Boks: Wicked Willie the spark

Willie le Roux (Gallo Images)
Willie le Roux (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – A quite sublime first half from fullback Willie le Roux will long be remembered as the key nut-cracker to South Africa downing Wales 38-16 and by five tries to one at Kings Park on Saturday.

As it happened: Boks v Wales

The Springboks were far from error-free but -- as is fast becoming a pleasing norm under the tenure of Heyneke Meyer as coach -- any shortcomings were easily eclipsed by their collective intensity, work ethic and professionalism, plus a wonderful relish for exhibiting flair on attack with the brilliance of Le Roux so often instrumental.

Here’s how I rated the Boks out of 10:

Willie le Roux: 9

Simply sensational in the Boks’ four-try first period, which knocked the stuffing from the tourists. Teed up two of them after decisive line intrusions, and registered a well-deserved own. Also showed great bravery and assuredness under high balls.

Cornal Hendricks: 7

Very decent Test debut, building on potential shown in the “friendly” against World XV last week. Positionally sound, alert, and second-half try was perfect night-cap for him.

JP Pietersen: 7

Still feeling his way, you suspect, in new midfield role, but arguably did enough to merit the experiment continuing for time being. Didn’t let any significant traffic through his channel.

Jan Serfontein: 8

Oops, what have you done, Frans Steyn? His much-discussed walkout led to the former Baby Bok star getting a maiden start ... and Serfontein was excellent. So much for fears he’d be vulnerable against big Jamie Roberts: gave robust showing, came within whisker of try after chase over goal-line, and produced stunning track-back, try-stopping tackle on Dan Biggar.

Bryan Habana: 7.5

Only underlined yet again what a ruthless finisher he is ... surely one of the all-time greats in that department? Fantastic timing to dot from Le Roux’s awkward-to-collect “dink”, and earned another touchdown at the flag in limited space after only 21 minutes.

Morne Steyn: 7

There will be plenty who still insist he’s not the ideal World Cup man at No 10, but let’s give credit when it’s due: impressive, assured game from the stalwart. Some snappy passing, solid defence and customary efficiency off the tee.

Fourie du Preez: 7

Gremlins here and there as the veteran re-adapts to the higher pace of Test rugby, but probably confirmed he remains SA’s best in the berth. Sniped cleverly, and more importantly cleared the ball swiftly.

Duane Vermeulen: 7.5

Another thoroughly workmanlike showing from one of Meyer’s most consistent players in recent times; does much donkeywork beneath the radar to assist broader pack dominance. Strength on ball near try-line produced five-pointer to his name.

Willem Alberts: 7

Still goes through certain passages of play a little anonymously, but when he bursts into action, boy, is he effective and decisive! Customary handful as a carrier and when he makes a tackle it’s so often a killer.

Francois Louw: 7.5

Played a major role in slowing down – and sometimes turning over – Welsh ball at rucks, which was just as well because there were times when the visiting backs looked slippery on the counter. Does well to largely avoid penalties in his push-the-boundaries open side role ...

Victor Matfield: 7.5

That push for another RWC looks more and more credible, doesn’t it? Just looks like such a confident, senior figure on the park. Ruled the skies at lineout time, collected all his kick-offs and made some welcome, important tackles into the bargain.

Bakkies Botha: 6.5

Not as conspicuous as he was in his storming first half against the World XV, but must have played vital early role nevertheless in ensuring Bok scrum had none of its angst suffered last weekend and smashed into collisions with trademark zeal before making way at the interval.   

Jannie du Plessis: 7

Marked down just a tad, in an otherwise satisfying display, through one or two rather needless off-ball indiscretions. But scrummed purposefully, carried more than usual, and produced some inspired last-ditch defence when it was needed.

Bismarck du Plessis: 7

Back much closer to fiery best after often subdued showing in Cape Town. Did yeoman work on the deck, though once flirted with a possible “yellow”: maybe Romain Poite felt he owed him a bit of a favour after events in Auckland?

Gurthro Steenkamp: 7.5

Justified his 50th-cap appearance as a now-rare starter with powerful scrum display, and was busy in general play too for his 45 minutes until Boks unleashed the home-town Beast ...

Standout substitute:

Lood de Jager: 7.5

Awarded the entire second half on debut, the big Cheetahs lock pleasingly repaid the faith placed in him ... and then some. Marvellously physical and combative showing: strong drives and tackles, and aided perpetual lineout pressure on Welsh throw.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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