Du Preez dazzles off Bok bench

Fourie du Preez (Gallo Images)
Fourie du Preez (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - There being no law against substitutes earning player-of-the-match mantles in ball games, the Sport24 choice for the Springboks in their 73-13 roasting of Argentina on Saturday goes to a mere 25-minute contributor ... Fourie du Preez.

As it happened: Springboks v Argentina

The veteran Rugby World Cup-winning scrumhalf, making his first appearance for his country in almost two years, massively confirmed his pedigree as South Africa appeared to only go up into power-fifth gear following his entry to the fray in the Castle Rugby Championship match, part of the Nelson Mandela Sport and Culture Day at FNB Stadium.

In defence of the decent enough starting No 9 Ruan Pienaar, it was already beginning to rain tries for the hungry Boks when Du Preez removed his tracksuit, but the phenomenon became more of an avalanche as the latter’s immediate authority, uncanny anticipation and swiftness of service saw South Africa add another five touchdowns during his limited spell on the park.

Television pundit and former Bok coach Nick Mallett described his performance as “sublime”, pointing to the special momentum his passes seemed to bring, as well as his speedy arrival at breakdowns which meant the already hard-pressed and ragged Argentineans “couldn’t properly reset their defence”.

Here’s how we rated the Bok side:

Willie le Roux 7.5

Sometimes bamboozles even team-mates as to his intentions and can over-complicate moves a tad ... but isn’t that all part of his charm as an offensive weapon? Buzz of excitement whenever steaming into backline moves and, as that set-up of JJ Engelbrecht’s try showed, those “dinks” are just wicked.

Bjorn Basson 6.5

Little of the most fluid three-quarter play seemed to find its way to his side of the park, but solid enough display.

JJ Engelbrecht 7

Defensive game will be put to much more acid tests later in the competition, but continues to combine elusiveness with fine leg-power in attacking situations. Came through nasty tip-tackle happily unscathed.

Jean de Villiers 7.5

Another fulsome game, with lead-by-example work-rate. Makes plenty of important tackles in his busy channel, produced some slashing breaks ... and his famously keen anticipation led to typical opportunistic “poached” try.

Bryan Habana 7

Wore No 11, but operated on right, where he seems to relish greater involvement in play these days. Remains an ace predator, even though hands frustratingly let him down once with try-line at mercy.

Morne Steyn 7.5

One dicey moment on cover defence, and poor pass to his captain spoiled a promising attack in first half. But blossomed increasingly, like so many colleagues. Superb off the tee on a busy night (28 points!) for his place-kicking, with a lone miss, and pleasingly good link man as Boks began to express themselves.

Ruan Pienaar 6.5

Very respectable showing, and one fine break only ruined by cynical trip on him. Some gloss taken off, though, by undeniably more up-tempo Bok scrumhalf play when Fourie du Preez replaced him.

Duane Vermeulen 7.5

Commendable match considering this was his first in many weeks. Rustiness apparent as he fumbled one or two kick collections, but always muscular presence in rumbling Bok pack, and thoroughly deserved his crash-over try.

Willem Alberts 7

The “Bone Collector” has had more storming performances in green and gold, but still brought huge, valuable physicality at times as Boks progressively sapped the strength from Pumas’ eight with repeated mass mauling.

Francois Louw 7.5

Typically aware and polished on the deck, though might have wished for more ball-in-hand moments. Seldom falls foul of referees, a great asset in open-sider.

Juandre Kruger 7

Justified his return as a more authentic “athlete” in SA’s No 5 shirt, after horses-for-courses selection of Flip van der Merwe in that slightly unusual slot for Samoan challenge. Seriously pressured Pumas’ lineout, and made his tackles spiritedly.

Eben Etzebeth 7.5

Another ton-of-bricks showing by the young firebrand, who also just about kept cool when provoked. Imperious lineout presence, and some rampaging drives.

Jannie du Plessis 7.5

Good to see the old warhorse lead from front in forceful Bok scrum effort. Hunger was such that he animatedly implored his skipper at times to opt for that particular set-piece from attacking penalties. Alas for the good doctor, largely in vain ...

Adriaan Strauss 8.5

Official recipient of man-of-match, and there could be few quibbles even if our choice narrowly goes elsewhere. Clearly knows the “Bismarck factor” looms ever larger, and is only responding hugely. Impeccable throwing-in, and at one stage appeared to handle about four times personally in a minute or so in driving surges.

Tendai Mtawarira 7

Rock-solid left shoulder as SA happily bossed scrums against once-legendary foes in that department.

Standout substitute:

Fourie du Preez 9

From an impactful, eager Bok bench generally, there were visibly strong final-quarter contributions from Pat Lambie, Bismarck du Plessis, Gurthro Steenkamp and one or two others, but Du Preez was the undoubted pick of the infusions, bringing a magical sense of direction, anticipation and passing fluidity to the Bok party as the already ragged and under-the-cosh Pumas were truly taken apart in the closing stages.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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