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By Johan Ackermann

Coach and former player

Johan Ackermann: Bok pair rise to the occasion

A tough time awaits the Bok coaches when they have to select the matchday-23 for the quarter-finals.

The Springbok coaches would have been most interested in the performances of two players in the match against Tonga — Deon Fourie and Handre Pollard. And both delivered on the big stage, no doubt to the relief of the Bok coaching team and playing squad — and all South African rugby fans.

Fourie was for me the standout player and the major positive in the big win in Marseille on Sunday. He’s going to be a vital player in the next game and needed a big confidence-boosting outing at hooker, and he got it.

His set-piece play was excellent and the coaches can now pick him as Bongi Mbonambi’s backup without a worry. And the bonus is Fourie is so good on the ground; any time as dangerous stealing ball and winning penalties at the breakdown as Malcolm Marx is.

Flyhalf depth

Pollard was very solid and so composed and calm in everything he did, which is also good news. His defence was strong and obviously he kicked well … and Manie Libbok also looked so good again when he entered the action.

Good luck to the coaches deciding on who to start and bring off the bench in the quarterfinals, but what a strong position the Boks are now in at No 10.

I also thought Duane Vermeulen and Eben Etzebeth played good physical roles in a hard match and at the back Cobus Reinach and Andre Esterhuizen were excellent.

Cobus Reinach
Cobus Reinach. Picture: Juan Jose Gasparini/Gallo Images

You just can’t keep Reinach out of the action; he keeps the defence guessing and on their toes and for me he could easily be a starter in the quarter-final. Esterhuizen too; he’s so strong, gives the Boks momentum and front foot ball, and sucks in several defenders, opening spaces outside him. So he’s in with a shout of playing in the next game.

Kwagga Smith was also good again coming off the bench; he makes an impact every time he plays. The only down side really was the injury picked up by Makazole Mapimpi, which is sad because he has been back to his best recently and would have been an option going forward.

Solid test

Overall, it was a job well done by the Boks.

Tonga were always going to ask a lot of questions in the early stages and the Boks did brilliantly to keep them out in the first quarter. Some of the Bok defence was outstanding, in the scrums and lineouts and stopping the big men, and almost every time the Boks made a 22m entry they got points on the board and piled the pressure on Tonga.

That sort of test would have done the team the world of good, ahead of a big quarter-final, which I’m convinced the Boks will be involved in.

I can’t see Ireland losing to Scotland and even if they do, Scotland are unlikely to pick up a bonus point and Ireland two.

The Boks’ skill, intensity and power was again a highlight for me against Tonga and it’s sure to test whoever they come up against in the quarter-finals.