Cape Town – There were several candidates for top dog in a rugged, united and passionate Springbok performance where they admirably skirted the “one foot on the plane” syndrome during the European tour finisher against France in Paris.
The Cheetahs man, making a maiden start on what is still his “wrong” side of the scrum, was a juggernaut under the circumstances, and not just because of his already known, considerable physical proportions.
Oosthuizen easily eclipsed expectations at scrum-time (even given the grotesque, crumbling playing surface) but the massive responsibility he carried in that department also did not prevent him from fulfilling a busy, assertive role in general play.
Here’s how I rated the Boks out of 10:
Willie le Roux 7.5
Revelation on this tour: again here he combined inventiveness on attack – both with hand and footwork – with defensive solidity and conviction in receiving high balls. Who said this guy could be a bit flaky at times?
JP Pietersen 7.5
That old lustre fast returning: magnificent charge-down swoop for early Bok try, and worked demonically all night as a menacing chaser.
Jaque Fourie 7
Best game of the tour yet, even if clean breaks continued to elude him. Massively alert and involved defensively and properly ticked the box for stamina in this one.
Jean de Villiers 6.5
Was starting to show signs of inevitable fatigue as the tour ground its way onward. Errors crept in here, but still some magic moments – like his set-up of Fourie for a try that probably should have been allowed.
Bryan Habana 6.5
Some of his in-field kicks were a little misdirected, which led to surrender of key ground at times. But always a willing and courageous chaser, and constantly sought half-gaps.
Morne Steyn 6
Place-kicking of loftiest personal standards, and mostly gutsy on defence. But his tactical kicking came up a little short for consistency in this fixture. One or two ropey collections and passes.
Ruan Pienaar 5.5
There will be a lobby who consider this rating a tad generous; he did battle once again to truly impose himself and some of his clearing was again unacceptably tardy. But some effective tactical kicks -- and also occasional crucial tackles.
Duane Vermeulen 7.5
Excellent on defence throughout and kept dangerous French scrumhalf Morgan Parra particularly well policed. Also one of the most assertive Bok forwards with ball in hand.
Willem Alberts 7.5
Few opportunities to demonstrate his power as a ball-carrier, but when he tackled unsuspecting French foes, boy, did they stay tackled! Heyneke Meyer later revealed that Alberts probably shouldn’t have played ... only underlined his commitment to the cause here.
Francois Louw 6.5
Surrenders a full point on my card for another unusual lapse of discipline that caused potentially perilous late sin-binning -- even if his latest “facial contact” incident was really in response to a team-mate being wronged seconds earlier in that way. Otherwise, terrific once again in pilfering department.
Flip van der Merwe 7
Stepped up as senior lineout customer after early loss of his starting partner, but this was also one of his most industrious Tests generally since his conversion to the No 5 role. Mobility as well as strength is needed in that role, and he gave it.
Eben Etzebeth 6.5
Was piling into collisions promisingly and showing usual strong leg drive before his ankle injury in first quarter. Boks lost their most athletic lineout lock, though his veteran replacement (see below!) played admirably.
Coenie Oosthuizen 8
The most influential eight-man shoves were all South African, including one or two bonus heels against the head, and the first-time starter at No 3 played his part enormously. For his size, he also charged around determinedly and made a couple of track-back tackles or ankle-taps on flying Frenchmen.
Bismarck du Plessis 6
Not his best Test, by any means, though his mere, muscular presence is always worth its weight in gold and he got a couple of trademark, stand-up turnovers. Gave away a penalty and, like last week as a sub at Murrayfield, battled too often to find his targets at the lineout.
Tendai Mtawarira 6.5
One of the busiest Bok forwards defensively as pumped-up France tried to mount a head of steam early on, and suitably resilient against formidable Nicholas Mas in the scrums.
Bakkies Botha 7
The old warhorse is back: Botha was both physical and provocative in his extended game-time against some foes he’ll know well from the French Top 14, and when called upon for clean lineout takes (not always a collective hallmark) he delivered too.
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