David Moseley

What we learned from Boks vs Argentina

2012-08-21 07:52

South Africa got their Rugby Championship campaign off to a solid start against Argentina. As predicted, the boys from South America gave it their all at Newlands, which was never going to be enough to win, rather just enough to keep the score to respectable levels.

It was a flat, unexciting Test with little to set the pulses racing for the often hard to please home fans. Still, even though the Boks did a ‘Stormers’ and managed to expertly avoid the bonus point, a win is win. But what does it mean for the season ahead?

1) No Bismarck, no Brüssow, no ball

Four tries were off the table as soon as Bismarck du Plessis left the field. Without him, the Boks had no hope of holding on to the ball, as was so painfully witnessed with the number of steals made by Argentina during the game. With no Bismarck for the rest of the year and Heinrich Brüssow either injured or not part of the Heyneke Meyer plans, the Springboks better think of something sharpish for their remaining Rugby Championship games - if they intend getting their hands on the ball, let alone the trophy.

2) Francios Hougaard is a better wing

Hougie is an absolute gem. But he’s not the best scrumhalf in the Springbok squad. After the England series it looked a pretty even race between Hougaard and Ruan Pienaar, with Pienaar coming out tops ever so slightly. Since leaving South Africa Pienaar has become a far more assured presence on the field, long ago losing his ‘Gaffie du Toit’ in a headlight gaze when pulling on the Bok jumper. He’s the man for number nine, not Hougaard. The Bulls star is a mesmerising talent, but on the wing, not at scrumhalf. When Hougie moved to the wing on Saturday he loosened up, unhindered with the burden of directing the game. Let’s see more of that, and less of his dithering uncertainty at nine.

3) Morne Steyn is the flyhalf we deserve

Steyn had his kicking boots on in a big way this weekend, slotting everything with the accuracy we’ve come to know and love from the man who broke the hearts of the British & Irish Lions in 2009 (a feat for which he still deserves a statue at arrivals inside OR Tambo). He’s probably not the flyhalf we want, or the flyhalf we need, but possibly the flyhalf we deserve as the Boks continue to utilise their battering ram forwards as their number one tactic. With the heavies bludgeoning a path forward, it’s hard to ignore the pinpoint merits of Steyn. The question is, however, what happens when plan A stops working?

4) Eben Etzebeth needs a break

For a player who was all explosive fire and brimstone in the early part of the season, Etzebeth has been playing in the last few weeks like a sickly, flickering candle. He’s been excellent all year, no question, but there seems to be an edge that’s gone missing recently. Once again on Saturday he put his body on the line for the Bok cause, but this (very) young lock is either playing with an injury or he’s just bloody knackered. At some stage player management is going to be crucial, because if Etzebeth carries on like this he could be retiring by 25.

5) Perhaps there is such a thing as rugby fatigue

Newlands is stadium renowned for packing in full houses, even with the eye-scratching dross served up by the Stormers all year long. So it was slightly surprising to see empty seats on Saturday, along with official gate figures coming in at just over 39 000. It was a beautiful winter’s day in Cape Town, plus the start of an ‘exciting’ new rugby tournament (not to mention chipper media telling us to expect sold out signs ahead of kick-off), so what gives? Is it because Argentina lack the pulling power of the Crusaders, Hurricanes and Sharks, or are we actually reaching a stage we’re people are saying I’ve had enough rugby for one season?
Unlikely, as I’m sure we’ll see monstrous crowds at Loftus and Soweto later this year. But maybe, just maybe, more isn’t always better…

- Follow @david_moseley on Twitter.

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