World Cup bouquets and brickbats
OPINION: The Springboks are about to embark on a five-day trophy tour – a celebration of their momentous win in Japan.
@rugby365com feels this is an opportune time to hand out some bouquets and brickbats – our traditional post-tournament awards.
These accolades may well differ from the official honours bestowed upon the players by World Rugby.
However, our panel has always had a more perceptive view of the game.
Here we go!
Player of the tournament
Yes, Pieter-Steph du Toit was the deserved winner of World Rugby’s gong – while Michael Leitch, Semi Radradra, Tom Curry, Alun Wyn Jones, Cheslin Kolbe and Ardie Savea are also worthy of a mention. However, we feel Springbok captain Siyamthanda Kolisi did not get enough love for the way he grew into his role as captain and player during the tournament. Not the best player when it all started out in September, but by the time the Final rolled around he was leading from the front.
Forward of the tournament
Again, the likes of Michael Leitch, Tom Curry, Alun Wyn Jones and Ardie Savea are in the running. Our award goes to Pieter-Steph du Toit – with 27 carries, 52 metres made, two clean breaks, five defenders beaten and 61 tackles (85 percent success rate).
Back of the tournament
Again there are a host of candidates – Handre Pollard, Makazole Mapimpi, Beauden Barrett, Romain Ntamack, Kotaro Matsushima and Semi Radradra. Then there was Wales flyer Josh Adams, with his 390 metres and seven tries from 52 carries. We opted for the Springboks’ pocket-rocket Cheslin Kolbe – who managed 285 metres in his 24 carries, 28 tackles (88 percent success rate) and three tries, none more impressive than his score in the Final.
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Coach of the Tournament
Jamie Joseph, Warren Gatland and Eddie Jones are all worthy ‘nominations’. Our award goes to Rassie Erasmus – who started out 18 months ago and achieved just a 50 percent success rate in 2018. However, it was the clinical performances in the play-offs at the World Cup that tells the story of a master plan that came to fruition.
Try of the tournament
We are sure we may have missed a few crackers in the process, but near the top of the list is the Springboks two tries in the Final – the sheer brilliance of both, the skill and execution make them worthy. Cobus Reinach’s try against Canada – when he busted the line, kicked, regathered was something special as well. Then there was Keita Inagaki against Scotland, an irresistible team effort by Japan. Four players, three offloads, seven beaten tacklers, finished off by a prop. However, for the most audacious must be Thomas Perenara’s score against Namibia – a mind-boggling finish after a delightful buildup and required several reviews by the TMO to confirm the score, his entire body out of play in the air, except the arm to put it down. It was the kind of try that explains why New Zealand is so often lauded for doing things other teams cannot.
Match of the Tournament
Again, so many to choose from. There was England’s performance against New Zealand, Japan versus Scotland and Japan versus Ireland. And an honourable mention must go to Uruguay’s win over Fiji. Our award goes to South Africa’s 32-12 demolition of England in the Final – one of the most clinical and entertaining performances by the Boks in many years – not to mention the most significant win in the last 12 years. To quote acclaimed New Zealand coaching guru Adrian Kennedy: “I think the performance of the Boks in the Final was their best performance I have ever seen.”
Argentina must rate as the tournament’s biggest disappointment, not even getting close to the play-offs. Ireland also arrived with high hopes and failed to deliver. After their impressive demolition of New Zealand, England’s fans would be disappointed in their team’s performance against South Africa in the Final – and the media certainly did not hold back either. However, we feel the biggest disappointment was the boardroom bickering that surrounded the cancellation and potential cancellation of matches during the height of Typhoon Hagibis – when Scottish officials displayed their petulance while Japan was dealing with a disaster that killed 80 people.
Sad to see you go
Amongst all the drama, the cancellation of the Italy versus New Zealand match meant legendary loose forward Sergio Parisse’s career ended off-the-field and not on it. Other notable retirees include Schalk Brits, Tendai Mtawarira and Kieran Read (although the latter will go on to ‘collect a pension’ in Japan. Ben Smith, Liam Squire and Sonny Bill Williams have also announced they will quit the international scene after the tournament. Coaches who quit the Test scene include Steve Hansen and Michael Cheika.
France lock Sebastien Vahaamahina, who has subsequently retired from Test rugby, produced one of the most ignominious acts in World Cup history – an elbow to the face of Wales back row Aaron Wainwright. France had led Wales and looked to be in control of the quarterfinal. His red card saw Wales come back to claim a one-point win.
No doubt the doofus of the tournament award goes to Wales assistant coach Rob Howley, who literally got caught with his hands in the cookie jar. He was expelled from the World Cup before it had even started because of betting violations. The type of betting has yet to be confirmed, but he was exposed by a bookmaker – no doubt one that lost money through his illegal acts.
Best anthem singer
There were many emotional moments at many players poured their hearts out in the pre-match shows. However, no singing ‘contest’ will ever be complete without a Welshman in the running. Our winner – Welsh captain Alun Wyn Jones.
Most touching sight
The little Japanese boy holding the hand of tall Alun Wyn Jones and singing the Welsh anthem in Welsh.
Most respectful moments
The silence before each match to honour the typhoon victims – real silence.
Most disrespectful moment
Watching the petulant England players whipping off their silver medals after being presented with them.
The sight of Springbok scrumhalf Francois de Klerk in his budgie smuggler (in the colours of the South African flag) approaching Prince Harry in the changing room after the Final.