Bok player ratings: Loftus implosion can't hide positives

Siya Kolisi (Gallo)
Siya Kolisi (Gallo)

Cape Town - The words of Naas Botha in the minutes following the final whistle summed things up: "We controlled the game for 79 minutes," the Bok legend offered. 

READ: 11 staggering stats that will have you baffled as to how the Springboks lost!

That was certainly the case on the scoreboard. 

The All Blacks, as has so often been the case in recent years, saved their best for the final quarter and their 19 unanswered points in that time stunned an electric Loftus crowd as the 'old foe' left with a stunning 32-30 victory. 

30-13 ahead with 18 minutes to play, the Boks had delivered easily their most polished performance of the year, dominating the world champions territorially and in the possession stakes as they looked home and dry for a first back-to-back triumph over the All Blacks since 2009. 

There are lessons of composure and the art of seeing out games to be learnt, but the overall assessment remains one of positivity given where this Bok side has come from. 

A year ago, knocking the All Blacks over in Wellington seemed impossible. 

While the win at the 'Cake Tin' stemmed from gladiator-like defence, this performance at Loftus saw the Boks dictating proceedings for most of the match. 

It wasn't enough, but it is still hard to single out any strikingly poor individual performances on a night that was so close to being one of celebration for the Boks. 

This is how I rated the Springboks in Pretoria:

Willie le Roux: 7.5

A lively and impressive display in his 50th Test. Made the break for the Boks' opening try, was solid under the high ball, kicked intelligently and is such an attractive attacking option when he joins as first receiver. 

Cheslin Kolbe: 6

Limited opportunities for the right-wing given how the Boks went about their business. Showed strength and determination to wiggle his way towards the line to score what should have been the winning try on the hour mark. 

Jesse Kriel: 7

One of the more memorable performances by a Bok No 13 in this Rugby Championship. Slowly starting to edge ahead in the race against Lukhanyo Am for that World Cup place? Superb finish for his try and ran hard, probing lines throughout. Sent Loftus delirious with second half turnover.

Damian de Allende: 6

Nothing flash, but De Allende does provide a solid base for the Boks to attack from after first or second phase. Ran a good line for his try, but was guilty of drifting 'sideways' at times. Also, a wasteful 'nothing' kick in first half.

Aphiwe Dyantyi: 5.5

Like Kolbe, limited opportunity with ball in hand. Struggled defensively, but did show glimpses of his natural pace. Find of the season by a country mile, but not his best day at the office as highlighted by aerial knock-on under no pressure. 

Handre Pollard: 7.5

Looking more and more like a flyhalf that can guide this side to something special in 2019. Flawless off the tee, intelligent tactical kicking, dynamic distribution and a couple of testing runs at the AB defence. 

Faf de Klerk: 7

Has been impressive all year, but so encouraging to see him get his kicking right. Was accurate with the box kicks, while he also found some handy space behind the AB defence. Service was crisp throughout, but did throw a pass into touch when a Bok try was on the cards.

Francois Louw 5.5

For me, the most disappointing of the Boks on the day. Drafted in at No 8, Louw was guilty of giving away penalties on the ground. Went a bit 'missing', especially given that his selection was based on providing muscle at the breakdown. 

Pieter-Steph du Toit: 7

Another monster shift from South Africa's Wellington hero. Du Toit continues to thrive at No 7 where he offers a lineout option, carries tirelessly and puts in hit after hit after hit after hit. Much of the same on Saturday.

Siya Kolisi: 7.5

Another very encouraging performance from the skipper. No Bok made more tackles on the day (12) and Kolisi is making the captaincy his own through such commitment to the cause. His offload for De Allende's try was as deft as they come. 

Franco Mostert: 7

Impressive. The Boks were largely solid at the lineout, using four different jumpers, and Mostert is comfortably ahead in the race for the No 5 jersey in Japan. Was a capable ball carrier while his work on defence and on the ground was also noticeable.

Eben Etzebeth: 6

Probably didn't have the impact on the game he would have liked, but was solid enough. Ran hard and straight at AB defence and, as always, made his presence known. Penalised at the breakdown and lost a lineout, but remains crucial to Bok cause.

Frans Malherbe: 6

Bok scrum was under pressure throughout the contest, but Malherbe played his part in stopping it from disintegrating. Always keen to look for work off the ball. The battle for the No 3 jersey is far from over, but Malherbe did his case no harm at Loftus.

Malcolm Marx: 8

Ryan Crotty said in the week that he would pick Codie Taylor as his hooker over Marx 'any day'. He may have changed his mind after this. Marx was immense, for the umpteenth time. His lineout work was sound, but he has superhuman ability over the ball and proved that again at Loftus. Put Boks on front foot with a few barging runs, too. 

Steve Kitshoff: 6

Proper heavyweight battle with Owen Franks in the front row, and Kitshoff more than held his own. The Bok scrum stood firm when it looked on the verge of disintegrating on several occasions, and much of that was down to Kitshoff. Becoming harder to justify leaving him out.

Standout substitute:

One moment of stepping magic from Damian Willemse while RG Snyman looked to get busy, but the bench was on the field during the Springbok implosion, so finding positives on that front is tricky. 

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