The best and the worst: 10 highlights of the Springboks’ 2022 season

After a year of ups and downs for the Springboks, the 2022 season came to a close on a high with an emphatic win over England at Twickenham on Saturday evening.

Look back on the year, we make our top picks.

Player of the Season — Damian Willemse

Willemse enjoyed a brilliant year for the Boks and made himself an integral member of the team, after years of being on the fringes of the squad. He started the year as the team’s starting fullback and ended it as the first choice flyhalf. His best games were arguably against Australia in Sydney and against England at Twickenham.

Best forward — Eben Etzebeth

A tough pick between the hulking lock and unsung hero Frans Malherbe, but after another fantastic season Etzebeth shaves it. He is just such a massive presence in the Bok setup and is the team’s de facto enforcer. Etzebeth may have been snubbed by World Rugby again, but every Bok supporter knows how integral he is to the team’s success.

Best back — Lukhanyo Am

Bok awards Am
Lukhanyo Am in action against Australia before injury ended his season. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Despite playing in just five of the Springboks’ 13 games this season, Am was picked as one of the nominees for World Rugby’s player of the year. That just goes to show what an immense season he was having up until he was injured against Australia in Adelaide, with him producing star performances against Wales and the All Blacks.

Breakout star — Kurt-Lee Arendse

Arendse has burst onto the Springbok scene in spectacular style, and has scored seven tries in his first seven games. The one blip on his season was a red card against the All Blacks, which saw him banned for four weeks, but he returned to establish himself as the Boks’ starting number 11 on the end-of-year-tour.

Try of the season — Kurt-Lee Arendse against England

There were a number of brilliant tries for the Boks this season, including Canan Moodie’s debut score, while Makazole Mapimpi scored what could have been the best try against the All Blacks only for it to be chalked off. But Arendse’s effort against England, started by Damian Willemse and ending with the wing swerving around Marcus Smith, gets the nod.

Feel-good moment

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi and Damian Willemse paid a visit to Argentinean club side San Isidro ahead of their Rugby Championship clash in Buenos Aires. They were given club jerseys and enjoyed some wonderful interactions with the crowd that had turned out to watch the club match.

Biggest scandal

Elton Jantjies just couldn’t stay out of the press for all of the wrong reasons. After an incident on a flight saw him arrested before the season started, he was then allegedly embroiled in an affair with Bok dietician Zeenat Simjee during a rendezvous in Mbombela, which may have ended the flyhalf’s Springbok career.

Bok awards 2022
Elton Jantjies was in the news for all the wrong reasons in 2022. Picture: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

Ref howler of the year

It was another poor year for referees, with World Rugby putting their heads in the sand again, while SA Rugby Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus didn’t learn his lesson, earning himself a second ban. But Wayne Barnes missing a clear double movement for France’s important try against the Boks and losing contact with the TMO at such a vital time was the biggest howler of the season.

Best win — All Blacks in Mbombela

Bok awards Mbombela
Willie le Roux celebrates scoring a try against the All Blacks, with team-mates Jaden Hendrikse and Damian Willemse nearby. Picture: Gordon Arons/Gallo Images

The Boks had a number of candidates for best win, including their demolition of Italy, their smashing of England and their thumping of Wales in Cape Town. But a dominant win against their biggest rivals, in front of a fervent home crowd for the first time since 2019, takes the cake, and it couldn’t get any sweeter.

Worst defeat — Australia in Adelaide

The Boks’ 25-17 loss against Australia in Adelaide effectively ended their chances of clinching the Rugby Championship, as the All Blacks moved into the pound seats. It was also a dismal performance, where they were beaten in all aspects by a heavily depleted Australian side, with the scoreline padded by two late tries in the last 10 minutes by Kwagga Smith.

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