Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth put in another world-class shift while a mixed bag from Willie le Roux contributed to a disappointing reverse against England at Twickenham.
England had no answer to the Bok lineout drives, set by the likes of Duane Vermeulen and powered by the chubbies, which showcased South Africa’s physical superiority up front. Unfortunately, the world champions failed to convert the physical momentum into points.
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Eben Etzebeth made 13 tackles and seven carries, charged down a kick, poached England throw-ins and cut through the defence on a sweet line that, had he had support, should have been worth at least five points.
Etzebeth won’t have been at a karaoke bar in London on Saturday night, but he will go to sleep knowing he gave it everything.
South Africa’s not-so-secret weapon, the scrum recovered from a shaky start to once again provide a source of set-piece territory as Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Trevor Nyakane signed off early in the second half with a big scrum before Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx and Vincent Koch jogged on to add fresh scenes to Kyle Sinckler’s nightmares.
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There were moments when the tactical game clicked and the Boks out-flanked the England frontline with a box kick, tapped back by Makazole Mapimpi and collected by Eben Etzebeth. However, there were too many instances when Cobus Reinach, Handre Pollard and Herschel Jantjies launched a rocket that was either beyond the range of the pursuit, or the chasers opted not to punch the gas and allowed Freddie Steward to collect the ball uncontested.
Lood de Jager and then Franco Mostert operated the lineout at 88% efficiency, but too often the attack had to make do with dirty ball. The jump team found some rhythm in the second half but, in a one-point loss the Boks, will believe poor choreography was a key contributor to the result.
Pollard (7) was perfect with four kicks in the first half that kept the tourists in the game at the break, but was again haunted by inconsistency as he missed two of three after the restart.
Makazole Mapimpi (8) knows how to score tries and it’s encouraging that this season he’s grown increasingly impatient waiting for the ball to come to him.
Regardless of the condition of the ball when he gets it, Damian de Allende (8) always finds a way to go forward. The Boks are blessed with a world-class midfield boasting two all-round talents and it is a concern they’ve not consistently been able to harness De Allende’s power and Lukhanyo Am’s deft reads into tries.
The difference in confidence and contributions at fullback was clear and obvious when Frans Steyn (8) replaced Willie le Roux (6) in the second half, relieving the incumbent after another performance sullied by poor basics.