Bok loosies fail to spark, but Rassie satisfied

Warren Whiteley (Gallo)
Warren Whiteley (Gallo)

Cape Town - Before Saturday's Rugby Championship Test against Argentina, the Springbok loose trio had been a major talking point. 

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In a new-look back row, the Boks fielded Warren Whiteley at No 8 as the Lions skipper made his first Test appearance since June last year, completing his recovery from a long-term groin injury. 

Francois Louw, who has just come off six weeks of pre-season with Bath, also returned to the national side and started his first match under Rassie Erasmus, wearing the No 6 jersey. 

Siya Kolisi, meanwhile, made the shift over from openside flank to blindside. 

More than accomplished players individually, all three players had something to prove at Kings Park. 

Whiteley knows very well that Duane Vermeulen is the favourite to wear the No 8 jersey at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Louw must show that he can fit into Erasmus' new system while captain Kolisi is desperate to be picked on performance ahead of anything else.

The result was a dominant Springbok win, even if it wasn't as clinical as Erasmus would have liked, but the jury is still out on this particular loose trio as a unit. 

Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing's player ratings following the game told their own story: Whiteley 5.5, Kolisi 5.5 and Louw 6.5. 

While the likes of Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Malcom Marx and Tendai Mtawarira were exceptional on the night in the Springbok tight-five, the loosies were a little more absent, flying under the radar as the Boks secured maximum points. 

By no means was it a poor display by any of the three, and Erasmus put things into perspective at the end of the match. 

"They (Argentina) bite hard at the breakdown and there were times when I thought we were awesome there … we were so low and sometimes so aggressive that we cleaned the ball and went passed the ball and left it exposed," he said.

"There are little technical changes we’ll have to make at the breakdown."

Turning his attention to the individual performances in his loose trio, Erasmus was largely satisfied.

"I think he (Kolisi) had a solid game," the coach said, pointing towards his captain.

"I think Warren, for a guy who hasn’t played for us as a coaching staff, also had a good game and Flo also.

"We played against a settled Pumas team who have played together for years now. There were hiccups here and there, but I think that the loose trio has a good future.

"We can bulk it up a little bit, but we can also have speed. Today’s breakdown had a lot of speed and I think that helped us. It’s different attributes for different games, but I think it was a solid performance." 

READ IN CLOSING: David Pocock praised for aiding concussed Ryan Crotty

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