South Africa A suffered a disappointing 17-14 loss against the Bulls a week away from the first Test against the British & Irish Lions. CRAIG LEWIS looks past the result to rate some of the top SA A performers.
In the context of the imminent three-Test series against the Lions, the focus of these ratings centre around the Bok squad members, although it was Johan Goosen for the Bulls who was a fully deserving man of the match.
Cobus Reinach 8
It’s clear that that the 31-year-old has elevated himself to a position of scrumhalf backup for Faf de Klerk in the Test series. Reinach kicked well out of hand, his service was solid, while his neat break to set up a try for Aphelele Fassi was vintage play. His speed and solid all-round play puts him in a very similar mould to De Klerk, and the Boks would lose very little if he had to don the No 9 jersey.
Aphelele Fassi 8
After a dream Test debut against Georgia, Fassi this time enjoyed a memorable hit-out in his preferred position at fullback. He cruised like a Rolls-Royce from fullback, racking up 72 metres, seven carries and five gainline successes before being replaced. Fassi is quickly emerging as the standout newcomer during this pre-Test period.
Damian de Allende 7
The burly centre doesn’t just add physicality to the midfield, but also has the ability to compete at the breakdown or to counter-ruck effectively. There’s a big gap between De Allende and the next best option for the Boks at inside centre, making him one of the most integral players ahead of the Test series.
Jean-Luc du Preez 7
This wasn’t the sort of game where a whole lot of SA A players stood out as they did against the British & Irish Lions on Wednesday, but I have a sneaky suspicion that the Bok coaches will like what they see in Du Preez. The versatile forward somehow recovered from what initially looked like it could be a serious knee injury in the first half, and produced a generally industrious performance. He is physical, mobile, and a momentum stopper on defence.
Bulls standout performers
Prior to this game, Bulls coach Jake White raved about what he had seen from new recruit Johan Goosen (9/10), reiterating that he was a “phenomenal rugby player” who had all the attributes to earn a recall to the Springbok squad in the near future. As if on cue, the 28-year-old produced a standout performance against SA A, controlling proceedings superbly, getting real distance on his exit kicks and then displaying some magic with ball in hand to inspire the Bulls’ comeback.
It was also a fantastic game for big lock Walt Steenkamp (7/10), who got through a mountain of work, racking up the ball carries and displaying fearless physicality.