Siya Kolisi led by example as the Springboks got their Rugby Championship campaign back on track with a commanding 24-8 win over the Wallabies in Sydney on Saturday, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
South Africa brought unstoppable intensity and brutality to the table to break a nine-year drought Down Under and arrest a two-match losing skid.
Our top three Springbok standouts were:
The Springbok captain pleaded with supporters in the week not to give up on the team after their disappointing back-to-back defeats and he personified the passion, physicality, desire, desperation and domination that saw South Africa come good so emphatically at Allianz Stadium.
It’s the mark of a great leader, the ability to dig down deep, come to the fore, and lead by example when his team’s back is against the wall. Kolisi was colossal…full of fire and brimstone. He understood the importance of upping the intensity, physicality, and work rate whilst playing with greater focus and tactical precision.
Taking ownership, he moved away from his usual roaming style and honed in on the ball instead. It proved to be a game-changing tactical shift as he won three terrific turnovers – a jackal penalty in the 11th minute, a second snatch in his half four minutes later, and the third in Australia’s 22 in the 62nd minute.
The breakdown had been one of the areas in which the Springboks were outgunned in Adelaide and Kolisi showed he has the technique, smarts, and strength to be a poacher when he puts a premium on this all-important aspect of play. Each steal was a major shot in the arm for the man himself, which flowed over into the other facets of his game and inspired his troops.
It was one of Kolisi’s most physically dominant displays as well. He was a runaway freight train with ball in hand (seven carries for 21 metres), clattering into Hunter Paisami in a collision that forced the Wallabies centre off for an HIA and later breaking the tackles of Reece Hodge and Allan Alaalatoa.
The hunger and hustle of his 70-minute rager were summed up when he broke Hodge’s tackle in the trams, offloaded to Steven Kitshoff, and desperately dove onto a loose ball moments later and kept play alive, which led to Franco Mostert’s try. A truly talismanic performance.
Like his captain, fellow back-rower Wiese was all attitude and aggression. He outworked and overpowered all on both sides of the ball in a power hour in which he proved a point, that being he’s the form No 8 in the current squad.
The embodiment of blunt-force trauma, his brutal ability to win just about every collision he’s involved in is undoubtedly his greatest strength and it was on full display. So, too, was his motor, a combination that made him a relentless smashing machine that made unrivalled carries (13 for 22 metres while beating four defenders).
Moreover, he made all seven of his tackles, feasted off scraps – pouncing on an unprotected ball at a ruck – and more importantly, showed his lesser-seen skill when he got a key offload away in the sweeping movement that resulted in Mostert’s five-pointer.
Canan Moodie produced the moment of the match when he leapt over Marika Koroibete to pluck Jaden Hendrikse’s pinpoint kick out of the air and race in for a spectacular maiden Test try. It was the highlight of a satisfactory debut by the second-youngest Springbok in the professional era and a sign of big things to come from the 19-year-old.
Hendrikse continued his strong season, sparking the opening try and forcing Matt Philip to concede a yellow card with a quick tap in addition to the perfect bomb for Moodie while making some good low tackles and bravely sticking his head into a few rucks to slow the ball down.
His halfback partner Damian Willemse did a lot of good things on attack, dancing past a number of would-be tacklers in the lead-up to the opening try and creating a line break with a beautiful offload to Lood de Jager but erred with the boot. As a stop-gap flyhalf, the coaches will be happy with how he went.
However, Marx was the very foundation that allowed the Springboks to fire with his composure and accuracy in the lineouts. It’s such a big part of the Boks’ game and for the first time since the tournament-opening win over the All Blacks, their lineout and driving maul functioned smoothly and provided momentum.
As always, his work rate was high (seven carries and 11 tackles) and he applied big pressure at the breakdown as well.