Siya Kolisi and Franco Mostert delivered industrious performances that represented everything that was worth celebrating about the defensively-sound Springboks on Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
There’s been something special about Kolisi this year. Certainly, the captaincy handed to him at the Stormers seems to have not only brought about a heightened sense of extra responsibility, but a need to lead from the front.
For those who have been present at the Stormers’ Super Rugby press conferences this year, a common refrain from the popular loose forward has been one of ensuring he does his ‘talking’ on the field, rather than off it.
Most importantly for the Boks, that form has now been translated on to the Test arena, with Kolisi’s performance at Kings Park on Saturday representing his best out of the 18 appearances he has made in the green and gold.
Besides scoring an outstanding opportunistic five-pointer in the first half, and setting up the final try late in the game with a beautiful break and offload, Kolisi – who turned 26 on Friday – completed the match with stats that showed he had completed 120m with ball in hand, 12 runs, two clean breaks and 11 tackles.
One also shouldn’t forget that Kolisi has slotted in at blindside flank for the Stormers this season, but has made a seamless transition to No 6 for the Boks, and his presence at the breakdown on Saturday was also crucial for the hosts as they secured an emphatic 37-15 win on Saturday.
Overall, the Boks were abrasive and organised on defence during a performance that stood in stark contrast to their woes in this department last year. All in all on Saturday, the Boks made 153 out of 169 tackles for an outstanding 91% tackle success rate.
Besides the clear impact that new defence coach Brendan Venter has made, the grunt-work completed by lanky lock Franco Mostert should not be underestimated.
Mostert completed a whopping 22 tackles, while missing just two, while he ran the lineout with aplomb in a workhorse performance that should not go without credit.
Mostert’s rise to claim the No 5 jersey should also be recognised by the fact it has seen him crack the nod ahead of 2015 SA Rugby Player of the Year Lood de Jager, while keeping Stormers star Pieter-Steph du Toit on the bench.
Besides the impact of some of the Boks’ key forwards in the physical exchanges, mention should also be made of Jan Serfontein, who starred among the backs.
Serfontein has said he is set to explore opportunities to ply his trade abroad, but he has clearly lost none of his desire to make the most of every opportunity that comes his way in Springbok colours.
Despite the 24-year-old’s indifferent form for the Bulls in Super Rugby, he has been highly effective on both attack and defence for the Boks in the first two Tests against France, with important tries scored in each encounter.
Beyond that, Serfontein completed as many as 15 tackles on Saturday (missing just one), while also effecting an important turnover early on. It was a defensive effort that aptly epitomised just how good the Boks were in this department in Durban.
Photo: Anne Laing/HM Images