Springbok player ratings: Etzebeth, Vermeulen shine again, Marx lifted physicality in Twickenham defeat
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Cape Town – It was a case of so near and yet so far for the Springboks as a number of missed opportunities and a couple of kicks at goal saw them go down 27-26 to England at Twickenham on Saturday.
It was arguably a case of South Africa losing it more than England winning it, and while it won’t make up for their 2019 Rugby World Cup final defeat, the home side pulled off their second win in a row over the Boks at Twickenham, having won 12-11 in 2018.
Here is how we rated the Boks…
Willie le Roux: 6
Showed good bravery in claiming the kickoffs and high balls under immense pressure. Brought good width to the Bok attack a few times. But the longer the game went on, Le Roux started to make a few errors, and made way for Frans Steyn.
Jesse Kriel: 6
Ran hard whenever he got the ball, which wasn’t often enough. Tackled well, and scrambled across in defence a few times and picked up the scraps to clean things up.
Lukhanyo Am: 7
The highlight of his game was the try-scoring pass in the tackle to Makazole Mapimpi. Kept the England defence busy on attack. Allowed England too much space with ball-in-hand in the first half.
Damian de Allende: 8
Made some powerful runs up the middle in the first half, sending would-be tacklers flying backwards. Solid as usual in defence, and pulled off a lovely back-handed offload to Siya Kolisi.
Makazole Mapimpi: 8
Continued his impressive try-scoring feats with his 20th touchdown in 25 Tests, walking over off a superb Am pass. Chased box-kicks and kickoffs with great hunger, and contested the breakdowns too.
Handré Pollard: 6
Slotted four penalties to keep the Boks in touch with England, but then missed two more shots at goal. Slipped a few times when kicking to touch, and generally didn’t stamp his authority on the match. Relied too much on Reinach to relieve pressure with the boot.
Cobus Reinach: 6
Had a few quick darts around the fringes early on. Tried to take the heat off Pollard with box-kicks from the base, but overdid it, and kicked it too far a few times. Needed to get more speed into the Bok attack instead of organising the forwards around him, and allowed England scrumhalf Ben Youngs to operate in too much space.
Duane Vermeulen: 9
Colossal display from the Bok No 8 – not far off his Man-of-the-Match 2019 World Cup final performance. Commanding in the lineouts, got the maul going eventually, was a menace at the breakdown.
Kwagga Smith: 7
Held up over the tryline after a number of carries from the Boks. Typically busy around the fringes, picking up loose balls and tackling any Englishman that moved.
Siya Kolisi (captain): 7
Arguably his best Test of 2021 until losing a point for conceding an unfortunate yellow card with five minutes to go, where he was adjudged to have tackled Joe Marchant in the air, while he felt he was going for the ball. Was a threat in the wide channels again with ball-in-hand, and made a powerful charge to run over England flyhalf Marcus Smith in midfield.
"It's been a tough year for everyone. There are many people who have lost jobs, lost family members. And we have the great opportunity of playing this game."@SiyaKolisi reflects on his side's defeat to England and their #AutumnNationsSeries campaign. #ENGvRSA pic.twitter.com/GrwgHNu7Vn— Autumn Nations Series (@autumnnations) November 20, 2021
Lood de Jager: 6
As the Bok lineout-caller, has to take some responsibility for the missed lineouts in the first half. Wasn’t as visible in general play as usual, but added his weight in the scrums and mauls.
Eben Etzebeth: 9
Yet another line-break in the second half makes you wonder if Etzebeth wasn’t a centre previously. Always physical, Etzebeth has taken his game to a new level this year with his contributions in the loose – willing ball-carrier, monster defender, and chasing kicks!
Trevor Nyakane: 6
Wasn’t able to get the initial scrum dominance as in previous Tests, but by the end of the first half, he was on top of opposite number Bevan Rodd. Got in the way of a Reinach pass to Pollard, but luckily the Boks scrambled well in their 22.
Bongi Mbonambi: 5
Missed his lineout jumpers a few times by throwing over the top, especially on attack. The Bok scrum and maul also couldn’t get going for most of the first half.
Ox Nché: 7
It took a while, but he eventually got the better of England tighthead Kyle Sinckler in the scrums. Was a lively presence in the tight-loose, and made a memorable hit on England No 1 Bevan Rodd.
Malcolm Marx: 8
Lifted the Boks’ physical effort when he came on early in the second half with the rest of the ‘Bomb Squad’ front row. Accurate in the lineouts, got stuck in at the breakdowns and carried the ball smartly too.