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South Africa player ratings vs Ireland | Rugby World Cup 2023

By Daniel Gallan
Cheslin Kolbe of South Africa looks dejected after defeat to Ireland during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between South Africa and Ireland at Stade de France on September 23, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

South Africa gave as good as they got and were it not for some very wayward goal kicking they might have won this. However, if Springboks fans are honest, they wouldn’t have deserved it as they fell 13-8 to Ireland at the Stade de France.


Ireland were dominant at the breakdown as South Africa struggled to match their accuracy and intensity at this important meeting point on the pitch.

Some slick work from a handful of backs and mighty shows from members of the tight five kept it a contest. But a largely anonymous back row and an inability to convert chances into points cost them. They live to fight another day in the tournament. They won’t get another freebie again.

15 – Damian Willemse – 8
Mostly very good. His sharp footwork always seemed to create the extra yard needed to work a move. Slipped tacklers, fielded high balls and hoofed some raking fields across the park. Might have been more incisive when joining the line, and would have been a welcome sight at first receiver more often, but got involved enough to leave a lingering impression.

14 – Kurt-Lee Arendse – 6
Mostly asked to chase high kicks or join the attack as a runner against the grain. He’s just not that sort of winger. Only beat one defender all evening as he ran into traffic time and again. Either the Springboks need to change the way they use him or bring in a harder ball-carrier like Makazole Mapimpi for the knockouts.

13 – Jesse Kriel – 5
Made one charge off of first phase ball and was through a gap on 24 minutes and tidied up an Irish hack deep into Springbok’s territory, but was otherwise a soft presence on the pitch. He tried to off-load to Kolisi when holding on would have been the wiser option. That ended South Africa’s most sustained period of dominance in the first half. One wonders what might have been had he shown more patience.

12 – Damian de Allende – 8
Even in a match involving Bundee Aki, de Allende was a monster in the midfield. Apparently only carried five times but it felt like a lot more. Several runs would be better described as rampaging charges that flattened would-be Ireland tacklers. Garry Ringrose and Johnny Sexton were both run over in the first half and he continued to hammer the line every chance he got. Also played a key hand in Kolbe’s try as he looped round and fed Mani Libbok to his left. One of his more dominant displays for some time.


11 – Cheslin Kolbe – 6
Scored an easy try down the left and went looking for work throughout. It wasn’t a game for hot-stepping wingers but whenever he was called upon, he delivered. Assured under the high ball as well.

10 – Manie Libbok – 5
Have you heard the one about the mercurial Springboks 10 who plays delicious floated passes to set up tries in the corner but can’t kick his goals? Sure you have. It’s been the Manie Libbok story ever since he made his debut. A wonderful try assist on the wraparound for Cheslin Kolbe will win many fantasy points, but his inaccuracy at the tee cost his team the match. It will be tough on him if he has to make way for Handre Pollard in the next round, but only the most romantic among us would argue against that move.

9 – Faf de Klerk – 7
Made an error with his first contribution of any importance, sailing a wild pass for Cheslin Kolbe on the left wing shortly after kick-off, but soon regained his composure. Controlled the tempo well and unfurled a variety of different kicks from hand that each suited the situation. Measured and effervescent all at once. Replaced by Cobus Reinach with six minutes to go.

1 – Steven Kitshoff – 7
A crucial scrum penalty win at the scrum five metres from his own line was a standout contribution. Tadgh Furlong is one of the best around but he managed to hold his own, proving his value. Also stepped up to make 10 tackles. Switched for Ox Nche on 48 minutes.


2 – Bongi Mbonambi – 6
Accurate at the line-out and resolute on defence, but lacked the requisite grunt needed from a South African hooker when charging towards the gainline. That he failed to make one clean break is a damning statistic. Replaced by Deon Fourie on 65 minutes.

3 – Frans Malherbe – 8
A rock at set-piece. It was his shove in the scrum that set the platform for Kolbe’s try. Replaced by Trevor Nyakane on 62 minutes.

4 – Eben Etzebeth – 7
Someone please find out what runs this man’s engine. Whatever it is, if we could harness its power we’d solve South Africa’s energy crisis. Never stopped working. Seemed to hit every ruck and put his large frame where Ireland least wanted it. Subbed for Jean Kleyn on 48 minutes.

5 – Franco Mostert – 7
Played a central role in disrupting Ireland’s line-out in the first half. Was a nuisance throughout the set piece and a reliable target himself. A decent shift from the versatile second-rower. Replaced by RG Snyman on 48 minutes.

6 – Siya Kolisi – 5
A flank is so busy that one pundit might consider them the player of the match while another might consider him a flop. Depending on what each observer is looking at they can both be right. Kolisi made 12 tackles, more than anyone else by the time he left the field on 51 minutes for Marco van Staden. He carried five times and won a turnover. But, during his stint, Ireland bossed the breakdown. As this was always going to be where this game was won or lost, and as this is a crucial KPI for any loose forward, it’s hard not to cast a critical eye at the Springboks talismanic captain.

7 – Pieter-Steph du Doit – 5
Industrious and energetic as always. Still, all that huff and puff never really materialised into anything tangible or of much worth.

Du Toit was a physical presence around the fringe. He flattened Johnny Sexton and procured an important turnover on his opposite number, Josh van der Flier. But he, along with those closets to him, were tasked with bossing the breakdown.

8 – Jasper Wiese – 6
This was arguably his most important game in a Springboks jersey. He wasn’t poor but nor was he outstanding. A bit of a meh performance when his team needed more. Replaced by Kwagga Smith on 48 minutes.

16 – Deon Fourie – 6
Ably stepped up and hit his line-outs. Mostly asked to defend when brought on.

17 – Ox Nche – 8
Smarter observers of the game might be able to name a front-rower in world rugby who has improved more over the last two years than Nche, but none come to mind right now. An excellent performance.

18 – Trevor Nyakane – 8
Not for the first time he entered the scene and immediately won a scrum penalty. Strong carries and tidy hands. A really asset to the Bomb Squad.

19 – Jean Kleyn – 6
Was handy when he joined the party to take on his old pals. Didn’t leave a mark but also gave a decent account during his cameo.

20 – RG Snyman – 7
Some noticeable charges throughout he guts and secure at set-piece. Helped maintain the energy of the tight five.

21 – Marco van Staden – 6
Wasn’t able to raise the tempo at the breakdown when introduced.

22 – Kwagga Smith – 7
Outstanding counter ruck. His introduction injected much needed intensity at the breakdown. Strong carries too.

23 – Cobus Reinach – N/A


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