SA Rugby magazine identifies some of the good, the bad and the ugly to take away from the Boks’ opening World Cup defeat to the All Blacks.
Cheslin Kolbe. The diminutive winger was probably the only Springbok who stood out throughout the defeat in Yokohama on Saturday. Showing courage in defence and attack, Kolbe was a handful for the All Blacks, but the Bok No 14 lamented the fact that he could not make the most of the opportunities that he was afforded. Kolbe’s kick chase was excellent despite the fact that the quality of high balls he was tasked to pursue often lacked in precision. Having accumulated the most run metres of any player, Kolbe’s ability to shrug off and glide passed would-be defenders brought brief moments of excitement in an otherwise lacklustre Bok performance. After an injury scare late on, it was confirmed that Kolbe was simply struggling with cramp which is good news for Bok fans. Here’s hoping that Kolbe’s thrilling form continues and that his teammates follow suit.
Despite the fact that they dominated most facets of the game for the first quarter, the Boks’ inability under the high ball and tactical kicking game plan will again come into question. In the buildup to the Test, the Boks stated their intention to deploy a kicking game plan – to put the inexperienced opposition wingers under pressure – and to back that up with a strong defensive performance. The Boks, however, failed to retrieve numerous high balls, with the All Blacks capitalizing on those errors and building an unassailable lead in a six-minute spell of brilliant attacking rugby. The tactic to play territory with the boot was unsuccessful in it’s implementation against an All Blacks back three who grew into the game, despite making some errors early on. As was the case in the Japan game a fortnight ago, Faf de Klerk’s box kicks became imprecise as the game wore on, with the Bok wingers unable to compete for possession despite their efforts. This is an area where the team needs to sharpen up against lesser opposition over the coming weeks, in preparation for tight contests later on in the tournament.
Despite some questionable refereeing decisions – particularly around the breakdown and scrums – the most concerning development after the defeat was the confirmation that Trevor Nyakane’s calf injury was deemed by the Springbok management team to be serious. As happened in the Japanese warm-up game a couple of weeks ago, Nyakane was forced to leave the field after coming on as a replacement midway through the second half. Nyakane’s participation at the World Cup initially came under doubt following the encounter with the Brave Blossoms. However, with Rassie Erasmus confirming post-game that Nyakane’s injury is serious, the Boks will be sweating over his availability going forward. The Bulls tighthead has been a pillar of strength for the national side in recent seasons with many calls for his elevation into the starting lineup ahead of Frans Malherbe. Although not yet officially confirmed, Nyakane looks set to be ruled out of the remainder of the World Cup pending further medical examinations. Vincent Koch, the seemingly third choice tighthead in the group will most likely come into the match-day squad for the game against Namibia on 28 September.
Picture: @Springboks Twitter