Cheslin Kolbe starred in Yokohama, but his efforts were largely in vain as the Boks were ultimately outsmarted by the opportunistic All Blacks in Saturday’s World Cup opener, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
In the end, from a Bok perspective, this World Cup opener was an anticlimax of sorts as Rassie Erasmus’ charges fell to a 23-13 defeat in Yokohama.
At the heart of a brief Bok fightback in the second half was one diminutive man: Kolbe.
Everything Kolbe touched turned to gold, with his dancing feet proving too much to handle for the All Blacks, and on more than one occasion he came, oh, so close to scoring.
In that context, there would have been real concern when Kolbe appeared to suffer an ankle injury late in the game, before looking to walk it off.
For the most part, though, the energetic winger deserved better from his Bok teammates.
After an industrious start to the first half, in which the Boks looked well on top, they then fell apart on defence in the second quarter.
What the All Blacks did superbly was find ways to counter the Springboks’ rush defence with clever kicks out wide, often exposing the inside-out defence that the Boks employ.
At the first instance, Makazole Mapimpi was found out of position by Sevu Reece, who broke away to set up the All Blacks’ opening try.
Not long after, the Boks failed to deal with another contestable kick, and after another weak bit of defending, big lock Scott Barrett broke away to score.
That sent the All Blacks roaring into a 17-3 lead, and although the Boks did well to fight back to make it just a four-point ball game at one point, it was ultimately never going to be enough.
There will be plenty for the Boks to think about after this performance, and while Kolbe was a clear standout performer, some of his more experienced big-game counterparts failed to deliver on the grandest stage.
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