FOR someone who probably shouldn't have played in the last two Tests of the three-Test end-of-year tour, Springbok flank Willem Alberts left quite a mark in Europe.
He injured his shoulder in the first match against Wales, was doubtful to play against Scotland but aided his team's cause in the first half, before earning the man of the match award against France.
"Willem shouldn't have played," revealed Bok coach Heyneke Meyer. "It was 50-50 until just before the game. To come up with that performance shows the character of the team."
Alberts comes into his own in heavier underfoot conditions and his performances on this tour, fitness permitting, should go a long way towards securing his place for the next World Cup.
Alberts is an established star, however. Meyer felt that fullback Willie le Roux announced himself properly on the international stage this season.
"The find of the tour is Willie," said Meyer. "I always wanted an attacking fullback. Tactically he has been good as well."
Le Roux came on as a substitute in the 17th minute against Wales and never looked back.
While Zane Kirchner was the coach's No1 not too long ago, Le Roux has now usurped him.
"Willie I always believed was the best fullback, but he couldn't kick the ball and he couldn't catch the high ball. Suddenly - and a lot more quickly than I thought possible - his tactical kicking is great and he is fantastic under the high ball."
"When I got Pat he was playing so deep. The other coaches started working with him and it got better. I really hope he can become a great 10 and that the Sharks play him there."
Meyer at various stages this year spoke of the threat of insomnia if established tighthead Jannie du Plessis got injured.
"I always thought I'd never sleep if Jannie got injured, but Frans Malherbe came through and Coenie [Oosthuizen] came through brilliantly. Suddenly we have three tightheads.
"Five and three were always my problem, but Flip [Van der Merwe] has improved there and we have Pieter-Steph du Toit."
The latter, however, is a work in progress. Belief will soon have to form part of his make-up.
Back-up in that area remains a concern for Meyer, as does the men in reserve at scrumhalf.
"We need a young third scrumhalf coming through. There are a lot of good ones but no exceptional ones," said the coach.
Louis Schreuder was the third scrumhalf on tour, but he could have been better deployed giving the Bok bus a wash and a buff.
With the two established scrumhalves both foreign-based, Meyer will be desperate to get a locally based player.