Many errors, but many lessons learned in Springbok Showdown. It may have been a bit much to expect a group of players who came together a few days earlier for their second game in six months to produce a spectacle worthy of the name Springbok showdown, but at least the Bok management gained some valuable insight at Newlands on Saturday afternoon.
Two teams that had a handful of training sessions together, showed a lot of intent in front of an empty stadium but made countless errors to push the match into a stop-start affair. For the record, the Green team won 25-9 in the end.
While it may have been disappointing for many who were hoping for a Barbarians spectacle, a bit of perspective would remind many that for the majority of players out in the middle it was only their second game in six months. For some, it was their first.
Still, the mistakes apparent would have been disappointing for a match of this stature, especially given the talent on the field, but anyone who has sat through some pre-season fixtures of the Super Rugby franchises would have been well-aware of how common these mistakes are.
NOT THE KIND OF FANFARE WE SAW IN NEW ZEALAND A MONTH AGO And that, to be honest, is what this game was. A second match back on the field since the Covid-19 disruption was never going to bring a fanfare such as we saw in the New Zealand north-south game a month ago. That game, while wonderful for the enterprising rugby that it produced, was played after a full domestic Aotearoa season and with players with many minutes under their belts. The opposite was true at Newlands. Many of the players will be better next week, and even better a week later with more game time under their belts. But it did also remind us that the Springboks’ chances of going to the Rugby Championship are slim, to say the least and a good argument of being underdone can be made on the evidence of Saturday afternoon.
LURE OF A STRONG DOMESTIC SEASON And the lure of a strong domestic season looks more and more likely with the Springboks playing for the remainder of the season. There were some interesting cameos, most notably the scrum battle between Steven Kitshoff and Luan de Bruin that caught the eye, but little else in a first-half really mattered.
Damian Willemse’s day would be one he would rather have forgotten, a few missed line kicks, three missed penalty shots and a penalty try that saw him get a yellow card wasn’t much of an afternoon for the youngster. At least the Bok management knows Willemse is so much more than his performance on the day, so little will be read into the performance. The yellow card and penalty try came from a break where Yaw Penxe was pulled back by Willemse, and it wasn’t a tough decision for the television match official to have.
A FAST ROLLING MAUL The Green side’s second try was a fast-rolling maul where JJ van der Mescht took the ball at the front, evaded the first tackle and the maul rumbled to the try-line, with Siya Kolisi twisting infield to score. The third try was a bit of a fluke, with the ball hitting JD Schickerling on the head from a kick, spouting forward and evading the Gold players, bouncing perfectly for Juarno Augustus to score. And while the result never mattered, it was more the time in camp, the game time on the field, and the Springbok culture that was the winners here.
SCORERS: Green team – Tries Penalty try, Siya Kolisi, Juarno Augustus. Conversions: Kade Wolhuter Penalties: Elton Jantjies (2) Gold team – penalties: Damian Willemse, Curwin Bosch (2).