On a bright Monday morning, I look back on a weekend where the rugby gods smiled on me and the teams I support.
On Saturday morning at 09:35 SA Time, the New Zealand All Blacks and Argentinian Pumas met at the Waikato Stadium, Hamilton in wether which was never going to suit high-scoring running rugby, with wind and rain pelting down. The All Blacks won a tough encounter against a spirited Pumas side by 28 / 13.
A bit later, at 12:05 SA Time the Australian Wallabies and South African Springboks met in Brisbane, in perfect weather for rugby. By the end of this game the Wallabies would have given anything to rather have played in attrocious weather conditions, because the Springboks hammered, destroyed… and educated the Wallabies, setting up the biggest win against the Wallabies by a Springbok team in Australia of all time, the final score Springboks 38 / 12, a margin of 26 points!
Wallabies (6) 12 / 38 (16) Springboks:
The Springboks produced their most complete performance of this millennium as they demolished Australia 38 / 2 in their Castle Lager Rugby Championship match to record their biggest-ever win on Australian soil on Saturday night.
It was also the most complete performance under coach Heyneke Meyer and smashed the Suncorp Stadium hoodoo, giving them their first win at the stadium and the first win in Brisbane since 1937. It was also the first time Australia had not scored a try against the Boks in 12 years, and beats South Africa’s previous biggest victory in Australia – the 18 / 6 win in 1971.
But this wasn’t just a victory, it was a hiding. It was a collective bullying of an Australian side that has been bad before, but has always managed to find a way to punish the Boks in Australia.
Perhaps they are worse than before – the scoreline surely suggests it – and perhaps coach Ewen McKenzie’s job is much greater in getting them back after losing to the Lions and All Blacks this season. But to say that would probably do the Boks an injustice, as they controlled every facet of the game, dominated the breakdown and nullified the Australian attacking weapons with such ease that it was amazing to watch.
There are special moments in Springbok rugby and few will beat their World Cup victories, but as wins go this is one to be savoured. It is to be celebrated and it is to be treasured. It will send out a massive warning to the rest of world rugby and create a mouth-watering showdown with World Champions New Zealand in Auckland next week.
On a night where there were droves of heroes, nobody stood out more clearly than the Bok loose trio. Working in tandem, operating on pure physicality and armed with some exceptional breakdown skills, they pummeled the Wallabies at the breakdown.
Had Willem Alberts not blotted his copybook with a yellow card for a slap down and kicking away the ball afterwards it would have been the perfect performance.
Up front the Australia scrum creaked so much that, while George Clancy allowed the Wallabies leeway, eventually something had to give. The scrumming lesson will be one that will be etched into the Wallaby minds for years to come and has set a massive benchmark for this Bok team.
And then there were the individuals. Start with Bismarck du Plessis who set the tone in the first few rucks with a big steal and followed it up by imposing himself wherever the Wallabies didn’t want him to be.
Add to that some stellar work by Ruan Pienaar and Morne Steyn’s dead-shot kicking and stir in the calm influence of an in-form Jean de Villiers. Even Zane Kirchner, who was written off by so many people in the week, produced exactly what the coach asked from him. Positionally he was perfect, and he answered his critics with a perfect try at the end.
It was a night where the Boks crafted a sensational win and it underlined the fact that when the pack get it right, they have no equal in world rugby.
And the Boks couldn’t have asked for a better start with Coenie Oosthuizen crashing over in the fifth minute after Tendai Mtawarira peeled off an early lineout close to the line to put them 7 / 0 up.
Alberts’s moment of madness came four minutes later, and it allowed Christian Lealiifano to put Australia on the board with a penalty. And while Australia had territorial dominance in those ten minutes, they couldn’t bend the Bok defence. They certainly were nowhere near breaking it, with Steyn claiming the three points back to make it 10 / 3 when Alberts was back on the field.
There were moments where the Boks could have taken the game away in the first half – Willie le Roux went close before halftime, and Duane Vermeulen almost intercepted on the half hour.
And while the dominance up front was there, the Boks only led 16 / 9 just after halftime with memories of the Wallabies’ second-half comeback in Perth last year still fresh in their minds.
It wasn’t to come.
The Boks found another gear and shifted into overdrive. With that much pressure for so long something had to give.
The wall came tumbling down in the form of flanker Michael Hooper, whose tip tackle on Bryan Habana after the whistle had gone cost him a yellow card, and with it any chance Australia had of getting themselves out of the hole the Boks had put them in.
The incident happened after the whistle, so whether Hooper deserved a yellow is debatable, but either way the Boks happily accepted the gift.
Three tries in the last 20 minutes sealed the deal, starting with a brilliant turnover by Francois Louw, which sent Habana flying down the sideline. His chip was collected by Juandre Kruger and the recycled ball allowed Jean de Villiers to saunter in for the try.
Thereafter came two moments of pure beauty. The first when the Boks bashed their way up for five phases before Pienaar switched direction and sent a perfect long pass to Willie le Roux on the wing. Le Roux sealed the deal with an inside pass to put Kirchner away to answer his critics in style.
Le Roux got his reward moments later when, in desperation, Quade Cooper’s pass was knocked on, and the turnover ball sent him flying down the touchline for the bonus point.
