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The Roar


All Blacks vs Springboks: The players who stood out and the players who should be stood down

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Roar Rookie
17th July, 2023
6263 Reads

You have to wonder at the Springbok psyche sometimes. The Boks love an underdog tag, as World Champions though that is often a contradiction in terms. But the raw truth is that when the Boks are backed against the wall, and facing great odds, they perform. Not so when the sentiment has them coming in as “favourites”.

Perhaps that plays a part in the drastically different games that have happened across the last two weekends.

Bok “B” in Pretoria, lambasted the Wallabies in a controlled, tight and ferocious match.
Bok “A”, was a bit hapless and a bit hopeless as evidenced by the missed tackles, and the dropped balls.

Referee aside, players who are generally top performers ended up missing in action. That’s a function of pressure from the All Blacks, both on the scoreboard and also in the pace of the game.

This game was a great clash of styles, reminiscent of the early 2010s match ups with two competing styles.

The AB’s were clinical at times, ferocious in the first 20 and damaging in unstructured counterattack.



1. Aaron Smith. The hype around Frizell and Jordan is warranted, but put a lens on Smith if you have a rewatch and observe a masterclass. His clearance at ruck was excellent, his speed around the park was the standout feature in his play. Lastly his contribution towards speeding up the game and looking for penalties when the springbok line fractured was brilliant.

2. Shannon Frizell. Let’s hope he can back this performance. Yes, it had shades of Kaino/Vito but he is his own man, Frizell has pace aplenty along with the size to be a wrecking ball. Willie le Roux won’t forget him soon.

3. Will Jordan. Broken play hero. Helped along by the fact that Mapimpi is renowned for coming off his wing and getting lost in space. His target identification was excellent as he smartly picked out the front rowers to attack towards.

4. Richie Mo’unga. Calm, classy, cool and collected. Would be a great pick for the next James Bond. Skinned Willemse at the end to score.

5. Tamaiti Williams. It’s hard to come out on debut against arguably the world’s strongest front row and he didn’t disappoint. He’s no shrinking violet.


6. Faf de Klerk. Perhaps unfairly criticized, Faf was blown by having to make so many tackles – which he shouldn’t have had to, almost ran down Frizell before he steamrolled le Roux. Set up Kolbe with that contentious crosskick. He made errors, but those were a symptom of him over working to compensate for the lack of performers around him.

7. Cheslin Kolbe. Industrious and dangerous on attack. Great players turn something out of nothing and Kolbe has that, inherently limited by the lack of ball, but scored one try which could have been two.

Stand downs

1. Damian Willemse. It’s always been obvious that he is a fullback. Willemse was so poor that Willie le Roux took over directing the play from 10 on attack. Libbok was there, the brave choice was to stem the bleed and put him on. Let Mo’unga in for a try at the death to add insult to injury.

2. Bongi Mbonambi. He’ll be back to his best, but he had a shocker. His three early missed tackles resulted in the ABs running amok. His misread led to Jordan going through to put Frizell in for the 2nd try.

3. Kwagga Smith. Showed some promise at the end by breaking out to score, but he does not displace the mass to justify a starting berth. He is a finisher, and a great one at that.

4. Jasper Wiese. Handling errors epitomized his evening. Wiese has blown hot and cold, generally getting better as his experience increases, but he was practically absent in this performance.


5. Makazole Mapimpi. He is a finisher, and a great one, that’s really all. Everyone knows the pattern – if he is on the wing, you attack that wing. Got caught jamming in on a number of times, leaving Jordan in space to create havoc.

6. Jacques Nienaber’s appetite for risk. If you are going to make risky calls and play people out of position, you need to account for the chance that it doesn’t work. Could have stopped the bleed early by putting on Libbok, Marx and Vermeulen.