MARIETTE ADAMS takes a look at the Springboks’ best performers following the completion of their four pool matches at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
BACK: CHESLIN KOLBE
When Nick Mallett singles you out as his favourite current international player, you have to be doing something right. And Cheslin Kolbe has done a lot of things right in recent weeks.
He has been, without a shadow of a doubt, the Springboks’ best player at the World Cup. Some may even argue he is the best player at the tournament altogether. If that is the case, it would place the fleet-footed wizard at No 1 out of 620 players competing.
The 25-year-old made a try-scoring debut for the Springboks in their riveting 36-34 victory against the All Blacks in Wellington last year and has not looked out of place in the green-and-gold jersey since.
In South Africa’s first World Cup game, also against the All Blacks, Kolbe emerged as the best player on the field and I for one believe he was horribly shortchanged when the man of the match award bizarrely went to Beauden Barrett. But I digress. Kolbe ran a whopping 124m in that match, made three scintillating clean breaks and left 11 defenders in his wake, and he did it all with effortless grace that shook the All Blacks.
Unfortunately, Kolbe injured his ankle late in the match and as a result was rested for South Africa’s clash with Namibia. But he was back in action against Italy and it was in this game where he best illustrated just what a well-rounded player he is.
Weighing in at 74kg and standing at 1.7m tall, the diminutive Kolbe not only ran rings around would-be Italian tacklers, he won the aerial battle against men much bigger than him. He created opportunities for teammates, scored two tries himself and, importantly, he underlined his value on defence.
All his attributes were well packaged in his last act of the match, when he determinedly followed up a grubber kick from Frans Steyn to put pressure on the recipient, Matteo Minozzi. The Italian fullback tried to step past Kolbe, but the Boks’ ‘twinkle toes’ man made a brilliant spot tackle, forcing Minozzi into a reckless inside pass into the all-too eager hands of RG Snyman, who went on to score his maiden Test try easy-peasy.
The Boks, the fans, all of South Africa, will be hoping for more of the same from Kolbe in the playoffs. Only this time, I hope he has better support from those around him.
Honourable mentions: The Boks’ midfielders Damian de Allende, Lukhanyo Am and regular substitute Frans Steyn, have performed admirably since the start of the tournament, with a low error-rate percentage that has silenced their critics for now.
FORWARD: PIETER-STEPH DU TOIT
What more can be said and written about Pieter-Steph that hasn’t already been said or written. He was named the 2018 South African Player of the Year for a reason, and 10 months into the new calendar year that reason still holds true.
The blindside flank has been the rock in the Bok pack for the longest time now. Du Toit, a tireless worker, has only featured in two matches so far – against New Zealand and Italy. Du Toit was rested against Namibia and while he was named on the bench for the encounter with Canada, he was not substituted on.
Be that as it may, Du Toit is an integral part of this Bok team. With 13 hits, he was the top tackler in the game between South Africa and New Zealand; and he had nine against Italy. Overall, he has made two clean breaks, 40 run metres, 14 carries, beaten three defenders and boasts an 81% tackle success rate.
Du Toit has a superhuman-like work rate second to none and his work off the ball is exceptional. Du Toit has been the most consistent Bok player for the past, say, 18 months. Coach Rassie will be hoping he has the gas to motor on for just one more month until 1 November, when South Africa could potentially contest the World Cup final.
Honourable mentions: Hooker Bongi Mbonambi went to the World Cup as backup hooker to Malcolm Marx. But the Stormers No 2 has made an impact in all three games he played in and appears set to usurp Marx as the leading hooker in the playoffs. Another man who has taken his opportunities well is RG Snyman. The lock featured in all South Africa’s games. He was used a replacement against the All Blacks and Italy and earned starts against Namibia and Canada. Snyman’s offloading game, strong running and execution of his core lineout responsibilities, make him one of the most dangerous tight-five players around in Japan.
Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images