Boks: Flo, Ruan revel in rain

port24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
port24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)

Cape Town - Is it any coincidence that two of South Africa’s best performers in an unseasonal Loftus monsoon on Saturday ply their club trade for Bath and Ulster respectively?

As it happened: Boks v Pumas

Francois Louw in the pack and Ruan Pienaar just behind it have been solidly rooted to those northern-clime outfits for several years now, and are well used to playing rain-lashed rugby.

Their expertise came in seriously handy as the Springboks had to fight grimly to repel Castle Rugby Championship underdogs Argentina, who were right up for the scrap in the levelling circumstances, by just seven points in Pretoria - a far cry from last season’s 73-13 scoreline in the equivalent fixture when it was dry as the proverbial bone at FNB Stadium.

The freak, lotto-like conditions made it hard to mark players too notably up or, for that matter, down ...

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

Willie le Roux: 7

Very reassuring that the fullback, who comes into his devilish own so much more obviously when the pitch is firm and fast, was able to confirm how he can adapt to a near-swamp. Hands and positional sense were generally unfailing in testing circumstances. 

Cornal Hendricks: 6

Good hand in Boks’ lone try, and did try to seek out work on a frustrating night for wider players. Some hairy little moments in a defensive capacity.

Damian de Allende: 5.5

In fairness, not the ideal opportunity to gauge his suitability to outside centre. Erratic showing, however, and perhaps that contributed to his involvement in a bit of handbags on the stroke of halftime. Let’s not forget he was short of game-time entering this debut.

Jean de Villiers: 6

Will just be grateful to have got through comeback game after lengthy absence solidly enough. A couple of debatable decisions not to go for posts from penalties – this made for white-knuckle ride in dying minutes as Pumas pressed hard for possible levelling try.

Bryan Habana: 6

Little action in his areas of the park; it just wasn’t that kind of game. Did little wrong, mind you.

Handre Pollard: 5.5

Perhaps the rookie was caught a bit cold mentally by the unexpected deluge, which forced Boks into a Plan B. Made some bad kicking gaffes. Still, one electric burst through a half-gap nearly produced a try to his name (though he knocked on in tackle) and one or two good hits of his own.

Ruan Pienaar: 7.5

Must be so used to these conditions in grim Irish winter ... and his experience showed to influential degree. Oozed intelligent “management”, whilst kicking game was mostly authoritative as well, and showed fine awareness and a turn of pace in registering his precious early try. 

Duane Vermeulen: 7 Assured and error-free presence at No 8 in a game where bloopers otherwise, inevitably, came dime-a-dozen. So difficult to dispossess on the drive. 

Marcell Coetzee: 6.5

Strong shift, considering that he was a late installation to the starting mix. Not quite as lethal a battering ram as the man he replaced, Willem Alberts, but made up with mobility and energy. Executed one alert, critical cover tackle.

Francois Louw: 7.5

The tireless open-sider doesn’t just earn turnovers, he earns the really important turnovers and slow-downs - big feather in his cap on a foul evening like this one. Avoided penalties at his main trade, too, though needs to keep fuse in better check at times when niggled.

Lood de Jager: 6.5

Good use of his body strength in mauling and tackling situations, even if you could see No 5 is a slightly unorthodox role for him.

Bakkies Botha: 6

Customary desire not to take a backward step in grappling play, and put good pressure on Pumas’ lineout throw.

Jannie du Plessis: 6

The tighthead was subjected to strong initial heat at scrum-time, but settled after that. Continued his recent trend of looking harder for work in general play.

Bismarck du Plessis: 6

TV critic and former Bok coach Nick Mallett suggested afterwards that perhaps some of his lineout throws were a little too forceful, given the cake-of-soap conditions for jumpers. Solid presence in other facets, though.

Tendai Mtawarira: 6

Difficult to fault the effort of another rusty player, who went the distance in fatiguing conditions, even if the Bok scrum wasn’t exactly a thing of majesty ... 

Standout substitute:

Morne Steyn: 6.5

There was some promise off the bench also from a busy Adriaan Strauss, but replacement flyhalf Steyn, introduced early in the second half, earns the nod for just looking like a more assured wet-weather player than Pollard had in the first period.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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