Credit to the players for actually wanting to play in front of no-one at Newlands. The concept of the match – to honour Newlands through the best local players – was beautiful. The execution was brutal on the eye. This was a turgid eighty minutes to observe, but a terrific 80 minutes in game time as the South Africa prepares for the Rugby Championship.
Last week’s Vodacom Fans’ Day at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria was cool because the four Super Rugby franchises had trained together and understood each other. Saturday’s Super Bok showdown, which effectively was a trial match for the Rugby Championship, was awful for the television spectator. The biggest plus is that two squads got game time and some got 80 minutes.
The positive of the day was South Africa’s best local players got to get another 80 minutes of contact, but my goodness sport professionally only survives because of the fans. If not, it would just be the most laborious of practice matches.
It was excruciating watching the warm-up and only marginally less painful watching the 80 minutes.
But as I keep on stressing this wasn’t about anything other than the players’ getting some game time.
The Green team won 25-9.
In the SA Rugby Mag Moneyman show earlier in the week I called the Green to beat the Gold. Why?
Rassie Erasmus was the commissioner of the Green Team.
There was a trademark Erasmus moment when the Green Team scored from a static lineout take and maul.
And despite all the hoo-hah of this being a match for players to showcase their skill set, it was a match in which few players wanted to make any mistakes. These blokes were playing for a national squad call-up and -righty or wrongly – they never wanted to make mistakes.
The two respective squads had two training sessions together and it looked like they had never met each other.
What makes any Barbarians-type match so comfortable to watch is that the blokes play with no expectation, no pressure and they play in front of a decent crowd.
At Newlands there was individual expectation, pressure and no crowd-induced adrenaline.
The Green Team won and we learned very little from the match.
Green Team No 8 Duane Vermeulen is a monster, Gold Team front ranker Steven Kitshoff is among the best loose-head props in world rugby and the jury is still out on Damian Willemse.
I am such a fan of Willemse, having watched him from his formative days at Paul Roos, but the more I watch him the more I see a Carlos Spencer-type talent; brilliant with what he can do but so circumspect in when he does it in the biggest moments internationally.
Willemse kicked one from four, got yellow-carded and made more mistakes than he made good decisions.
He did this playing in front of no-one.
I want him to succeed but currently he may be the type of player that goes to Europe, excels, is the highest paid player in world rugby and rarely plays international rugby.
He has work to do.
What Saturday also showed is how much the Boks need a good handful of players who are based overseas.
The South African public is so desperate for rugby and everyone wants to just rave about the World Cup success and why there has to be positivity about Bok rugby, but those who played at Newlands on Saturday would have taken a beating against teams who have had more rugby.
Appreciate, the Rugby Championship is going to be rough.
Vermeulen was the standout, Kitshoff was a machine, Siya Kolisi had his moments, Frans Steyn is a class act and I liked the intent of former Paarl Boys High fullback Gianni Lombard at fullback.
Individually, there were few standouts but collectively what was to savour is that the boys just got through the match.
For all match reaction, visit SA Rugby Magazine.
Springbok Green – Try: Penalty try, Siya Kolisi, Juarno Augustus. Conversion: Kade Wolhuter. Penalties: Elton Jantjies (2).
Springbok Gold – Penalties: Damian Willemse, Curwin Bosch (2).
Springbok Green – 15 Gianni Lombard, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Malcolm Jaer, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Schalk Erasmus, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 JJ van der Mescht, 20 Juarno Augustus, 21 Junior Pokomela, 22 Embrose Papier, 23 Manie Libbok, 24 Jeremy Ward, 25 Kade Wolhuter.
Springbok Gold – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Rosko Specman, 13 Lukhanyo Am (c), 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Nizaam Carr, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Dylan Richardson, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Carlü Sadie, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 James Venter, 21 Vincent Tshituka, 22 Ivan van Zyl, 23 Curwin Bosch, 24 Werner Kok, 25 Manuel Rass.