Siya Kolisi turned the improbable into the incredible as the Springboks walloped Wales 52-16 in their penultimate World Cup warm-up match at Principality Stadium on Saturday, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
The world champions dominated the Cardiff clash, scoring four tries in each half as they put the diluted Dragons to the sword. Even more pleasing than the record rout was the fact South Africa came through the contest unscathed.
Our top three Springbok standouts were:
Kolisi had no right to be on the Cardiff turf. The serious knee injury he suffered while playing for the Sharks against Munster in a United Rugby Championship match and subsequent surgery had threatened to rule him out of the World Cup.
Through a combination of sheer will and what the Springbok captain believes was divine intervention, Kolisi defied doctors’ expectations as he recovered in record time – 119 days to be exact – to return against the Welsh.
His comeback could not have gone any better. Always a terror in the trams, his excellent offload to put Malcolm Marx over for the opening try was the ideal psychological boost and set in motion a magnificent 40-minute return.
Kolisi was notably confident taking contact and shifted through the gears with no reservations. He was right back to barging over the advantage line, clattered into rucks and covered acres of space on defence, looking like a lion hunting a gazelle when he tracked back over 20 metres to bring down Cai Evans.
A comeback fit for a king, it was both incredible and incredibly important to the Boks’ hopes of retaining the Webb Ellis Cup.
Another crucial performance in the broader context, Kriel stepped up and had one of his best games in the green and gold to allay fears that the Bok backline could implode without the genius and defensive generalship of the injured Lukhanyo Am, who’s less fortunate than Kolisi and set to miss the global showpiece.
Kriel was not only commanding but dynamic as well, working his socks off and being rewarded with a brace of tries. It’s that high work rate that saw him grab a gift of a first five-pointer, while he also got to show off his speed for a change, first in pursuit of a Cheslin Kolbe kick and then in running home his second try following Pieter-Steph du Toit’s intercept.
Strong defensively, including making good reads, it was a complete cracker from Kriel that inspired hope.
Pieter-Steph du Toit
Speaking of Du Toit, he’s been very good this season and was back to his brilliant best here.
Ultra-industrious in an ironman effort, he carried relentlessly, led the tackle count from a South African perspective and would’ve had a brace of his own had he not been held up in the 68th minute.
His brilliant intercept was a 14-point swing that snuffed the last bit of life out of the Dragons and his determination was clear when he stretched over for his try.
If the Bok coaches had any doubts over who to start at No 7 between Du Toit and Franco Mostert in the World Cup opener against Scotland, the 2019 World Player of the Year made the decision for them with his Principality Stadium stampede.