Well, well, well. That was a tale of two halves. I read a lot about how the Boks upped their game in the second half and how poor they were in the first half. True they were but what was really at the root of the Bok problem in the first half?
One thing was sure about the game, and especially after the second time I watched it. Barnes had a shocker… again… surprise, surprise! He seemed to do a lot of guessing and taking in to account how the penalties were blown it seems that only one arm worked and that was the left one.
In the first half both teams struggled to find any rhythm and it was easy to see why. Both teams were struggling to play the way Barnes was adjudicating. Why is that you ask? Easy, because Barnes was all over the place. Non of his decisions had any consistency to them. His handling of the ruck was a prime example. Bodies were on the ground, or players were holding or suddenly daylight wasn’t given, even though the player in question was the arriving player and not the tackler. It was a lottery, I know it generally is but quality refs tend to stick to a formula that teams can suss out and then play to, and in Barnes there was none of that.
Nothing was more clear in Barnes’ inability to control a match than when the handing out of handbags started. He stood off to one side and let the show carry on. He wasn’t interested in keeping discipline. Yes he gave two yellow cards in the game. One was a dangerous tackle and merits could be made for the awarding of the card but Heaslip getting a yellow for what wasn’t even a repeated offence was a bit strange.
So why did the Boks improve in the second half? Simple, they started playing the ref and not the laws. This allowed the Bok forwards to gain the ascendancy they needed and shut out the Irish.
Now don’t get me wrong here. I am not saying that only the Boks were blown up by Barnes. He was pretty harsh on the Irish as well. How someone like Barnes is even allowed to be an international ref after all his blunders escapes me, and I don’t mean in just this match. He has been shocking almost every time he has reffed a game.
Anyway, this is how I rate the Bok performance for Saturday’s clash against the Irish:
15 Zane Kirchner – 6
It was a solid showing at the back once again but the man still lacks the ability to create an attacking opportunity from the back. I wish he would stop prancing around and just take the ball in full flight into contact if need be. At least he’ll gain metres and not get tackled back.
14 JP Pietersen – 6
Despite that one miss-timed tackle JP had a solid game and a few good runs. The man is clearly in the mood for rugby!
13 Jaco Taute – 6
Still not my first choice 13 but he got better as the game got on. Still I think Juan de Jongh’s fleet-footedness could have come in handy. Taute was much better in his defensive channels this time around.
12 Jean de Villiers – 6.5
Definitely one of Jean’s better games in a long while. Maybe the small break from Currie Cup duty did him good. Took the ball up well. Would still like to see him try and link up with his back line players more.
11 Francois Hougaard – 5
Another quiet game from the once vibrant and slippery player. He needs to find his mojo quick because I fear time might be running out for the man. Give him an impact role when the game is more open. Maybe then he can win back some confidence.
10 Patrick Lambie – 6
The mercurial Lambie didn’t get to do much in the first half and did look a bit out of sorts but produced a much better display in the second. His kicking out of hand wasn’t to good either and I put that down to nerves. He knows he is playing for his rugby life under Meyer.
9 Ruan Pienaar – 7
Ruan produced one of his most mature games in a while. I think getting an extended run at 9 is helping his confidence grow.
8 Duane Vermuelen – 6.5
Stole one or two balls and tackled very well. Would just like to see him link up with the backs a bit more.
7 Willem Alberts – 6.5
Not at his rampaging best but still a solid game. Tackled very well and made them feel it.
6 Francois Louw – 7.5
This man is proving to be talismanic. Slow down opposition ball and is a menace on the ground. Great cover defence too.
5 Juandré Kruger – 5.5
Had a quiet game. His forte is the line out and he has usually been an excellent stealer of the ball but wasn’t as effective as he can be. Also disappeared a little in certain stages when the game got tight.
4 Eben Etzebeth – 7
This kid will be a legend one day if he can carry on like this. Extremely strong and stole a few line out balls.
3 Jannie du Plessis – 6
Someone should give the doc a rest. He has had a massive season and keeps chugging along. Another solid performance but he could do with a breather.
2 Adriaan Strauss – 8
He had a massive game. One of his best. I am sure playing opposite his cousin gave him extra incentive and it showed. Played very well and was all over the park.
1 CJ van der Linde – 6
I was worried when it was decided he would start. I have never rated CJ as a strong scrummager but he was solid. Good game
16 Schalk Brits – wasn’t used
17 Pat Cilliers – 6
This man had a good game. Scrummed well and really threw himself into tackles.
18 Heinke van der Merwe – 6.5
Really showed his power in one scrum and played a pleasing game with the time he had on the field.
19 Flip van der Merwe – 6.5
If there is one person this year who has made me swallow my words it is Flip. He is really showing good growth and ever since he has “calmed down” and shown controlled aggression, he is playing some good rugby.
20 Marcell Coetzee – 6.5
This kid looked like he was on speed. Threw himself into everything and had one monster tackle.
21 Morné Steyn – wasn’t used
22 Juan de Jongh – wasn’t used
23 Lwazi Mvovo – wasn’t used
I do find it interesting that no substitutions were made in the back line, especially Hougaard as he wasn’t having his best outing again.