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Springboks player ratings vs England | Autumn Nation Series

By Daniel Gallan
Kurt-Lee Arendse - PA

Springboks player ratings: Jacques Nienaber and his captain Siya Kolisi spent all week answering questions about social media conduct, the aesthetics of a box kick and the joy in a rolling maul. If this wasn’t the last of their four Tests on this European tour, they’d be fielding completely different queries.

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The Springboks were magnificent tonight. They steamrolled England, just as they did three years ago in Yokohama when they lifted the World Cup. Back then they weren’t fancied. They were playing an England team buoyed by their own performance against the New Zealand All Blacks. Rassie Erasmus was in the news. Recognise the parallels.

OK, maybe that’s a tenuous link. But it’s hard not to draw comparisons with events from the past because this felt like a throwback of sorts. This was a display worthy of the Springboks’ world champion status. If they can replicate this seven times in France next year, they’ll keep their crown.

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Here’s how we rated the 23 at Twickenham.

15. Willie le Roux – 9
Has South Africa ever had a better fullback? Maybe. Perhaps definitely. But it would be hard to find a more important fullback to the South African cause. His composure and nous from broken and structured play serves as a catalyst for almost every backline spark. It was Damian Willemse who launched the counterattack for Kurt-Lee Arendse’s breathtaking score, but, once again, it was le Roux who shifted the final pass. His connection with Willemse is starting to thrum at a tantalising frequency. South Africa’s best player across their four Tests. Substituted for Manie Libbok on 60 minutes.

14. Kurt-Lee Arendse – 9
Danie Gerber. Chester Williams. Kurt-Lee Arendse. Those are the three South Africans who have scored in six consecutive Tests. The first is arguably the greatest Springbok back of all time. The second is an iconic figure and a totem of a transformed democracy. The third, well, he is only seven Tests into a career that is making the pinnacle of this sport look pedestrian.

His step on Marcus Smith to cap off a scintillating counterattack will surely be turned into an NFT. In-out-in-out-and-away. Even fans with the Red Rose tattooed on their chest must have stood up and applauded. It was not just hot-steps and jinking runs. When taking the ball into contact was the right option he did so with courage. Assured under the high ball, brave on defence (where his pace on the rush was so important as the game opened up), this was a standout performance from a remarkable European tour. Off for Canan Moodie on 77 minutes.

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13. Jesse Kriel – 7
A difficult one to score as he hardly touched the ball on attack. But he is such a crucial cog in the Springboks’ defensive machine. The architect of the rush defence, his harrying in midfield stifled England’s fluency.

12. Damian de Allende – 8
Was recently named as the form inside centre by World Rugby at the governing body’s annual awards ceremony and he backed that up with another commanding show. He’s not going to set the heart racing with cute popped passes or delicate dinks off the toe (thankfully he refrained from joining the kicking contest) but what he does deliver is invaluable. That’s hard runs, direct lines and imposing carries. It was his burst that created the space for Eben Etzebeth to burrow over from close range and score.

11. Makazole Mapimpi – 6
Mostly a spectator, the ball didn’t go down his tram line enough for him to exert his influence on the contest. He chased with enthusiasm and performed his defensive duties while also being comfortable under the high ball. Sacrificed for the already substituted Frans Malherbe when Thomas du Toit was red-carded on 62 minutes.

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10. Damian Willemse – 9
Willemse’s most complete performance from No 10. Manie Libbok’s show-stopping cameo against Italy last week exposed Willemse to previously asked questions about his ability to lead a backline. There was never any doubt over his talent. But could he command this Bok team at first receiver?

He answered that tonight. Calm, confident and composed. He slotted two drop goals – the first handed the Springboks the lead for the first time – and he dazzled from broken play. It was his shift and explosion into space that ignited the move for Arendse’s score. Outstanding, even when shifted to fullback.

9. Faf de Klerk – 7
An absolute nuisance throughout. He produced some quality moments but was so erratic that one wonders if even he knew what he was about to do. Mostly accurate with his box kicks and off the tee, he contributed 11 points despite missing some shots at goal by a metaphorical mile. Left the field on a stretcher on 72 minutes and was replaced by Jaden Hendrikse.

