Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Rugby: Bok to the drawing board

Patrick Lambie looked impressive. Photo / Getty Images
Patrick Lambie looked impressive. Photo / Getty Images

On the evidence presented, it is difficult to know how many of last night's South African team will play a prominent part at the World Cup. After a flaky start, the 'Baby Boks' showed some resolve to work their way back into the match but were still beaten by 33 points, on a night when Dan Carter left his kicking boots at home.

The opening quarter was not so much Springbok - more Bok choy - as they showed little resistance to a rampant All Black start. But just like last week, when they found their feet there were some positive signs for the men in green.

They were always going to struggle defensively, but their backline showed some enterprise and pace while there were moments of genuine muscle in the forwards.

John Smit had a forgettable start, dumped off by Jimmy Cowan for the first try and giving away some early penalties. He bounced back to score a true captain's try near the posts but then missed Cory Jane first up.

He remains an inspirational captain but is probably three years past his peak as a player. It leaves the Springbok hierarchy with an unenviable dilemma: does Smit's mana as captain compensate for the fact that he is not the best player in his position?

Morne Steyn is another regular whose place is open to question. His remarkable run of 39 consecutive successful attempts at goal in the Tri Nations - dating back to 2009 - came to an end with an early miss and he failed to convince at fullback. However, the hunch remains that he might be the best bet at No 10 in the rainy days of September and October.

Second five Juan de Jongh showed experience beyond his years to hold up Ma'a Nonu in the second half when he seemed certain to score and impressed with some direct running, as did centre partner Adi Jacobs.

The highly touted Patrick Lambie reminds one of a young James O'Connor and bears a physical resemblance to the Hurricanes' Beauden Barrett. He impressed last week in a second-half cameo and built on that last night. His passing was misguided at times and he was caught out on defence on more than one occasion. However his courage and tackling technique could not be criticised.

At one point he stopped a rampaging Nonu in his tracks with a textbook ankle grab. The 20-year-old has already been slated as a future Boks captain - and may yet be a key figure at the big show. For a debutant, rangy lock Gerhard Mostert showed he had the right stuff.

At nearly 2m tall and 117kg he can be hard to stop and did not shirk confrontations. Danie Rossouw was solid at the back of the scrum, and worked hard in the pack that was dominated for large periods of the match.

Halfback Ruan Pienaar had his usual busy game, and caused problems for the All Blacks with some direct running.

Replacement hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle showed uncommon pace to burst through the middle of the New Zealand defence and was even mistaken for a winger at one point by the match commentator.

- Herald on Sunday

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