Cool Steyn swung it for Boks

Morné Steyn (Gallo Images)
Morné Steyn (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - He’ll never be everybody’s favourite at flyhalf , but there are ding-dong days in Springbok Tests where you simply have to doff your cap to Morné Steyn’s stubborn efficiency.

As it happened: Argentina v SA

VIDEO: Eye gouge on Francois Louw

For the second time in as many Castle Rugby Championship matches at Mendoza, the name “Steyn” was synonymous with sparing South African blushes and preserving the Boks’ unbeaten record against Argentina.

Last year it was namesake Frans Steyn who got the tourists off the hook with his opportunistic try to salvage a barely-deserved draw; on Saturday Morné tilted the balance against the demonically motivated Pumas with his calm, unerring precision in place-kicking being pivotal in the 22-17 outcome.

The old Loftus favourite, shortly bound for Stade Francais, banged over five penalties and a conversion for a personal haul of 17 points, and showed sound mental strength on an otherwise nerve-shredding day for South Africa.

Had Steyn been off-target at the posts, the Boks might have created ignominious history by allowing 60-point superiority one week to turn violently into defeat by the same foes the next.

With Steyn topping the mostly unsatisfactory pile, here’s how we rated the Boks:

Willie le Roux 5.5

Hardly the sort of day to suit his unique attacking abilities, but least convincing Bok game yet. Botched two high-ball collections, and one tactical kick went embarrassingly askew into touch off side of boot. Some moments of vital alertness, though.

Bjorn Basson 5.5

Turned on the burners effectively to round off lone SA try in 14th minute, but keeps reputation for being anonymous at times. Known kick-chase strength seldom made use of.

JJ Engelbrecht 5.5

Educative outing for the outside centre; finally a decent test for his defence. One or two chinks in armour did show: culpable in Pumas’ second try. Wallabies, All Blacks may have made a note...

Jean de Villiers 6.5

Most zestful Bok backline player in general play on frustrating, sub-standard day for them as a unit. Keen anticipation of situations spared blushes at times and, as captain, wisely, vigorously engaged eccentric referee Steve Walsh over foul play allegations. Bad judgement, perhaps, in spurning first-half chance to goal kickable penalty?

Bryan Habana 5.5

Usually manages to catapult his way decisively into the action at some stage; that didn’t happen here. Short on composure, by his normally high standards.

Morné Steyn 7

Kept commendably cool head under tremendous pressure, and despite near-cynical Pumas attempts to rattle him. Unwavering accuracy off tee was like gold to cause on nail-biting afternoon. Without it ... ouch!

Ruan Pienaar 4.5

No infusion off bench for Jano Vermaak was a mystery, considering Pienaar’s crucially ponderous 80 minutes. Caught in possession early on, to transfer play territorially and set tone for Pumas’ manic commitment to first-time Bok triumph. Mind you, suffered from lack of protection around fringes.

Duane Vermeulen 6

All fire and brimstone in ball-carrying capacity; pity there weren’t more opportunities for him. But fact remained: this was game where much-trumpeted Bok loosies didn’t quite gel.

Willem Alberts 5.5

Tackled methodically, but didn’t impose himself physically to extent no doubt sought on torrid day. Occasionally seemed a bit off the pace.

Francois Louw 6

Responsible for some heroic work in holding up mauls, but least effective game for a while in turnovers department and conceded a couple of penalties.

Juandré Kruger 5

Mobile initially and got involved in tackle donkeywork. But faded ever more noticeably as game unwrapped, and Pumas gained brutal traction. Should Boks revisit fielding twin “ysters” at lock?

Eben Etzebeth 6

Strong lineout banker, as per normal, on Bok throw and plucky in contesting as well. Handling in open play let him down once. Just about kept temper in check when allegedly victim of bite on arm.

Jannie du Plessis 5.5

Solid enough at scrums, but could be much more industrious elsewhere – among several absentees when it came to much-needed cleanouts, and one key instance of sloppy defence.

Adriaan Strauss 6

Blatantly obstructed on defence as Argentina dotted first try. Nothing wrong with his basics, but perhaps a tad too frantic in admirable wish to be constantly involved.

Tendai Mtawarira 6

Put down very strong scrummaging marker early on, even if Pumas gradually came back forcefully themselves. Less workmanlike in second half; replaced by Gurthro Steenkamp on hour mark.

Standout substitute:

Bismarck du Plessis 6.5

Was this a day where his special brand of physicality might have been better deployed from the outset? Seriously muscular when let loose for 50th cap on 53 minutes, though irritatingly knocked on once when trying to pick up from ruck.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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