Fresh impetus from World Cup rookies like Kurt-Lee Arendse and proven veteran power saw the Springboks start their title defence with a solid 18-3 win over Scotland in Marseille on Sunday, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
South Africa controlled the potentially tricky Pool B clash from start to finish, remaining patient after leading just 6-3 at halftime.
The reward for their first-half dominance came in the second as they turned on the power, took their opportunities better to score two tries and shut out the Scots.
Our top three Springbok standouts were:
With most of the stars of the triumphant 2019 campaign in Japan powering the title defence in France, it’s important for the fresh faces in the squad to not only carry their own weight but bring something new to the table.
All three of the World Cup rookies in the starting line-up, namely Arendse, Manie Libbok and Jasper Wiese, did exactly that, announcing their arrivals on rugby’s biggest stage in style.
Arendse was outstanding in all aspects and was ultimately the one who stood tall in his David versus Goliath battle against Duane van der Merwe.
He was a giant killer on defence, not allowing his herculean South African-born opponent to get going, and also made a try-saving intervention when he shut down a big overlap and ate a shoulder charge from Finn Russell for his efforts.
Electric on attack, KLA ran for 54 metres from five carries and coolly collected Libbok’s no-look crosskick to score a cracking try, while he was good in the air as well, including when he forced Blair Kinghorn to knock early on.
The only World Cup rookie in the starting pack brought the fire and physicality to put his stamp on proceedings. In combat sports, there’s pound-for-pound rankings; when one takes a similar look at who maximised their time on the pitch – minute-by-minute if you will – you’ll find Wiese at the top of the list.
The hard-working No 8 set the tone by sacking Ben White, consistently committed two defenders with his attacking surges and was flawless defensively in his 60-minute showing. His power and tackle fight saw him beat four defenders and make 38 metres from nine carries, the most by a Springbok forward.
Only three Boks, Franco Mostert (11), Siya Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit (both 7), made more tackles than the six he executed at a 100% clip, one of which was a big hit on another South African import in Pierre Schoeman, while arguably his best contribution was the counter-ruck that led to Arendse’s try.
Pieter-Steph du Toit
Libbok, with his playmaking swagger highlighted by THAT no-look kick pass, came away with the Man of the Match award, but his three missed kicks at goal counted against him in our ratings.
Instead, Mr Consistency and one of the stalwarts of the side powered onto the podium with another stellar all-around shift. The 2019 World Player of the Year showed his class over the full 80 minutes and delivered the all-important breakthrough when he stormed over for the opening try five minutes into the second half.
He made 26 metres in all from six carries, his big defensive display included two turnovers, while he also featured in the lineout, securing three takes.