Examining the pros and cons from the Boks' performance against Tonga

Examining the pros and cons from the Boks' performance against Tonga

It was a great night for the Springboks in Marseille as they did what they needed to do against Tonga and all but got the job done in Pool B, but not everything went according to plan.

Thankfully, there were far more pros than cons for the Boks on the night, so let's start by looking at everything that went right for Jacques Nienaber's men.


A great night for Pollard - and Libbok

Tension over the Springboks' wonky goal-kicking has generated a lot of headlines in recent weeks - particularly after the loss against Ireland, so the coaches must have been delighted by both Handre Pollard and Manie Libbok's 100% record on the night.

All eyes were on Pollard as he lined up his first kick at goal from a tricky angle and slotted it straight over without missing a beat - despite having been away from the Springbok team for more than a year. The World Cup-winning flyhalf would go on to slot three more kicks with an air of calmness and confidence for a perfect 100% record.

Even better, when Libbok came on to replace Pollard in the second half, he picked up straight where Pollard left off, nailing all three of his kicks at goal to help ease Springbok fans' fears over that aspect of their play as the quarter-finals loom.

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Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that all the Boks' kicking problems are now solved, but it definitely bodes well for the future.

Meanwhile, it was also a pretty good night for Pollard in other aspects of his game, as he barely put a foot wrong in marshalling the Boks' backline troops.

Whether Pollard comes into the starting line-up for the quarter-finals or perhaps comes along as cover on the bench should the need arise, the Boks now have a welcome additional option as they plot their way through the remainder of the tournament.

Also a great night for Fourie - and Van Staden

The other major box the Boks were hoping to tick against Ireland was to see Deon Fourie enjoy a good night at hooker, as he is now the second choice No 2 behind Bongi Mbonambi following the injury to Malcolm Marx.

Fourie could hardly have enjoyed a better night, winning 12 of his 13 lineouts with accurate throws and also enjoying a busy night around the park, notching up 11 tackles and three turnovers while gaining 19 metres from his 13 carries and passing on three occasions.

That was good enough to walk away with the Man-of-the-Match award and will go a long way towards easing fears over the vital role he will have to play going forward.

Marko van Staden also came on in the second half and looked very composed, winning five of his six lineouts, to help ease fears about his third-choice hooker role.

Both men also held up well in the scrum, which gradually grew more dominant as the match progressed.


Defence a bit leaky

As impressive as Tonga were on Sunday night, the Springboks would not have been happy to give away 18 points, and if there was any cause for concern from the match, it would have been their defensive effort.

Tonga seemed to get around the Boks' rush defence on a number of occasions by holding the ball up in the midfield and waiting for the defensive line to narrow before shifting it out wide. At other times, they simply went straight through via their powerful forwards, or stayed patient and waited for a gap to open up, as was the case with Fine Inisi's second-half try.

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South Africa only gave away 16 points in their previous three matches in the World Cup - so it was a surprise to see them ship 18 against the Tongans.

Worryingly, Tonga's performance may have given other teams some ideas when it comes to beating the Bok defence.

It's worth mentioning, though, that the Boks' defensive personnel was a bit different on this occasion, which might have made the rush defence easier to penetrate.

A nasty injury for Mapimpi

Unfortunately, it was not a great night for Bok winger Makezole Mapimpi, who came off second-best in a head-high tackle from a Tongan player and ended up with a fractured cheekbone.

It was a sad and early ending to the night for Mapimpi, who was hoping to impress the Bok coaches and stake one final claim for selection in the knockout stages.

As it turns out, the powerful speedster might not play another match in this year's World Cup, which would be a tough blow for him and his legion of fans.

By Mike Schmitt

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