The Boks ran down the clock with ease to claim the historic victory, but they know next week will be a lot tougher for them.
But for once Brisbane proved to be a sweet place for Springbok rugby. A place where history was rewritten, myths were expunged and where a Bok pack stood up against an old enemy and dominated in style.
It is a moment to savour. But also a moment to remember this team is still on an upward curve. They can and will get better.
And that should be a shuddering thought for opposition the world over.
Australia – Penalties: Christian Lealiifano (4)
South Africa – Tries: Coenie Oosthuizen (1), Jean de Villiers (1), Zane Kirchner (1), Willie le Roux (1). Conversions: Morné Steyn (3), Penalties: Morné Steyn (4).
All Blacks (15) 28 / 13 (10) Pumas:
New Zealand’s All Blacks achieved yet another win in The Rugby Championship with an error-ridden yet somewhat comfortable 28 / 13 win over the Pumas from Argentina, in Hamilton on Saturday.
The All Backs outscored the Pumas by three tries to one at a very wet Waikato Stadium.
However, there is concern over the leg injury suffered by All Black captain Richie McCaw, who hobbled off in the 60th minute and looked very uncomfortable. It appears that teammate Charley Faumuina landed on his skipper in a tackle and twisted his knee into an uncomfortable position. It appears that Richie McCaw should be out for at least 4 or 5 weeks, effectively ruling him out of the remainder of The Rugby Championship.
Replacement prop Wyatt Crockett was also taken off the field with what looked like bad concussion and a few other players looked rather tender after the game.
It was another game in which the opposition showed promise, looked threatening initially, only for the Kiwis to shut the door on them in the second half.
The first scrum was a good indication of the Argentineans’ intent – they were going to go back to their strengths, the set pieces.
They won a few crucial penalties in the scrums, even though they conceded one of their own.
However, their line-outs were not always as secure as their scrums.
With rain coming down early in the match, much heavier than predictions suggested, the Pumas also made liberal use of the boot – with mixed results.
As for New Zealand, they simply stick to what they do best – making the opposition pay for errors through their clinical counter-attacking play and sublime handling. The manner in which they can suddenly just speed up the game continued to trouble allcomers.
While their forwards were under pressure in the scrums, they made life uncomfortable for the Pumas in the line-outs and employed their usual array of tactics to spoil matters for the visitors at the breakdown – often getting penalised.
The most telling aspect was that the Kiwis did not change their approach, despite the treacherous conditions. They still shifted the ball like they would on a dry, afternoon game.
Even with the handling errors mounting, as the rain started coming down even harder in the second half, the All Blacks stuck religiously to their guns.
The first points came from an All Black error, Francis Saili dropping a high bomb and the Pumas quick on the counter, slick handling putting No.8 Juan Manuel Leguizamon going over. Nicolas Sanchez added the extras – 7 / 0 inside five minutes.
A penalty against Eusebio Guiñazú at a ruck/tackle thing allowed Dan carter to open New Zealand’s account in the 11th minute.
Guiñazú was again penalised in the 14th minute, but this time Carter’s attempt bounced off the upright.
The penalty count continued to mount against the Pumas at the breakdown, and after a chat with their captain carter was afforded a third shot at goal – this time pushing it even further wide.
The yellow card was inevitable and it was Guiñazú was sent to the sin bin just past the first quarter mark after yet another infringement.
And the visitors were made to pay a dear price on the scoreboard.
In the space of a couple of minutes they conceded two tries to scrumhalf Aaron Smith. The first came after a miracle off-load from Kieran Read to the scrumhalf, after a patient build-up and the second had its origins in a brilliant break by Dan carter deep inside his own half.
The Pumas managed to arrest the momentum and a Sanchez penalty made it 10 / 15 just before Guiñazú returned to the playing field.
And Argentina hung in there to the break, still trailing by just five points (10 / 15) at halftime.
It was a scrum penalty early in the second half that produced the first scoring chance after the break, Carter slotting the kick for an 18 / 10 lead.
The Pumas, angered by the audacity of the Kiwis to try and outscrum them, demolished the All Blacks at the next scrum and quickly won a kickable penalty. Sanchez made it a five-point game again – 13 / 18 after 53 minutes.
However, the Kiwis made the Pumas pa for another mistake – Kieran read launching the counter, which finished with Julian Savea scoring the try after some quick recycling and great handling. Carter’s conversion put the game beyond the Pumas – 25 / 13, even with another 25 minutes to go.
All that remained was to see if the All Blacks could get the four-try bonus point.
They had their chances, but the conditions saw a number of those slip through their hands … literally.
When Puma captain Juan Martin Fernandez was penalised for holding back an opponent, Beauden Barrett made it 28 / 13, with five minutes left on the clock.
And that it how it stayed to the end.
New Zealand - Tries: Aaron Smith (2), Julian Savea (1), Conversions: Dan Carter (2), Penalties: Dan Carter (2), Beauden Barrett (1).
For Argentina - Tries: Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Conversions: Nicolas Sanchez (1), Penalties: Nicolas Sanchez (2)
Yellow card: Eusebio Guinazu (Argentina, 23 – repeated infringements at the breakdown)