1. Ox Nche – 7
He’s shorter than most scrum halves and yet scrums like a rampaging bull. His height (or lack of it) poses a unique challenge for the opposing front row. A solid game both in the loose and from set-piece. Off for Steven Kitshoff on 45 minutes.

2. Bongi Mbonambi – 7
Much improved at the line-out, his confidence throwing the ball back in was shown when he went to the back of the set-piece within touching distance of the England line. Strong on defence and with ball in hand, this was his best performance on the tour. Substituted for Malcolm Marx on 45 minutes.

3. Frans Malherbe – 9
A monster in the scrum, it was his brute strength and impeccable technique that forced Eddie Jones to change his entire front row at halftime. Folded Mako Vunipola on three occasions (once erroneously penalised) and got involved in loose play as well. When two-thirds of the front row was substituted, he stayed on. Was eventually substituted for Thomas du Toit on 57 minutes and then came back on once du Toit was red carded on the hour mark.

4. Eben Etzebeth – 8
Snubbed by World Rugby in their best XV of the year, the towering terror from Tygerburg was immense. Scored a try from close range which capped off a performance that seemed to irk the English pack, once provoking a shoving match as the Springboks exerted control. Contributed around the park with some bone-crunching tackles and sucked in numerous defenders when he cantered to the line. Got the better of Maro Itoje in their ongoing personal duel.

5. Marvin Orie – 7
Commanded the South African line-out like a veteran. Once again stood up amidst an injury crisis in the second row. This was a performance that will please the Springboks coaching staff. Off for Kwagga Smith on 45 minutes.

6. Siya Kolisi – 7
A bustling performance from the skipper. Showed courage when he asked de Klerk to kick to the corner with the teams locked at 3-3. It was that sort of gumption that drove his charges forward in a bruising match. Becomes the first South African captain to win at England’s home of rugby since 2014. Also completed 90% of his tackles and secured an important steal on the ground. Taken off for a HIA on 72 minutes for the already substituted Evan Roos.

7. Franco Mostert – 9
Mister versatile. Offered heft in the back row before adding guile to the second row. Just does the basics and does them well. Adds flexibility to the Springboks pack. When he puts in a shift the rest tend to follow. Nicked the odd line-out (one right on his own line) and clattered anything that came near him. Amazon’s player of the match. No complaints here.

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8. Evan Roos – 6
Flattened Marcus Smith with a thudding tackle and fulfilled the the desires off most South African rugby fans. Carried well and proved that he has the muscle for this level. Substituted for Marco van Staden on 52 minutes and then back on for Kolisi 20 minutes later.

Replacements:

16. Malcom Marx – 8
The king of of the breakdown, the lord of the loose ball, do I need to go on? Bringing Marx off the bench is a cheat code that the Springboks coaching staff have up their sleeve. Just as England were forming an attack inside the Boks 22 with less than 14 minutes to play, Marx gets over the ball and comes up with a relieving penalty.

17. Steven Kitshoff – 6
On for Nche on 45 minutes. Kept the revs up off the bench. A world class scrummager.

18. Thomas du Toit – 0
On for Malheber His unnecessary red card might have cost his team. Not the return to the side that he was hoping for.

19. Marco van Staden – 6
On for Roos on 52 minutes. Didn’t do much wrong, but hasn’t done enough to stay in the match-day 23 once Pieter-Steph du Toit returns.

20. Kwagga Smith – 8
On for Orie on 45 minutes. Wakes up in the morning with criticisms over his size. Goes to bed knowing he’s as monstrous as anyone on the park. Another fantastic performance that mixed speed and strength.

21. Jaden Hendrikse – 6
On for the injured de Klerk on 72 minutes. Just had to see the game out. Did so.

22. Manie Libbok – 7
On for le Roux on 60 minutes. The game was starting to open up when he entered the scene. Continued where he left off last week with some edge of the seat gallops and deliciously weighted passes.

23. Canan Moodie – N/A
On for Arendse with three minutes to play.

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