What we learned from this past weekend's Tests, South Africa A game and British & Irish Lions tour match, according to CRAIG LEWIS.
Springboks have turned defence around
It’s often said that defence is representative of a team’s attitude and synergy. So when the Boks woefully struggled in this department last year on their way to eight defeats out of 12, it spoke volumes about the problems in the national camp. However, the signs have been very different over the first two Tests in 2017. The impact made by new defence coach Brendan Venter has been abundantly evident, and at Kings Park on Saturday, the tackling work-rate of the players and speed with which they returned to action spoke volumes about the new spirit of the Boks. All in all, the Springboks made 153 out of 169 tackles for an outstanding 91% tackle success rate. Enough said.
Siya Kolisi’s star shines bright
No player made more of a statement on Saturday night than the Stormers captain. Kolisi scored a superb try, set up a couple, tackled like a man possessed and competed ferociously at the breakdown. It was his best performance in the green and gold, and aptly epitomised just how much his all-round game has improved over the past 12 months. Lions lock Franco Mostert and Jan Serfontein were the other two standout performers, with the duo completing 22 and 15 tackles respectively (while missing just three in total). These efforts are an indication of the new team culture that seems to have been instilled at the Boks this year.
British & Irish Lions will be competitive against All Blacks
It’s been difficult to know just what to make of the Lions on their tour to New Zealand so far. Midweek losses against the Blues and Highlanders have cast some doubts over the squad composition, but on Saturday, the Lions’ win over the Maori All Blacks would have silenced many doubters. The fixture against the Maori is widely recognised as the unofficial fourth Test on a Lions' tour to New Zealand, but the Lions produced a performance of physicality, forward dominance, defensive organisation and accurate kicking to record a resounding 32-10 win. It’s this exact brand of rugby that they will look to transfer into the first Test on 24 June, and which is sure to make them a competitive force.
Scotland remain a team on the rise
Even without star players Stuart Hogg and Greig Laidlaw, who were included in the British & Irish Lions squad, Scotland were just too good for the Wallabies in Sydney on Saturday. Although it might point to just how far the Aussies have fallen in world rugby, it also speaks volumes just how far the Scots have come. Besides Scotland’s competitive showing in this year’s Six Nations, they have now risen to fifth in the world rankings, with their win over Australia proving that they certainly deserve that position.
Harold Vorster will be a Bok soon
In the absence of the injured Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Vorster stepped into the No 12 jersey for the Lions in Super Rugby, and his impact has been telling. In fact, many believed he could well be a Bok bolter for the June series against France, but in the end he had to settle for selection in the South Africa A side. However, in his first outing against the French Barbarians in Durban on Friday, Vorster showed that his time in the green and gold will surely come in due course. The 23-year-old scored two tries and produced the sort of physical performance that will certainly have not escaped the attention of Bok coach Allister Coetzee.
Photo: Anne Laing/HM Images