By claiming a comfortable 35-17 victory over the Wallabies last Saturday, the Boks have started the year off on an extremely positive note, writes former Springbok hooker JAMES DALTON.
The theme of this week among the South African rugby public, players and coaches alike should be positivity.
To say Saturday’s side was a Bok ‘B team’ would be to insult the quality of the 23 picked, as their performance was indicative of fantastic squad depth heading into the World Cup, and I believe a good few who ran out will still be in the preferred squad for the All Blacks Test and then the World Cup itself.
What instils confidence is the way in which the Boks grew into the game. Having spent much of the first half tackling, they were able to dominate possession in the second half as well as then capitalise on this dominance, which Bok teams having struggled to do at times in the past.
I believe the pack was strong and functioned cohesively, scrumming well, playing towards the ball and securing the breakdown. Some work can still be done on the lineouts but as a whole their contribution was sound.
The backs capitalised with ball in hand and the proof is in the pudding of the bonus point they secured. In terms of an overall team effort, it was a good showing, but one which can definitely be improved on.
This is a positive and not a negative, in light of the fact that a far-from-perfect performance still resulted in an impressive winning margin.
I must make mention of Elton Jantjies, who I have been vocal in my criticism of as a Test flyhalf. On Saturday his showing in the green and gold was akin to his many in Vodacom Super Rugby, but which has never truly translated into the Test arena.
He performed the basics right, kicked well and was commanding behind a strong pack. Elton and the rest of the side were also the beneficiaries of superb and speedy service from Herschel Jantjies, who shone as a Springbok on debut.
However, where the Boks need to be cautious coming into Saturday’s clash with the All Blacks in Wellington is surrounding unforced errors and second-phase defence. The All Blacks that grappled with Argentina are not the All Blacks that the Springboks will be taking on, and they will make us pay for things like knocking the ball over the line and ill-discipline in tackles, as well as being defensively slow on the second phase.
But as I’ve said, there should be no excessive concern or criticism, but rather positive reinforcement ahead of the match. Rassie Erasmus appears well on his way to building a dominant side, and has clearly got a plan in process as his preparation included 15 players already sent over to New Zealand last week.
While South Africans tend to either be overly critical or overly excitable following one or two good Test performances, let’s reflect on this past Saturday’s match for what it was: a good performance and an enjoyable game.
Hopefully this Saturday’s Test offers us the same enjoyment and positivity, with the Boks demonstrating that this past weekend’s flaws have been ironed out.
While we must not overhype a Springbok side following one win, we must also remember that on our day, the Boks are one of the few sides in the world that can give the All Blacks a run for their money.