by Ben Coles
A TESTING tournament for Heyneke Meyer’s new Springboks saw them ultimately finish in third spot, their draw with Argentina earlier in the tournament keeping them out of second place.
It is no secret that South Africa are rebuilding after the golden generation that captured the Rugby World Cup in 2007 departed last Autumn for Japan, France and retirement. The transition however has not gone smoothly.
For so long Morné Steyn has been one of the game’s greatest marksmen, predictably slotting penalties that more often than not and winning plenty of fixtures for the Springboks. In The Rugby Championship however, he was woeful.
Johan Goosen has been touted as the next great South African fly-half for some time and he did enough against Australia and New Zealand to suggest that he is the man for the future. The fact that he has been ruled out for six months following groin surgery this week means however that Morné’s time will come again.
Whilst Bryan Habana may have repeatedly crossed the whitewash, South Africa continued to waste gilt-edged scoring opportunities at an alarming rate. In fact, Habana scored more tries than the rest of his teammates combined – seven to five.
A lot of the blame for this falls at the feet of Steyn’s excessive kicking and poor game management. The pack were competitive as always, with Bath flanker Francois Louw and Eben Etzebeth (headbutt aside) particularly impressing, meaning the platform was there but the execution wasn’t. Their defence remains typically robust, but not at it’s earth-shattering best. The potential is there for the Springboks to become a force again but Meyer knows his squad need plenty of fine-tuning.
How they will fare in the November Internationals will doubtless be a focus of national debate.
Star Player: Bryan Habana
The Rugby Championship marked the renaissance of Bryan Habana. Once the world’s greatest winger, his time has come again as his try-scoring prowess returned to haunt all three opposing nations, totting up a total of seven tries to leave him two clear of the rest of the pack. After JP Pietersen enjoyed a similar return to form in the Summer Tests against England, it was fitting that his old partner in attack showed the predatory instincts of old.
Rising Talent: Johan Goosen
Despite only playing 150 minutes of Test Rugby, Goosen showed enough to show he could be something special. His performances for the Cheetahs before a serious shoulder injury highlighted his talent and at just 20 years of age he could be inked in to play for the Springboks over the next decade. While Morné Steyn is renowned for mercilessly pumping balls up into the sky, Goosen’s fluid running style, game awareness with his varied passing game offers a positive glimpse of the future for the Boks.
Follow Ben Coles on Twitter @bencoles_
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