SA Rugby magazine identifies some of the good, the bad and the ugly to take away from the Boks’ final pool B victory over Canada.
While there were decent showings from most of the Springbok ‘B’ team and fringe players, the standout performances of Cobus Reinach and RG Snyman will be giving Rassie Erasmus good headaches leading up to the quarter-finals. Seemingly the third-choice scrumhalf in the squad, Reinach’s accurate execution of his core roles – combined with his attacking prowess and support play – should certainly put him in contention for a place in the first-choice team. One does, however, have to take into consideration the quality of the opposition the Boks faced, as noted by Erasmus post-game. Reinach’s rapid ruck speed and precise tactical kicking have to be acknowledged, though, as those facets of play laid the foundation for a dominant attacking display by the Boks in the first half. Snyman’s man-of-the-match performance again showed how blessed the Boks are in the locks department. The towering second rower’s running game and offloading ability contradict the number on his back. His physical presence and dominance at lineout time makes Snyman a valuable Bok asset. It will be interesting to see whether he is given a starting role or if he continues as an impact player off the bench against stronger opposition come playoff time.
When factoring in all of the components that led to the result at the Kobe Misaki Stadium, it’s not easy to pick out many glaring flaws from the Boks’ performance. However, a momentum shift, as was seen at the beginning of the second half, is something the Boks can ill-afford during a tense knockout game. It may be tough to motivate a team which has a man advantage and is leading 47-0 at half time, but Erasmus’ squad will need to maintain a high intensity for 80 minutes against their opponents in next week’s quarter-final. While the Boks’ were ruthless at the set pieces and their tactical kicking markedly improved from previous matches, the number of unforced errors and turnovers conceded will be of slight concern for the Bok management team. The new starting combinations, testing conditions, players’ fatigue, as well as the introduction of the bench might all be contributing factors to the loss of fluidity during the second half. The Boks were guilty of a couple of knock-ons, loose passes, handling errors and forcing the offload on occasion. This is understandable considering the aforementioned factors and the manner in which they approached the game. The squad will be hoping to iron out those issues once they begin their preparation for the knockout stages.
The sixth red card of the tournament was shown to Canada’s Josh Larsen, after his dangerous cleanout on Thomas du Toit. It was really a questionable decision by Larsen to enter the ruck in the manner he did, considering the fact that his team had possession on the Boks’ tryline as well as the current climate of red cards and dangerous play at the World Cup. To his credit, the disappointed reserve lock apologised to the Bok changing room post-game, but his sending off made the already one-sided affair even less of a contest after the half-hour mark. In a game played in high spirits, it was a pity to see the Canadians go down to 14 men but they should be commended for their response in the second half, scoring a deserved try against a well-organised Bok defence. Fortunately, there were no controversial decisions made by match officials during the game. Here’s hoping that none of the remaining pool games and upcoming playoff games are marred by inconsistencies or a contentious refereeing decision.