. Dreadful weather conditions also contributed to what was a very trying afternoon for both sides.
Lessons, though, should be learned from Saturday. Several Bok heads need to roll in anticipation of next year’s World Cup and, with that in mind, here’s how Shaun Goosen felt each of the players fared:
Rating out of 10
1. Ox Nche: 4
As a big fan of the Cheetahs loosehead, I was bitterly disappointed at his overall lack of impact. Nche’s trademark line breaking was nowhere to be seen, while his scrummaging was below-par at best. He may only get a handful of opportunities to prove his worth and he needs to make them count when and if he is selected.
2. Chiliboy Ralepelle: 5
Solid if unspectacular from Ralepelle. Relepelle was busy throughout his 50 or so minutes of game time, but perhaps could have directed more leadership at his inexperienced pack. Certainly capable of fulling the void at hooker should injury beset the country’s front-runners.
3. Wilco Louw: 4
Louw won’t be happy at all with his performance. A poor showing at scrum time, coupled with his anonymity around the park will seriously set him back in his quest to take ownership of the Bok number 3 jersey. Still, the 23-year-old will be all the better for the experience.
4. Jason Jenkins: 5
Jenkins’ three tackles missed to his two made summed up the Bulls lock’s afternoon. He was there or thereabouts but, much like the rest of his fellow forwards, and failed to make any meaningful impact. Did look for work, though.
5. Pieter-Steph du Toit: 5
Along with Louw, Jantjies and Kriel, Du Toit was arguably most disappointing on Saturday. Not that he did anything obviously wrong. You’d just expect a performance more befitting a player of his undeniable pedigree, particularly one who has just been given the Bok captaincy and coming up against a Wales B-team. Will struggle to break into the Bok “A-team”.
6. Kwagga Smith: 4
Unfortunately for the ever-endearing Kwagga, the breakdown was a serious area of concern for the Boks on Saturday. His inability to provide any meaningful impact in this regard, along with several uncharacteristic errors made for an uncomfortable afternoon for the Blitzboks stalwart.
7. Oupa Mohoje: 4
Again, as one of the players with previous Test-level experience, bigger things were expected of Oupa. Another lacklustre outing, however, means his time in the international setup may well be over.
8. Dan du Preez: 5
You can never fault this man for a lack of effort, but unfortunately a series of unforced errors, as well as a lack of culpability at the contact point resulted in another forgettable Bok performance.
9. Ivan van Zyl: 4
Fourie du Preez’s pick for World Cup number 9, van Zyl was erratic at best on Saturday. The messiness of the Bok breakdown certainly didn’t aid his cause but, not unlike many other of his teammates, many of his mistakes were unforced. Box kicking left a lot to be desired.
10. Elton Jantjies: 3
Jantjies again failed to take control of proceedings at the highest level and watching his inability to spark anything meaningful on attack, coupled with a few nothing kicks, was as disappointing as it was expected.
11. Makazole Mapimpi: 6
Demonstrated an eagerness to get involved and again underlined his ability as a finisher with a well-taken try. The gasman was one of the few Boks to come away from Washington with his reputation unscathed.
12. Andre Esterhuizen: 7
Far and away the Bok’s best performer. Esterhuizen made a huge impact on both attack and defence and even produced a well-worked grubber after an initial line break that nearly resulted in a try. His efforts won’t go unnoticed by Erasmus.
13. Jesse Kriel: 5
Tried to make the most of limited opportunities which ultimately led to nothing. Encouraging Super Rugby form or no, Kriel won’t be picked if he doesn’t up his game in midfield. Still can’t help but wonder whether 13 is indeed his best position…
14. Travis Ismaiel: 4
Another erratic Bok performer. Ismaiel showed good awareness to score from an intercept, but his aerial skills left a lot to be desired. Guilty of putting his side under unnecessary pressure at times.
15. Curwin Bosch: 5
Largely anonymous. Bosch’s selection ahead of Gelant raised many eyebrows and the 21-year-old’s inability to produce anything meaningful may mean it is some time yet before he is given another opportunity. Failed to adjust to the conditions.
16. Armand van der Merwe: 6
“The Angry Warthog” was his industrious self when he replaced Ralepelle with half an hour still on the clock. Effected one turnover during his short stint and should get another look-in this international season.
17. Steven Kitshoff: 6.5
Kitshoff’s introduction resulted in a big turnaround in the Bok scrum’s fortunes. May well feature against England.
18. Thomas du Toit: 6
The Sharks-man looked good when he came onto the park. May prove valuable to the Boks in the long term.
19. Marvin Orie: 5
Largely anonymous during his 20 minutes on the field.
20. Sikhumbuzo Notshe: 5
Hard-working to no avail. Notshe tried his utmost to make an impact, but ultimately fell short.
21. Embrose Papier: *not enough game time to earn a rating*
22. Robert du Preez: 4
Despite a successful penalty attempt, Du Preez endured a nightmare debut which included two charged-down efforts in the space of a minute; the second leading to Wales’ match-winning score. His forwards were also partly to blame, however, and du Preez really shouldn’t dwell too much on this Test match.
23. Warrick Gelant: 7
Baffling as to why he wasn’t a starter. Looked menacing every time he touched the ball and should be backed sooner rather than later. I’m expecting him to get more minutes yet this June.