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Springboks player ratings vs France | Autumn Nation Series

By Daniel Gallan
(Photo by Clement Mahoudeau/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Some of you will balk at the numbers posted below. A few may even assume that the Springboks came out on top of a thrilling encounter that proved once again that we are in a golden age of rugby union.

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Harsher critics than this one would be tempted to eviscerate the losing side with damning scores. But that would present a dishonest account of a performance that the vanquished visitors to Marseille can be proud of.

For 46 of the 80 minutes the world champions played with a man short against the team that must now surely be the undisputed top dog in the world. World Rugby’s rankings may have them higher, but France have now beaten South Africa, New Zealand (twice), Australia and every team in Europe across a 12 match winning streak.

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So, at the risk of skewing perceptions and upturning convention, here are the Bok player ratings:

15. Willie le Roux – 8

Whether off the boot or out of hand, he had the ball on a string. South Africa’s most dynamic and enterprising first receiver by some distance, his ability to read space and analyse a defensive line on the move is unrivalled. His flat pass try assist for Kurt-Lee Arendse was through the eye of a needle. Brilliant.

14. Cheslin Kolbe – 7

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Started the game by being run over by Thomas Ramos but grew as it went on, eventually putting Anthony Jelonch on his backside with a barnstorming carry. Deprived of the ball for periods of the arm wrestle, he nonetheless lit the place up when he touched it. He also kicked well off the tee to keep South Africa’s score ticking. His night ended on 47 minutes when he was bumped in the air by Antoine Dupont and landed on his neck. It looked nasty, and the French talisman received a red card. But Kolbe was alright and the pair embraced after the game. Replaced by Makazole Mapimpi.

13. Jesse Kriel – 5

An aggressive defender who follows instructions well enough, but when his team needed a spark to turn the tide they never looked to the man at outside centre. Lukhanyo Am can’t come back soon enough. Replaced for Manie Libbok with four minutes to go.

12. Damian de Allende – 6

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An all-round performance from a dependable, if unspectacular player who does the hard graft in midfield. When Pieter-Steph du Toit was given his marching orders, De Allende helped out in the scrum. With fewer bodies across the park, he occasionally popped up on the wing. He should probably refrain from kicking though.

11. Kurt-Lee Arendse – 7

Showed immense strength when he finished in the corner, riding a challenge on the touchline to give his team a sniff. Also brought down the much larger Sekou Macalou with two brilliantly timed chop tackles. Eyebrows were raised when Mapimpi was benched. They’ve now been lowered.

10. Damian Willemse – 5

Not terrible, but not exactly spell binding either. After last week’s showing, and with Le Roux running the show, Willemse was content to keep things simple. He occasionally got out his dancing shoes, but more or less resisted the urge to dazzle. He did slot what must be a contender for the noisiest kick ever attempted. The big screen at the Velodrome asked the spectators to ‘respect the kicker’. They didn’t, and instead showered Willemse in a blanket of boos on 63 minutes. They were silenced when the ball sailed over from 40m.

9. Faf de Klerk – 6

Expertly hoisted the ball in the air on several occasions, placing the French back three under immense pressure. A scrum-half for the big occasion, De Klerk marshalled his team around the park with great authority. Was a nuisance in the face of Dupont and also kicked well at goal, with the odd cross-kick thrown in the mix. Off for Cobus Reinach after 60 minutes.

1. Ox Nche – 6

Was brushed off by Cyril Baille for the opening try but made amends by winning a scrum penalty inside his own 22. It was the second time in the first half he got the better of Uini Atonio. Off for Steven Kitshoff on 50 minutes.

2.  Bongi Mbonambi – 4

One of the key tasks of any hooker is to find your line-out jumper. That is especially true when you’re playing for a team that relies on its maul. On that front, Mbonambi had a stinker. On two occasions he failed to find his man in the air with the feed deep in French territory. He did so again, this time a little further back. When the Springboks won a penalty on the half way line and then hoofed it into touch, Mbonambi left the field for an HIA. Malcom Marx came on and instantly hit his target. The ensuing maul led to a try for Siya Kolisi. If only the previous line-outs in the red zone had worked. Off for Marx on 50 minutes.

3.  Frans Malherbe – 5

Solid without offering too much to write about, good or bad. A decent effort in the face of a hefty French pack.

4. Eben Etzebeth – 8

Immense, towering, destructive. He stepped up when his team needed a beacon. One of the most consistently impressive performers in the world game for the last two years, he surely hasn’t put on a show as mighty as that one.

5. Franco Mostert – 5

It’s unfair to contrast those who played with those who didn’t, but we were given further proof of the value of a proper line-out jumper and the importance of Lood de Jager’s presence in the team. Conceded two penalties and made two clumsy handling errors.  He did though make an important tackle on Dupont when the little maestro spotted a half gap in sight of the Bok try.

6. Siya Kolisi – 7

Possibly at fault for the French try as he stepped early and created the space for Cyril Baille to score, but responded with a five pointer of his with his team down a man, splintering from the maul and scoring under the posts. From there he was brilliant, covering every blade of grass, calling on his charges to dig deeper. A commendable display from the skipper. Off for Marvin Orie on 69 minutes.

7. Pieter-Steph du Toit – 2

A post-match review will determine whether or not he had enough time to stop himself before flying into Jonathan Danty’s head with his own. The replays in the immediate aftermath suggested that he could have avoided contact, though he did have the full force of Damian de Allende driving him forward after a nudge from Kwagga Smith. Either way, he was rightly given his marching orders. And though he was having a good game ’til that point, involved in several passing moves and carrying well, his error left his teammates with a mountain to climb.

8. Kwagga Smith – 6

With du Toit sent off, Smith had to do some heavy lifting at the base of the pack. He’s not the largest No. 8 in International rugby (he may even be the smallest) but he could be the smartest. His desire to target space rather than contact poses a different challenge. But greater heft was required. He simply couldn’t give it. Off for Deon Fourie on 60 minutes.

Replacements:

16. Malcom Marx – 6 –  On as a permanent replacement for Bongi Mbonambi on 50 minutes after a brief stint following an HIA. He stepped onto the field and was handed the ball for a line-out seven metres from the French try line. The partisan crowd was baying behind him. No problem for a man with ice in his bulging veins. Marx was inch perfect and then joined the monstrous maul. It drove forward and splintered with Kolisi diving over unappeased. It was just one throw, but it earned Marx a good score here.

17. Steven Kitshoff – 5 – On for Frans Malherbe on 50 minutes. A few busting carries but couldn’t exert pressure on a tiring French front row shorn of their first choicers.

18. Vincent Koch – 5 – On for Ox Nche on 50 minutes. Much like Kitshoff. Conceded a penalty and tackled with force when asked to do so.

19. Marvin Orie – 5 – On for Kolisi with 11 minutes to go to add height to the pack when Deon Fourie was sin-binned. Barely impacted the game.

20. Deon Fourie – 5 – On for Kwagga Smith on 60 minutes. Yellow carded with 10 minutes left as collective punishment for repeated infringements in trying to stop the French maul. Failed to influence proceedings enough.

21. Cobus Reinach – 5 On for Faf de Klerk on 60 minutes. Kept the spark going but couldn’t replicate De Klerk’s zip from the boot. A few misplaced kicks put his team under pressure.

22. Manie Libbok – N/A – On for Kriel. Imagine he came on and kicked the winning points?

23. Makazole Mapimpi – 5 – On for the injured Kolbe on 47 minutes. Looked eager to prove he’s no bench warmer. Almost held on top a deft cross field kick into space.

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