There was nothing surprising about Springbok flyhalf Morné Steyn focusing on the scrum as he prepared to depart with the squad at the weekend for what will be a testing Australasian leg of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
The scrumming was not the only area of concern for the Boks during the June internationals and in the two Championship matches against Argentina.
But it was an aspect that fell short both against Wales and the Pumas, and those who know the South African rugby psyche, will understand the ripple effect that the scrumming humiliation at the hands of Argentina in Salta would have sent through the team.
Wallabies prop James Slipper says it’s unfair to single out five-eighth Kurtley Beale for criticism following the side’s recent 51-20 loss to the All Blacks in New Zealand.
Calls are growing for Beale to be replaced at flyhalf by Bernard Foley for Saturday night’s Rugby Championship clash with South Africa in Perth.
Will Skelton is eager to do battle with the “big boppers” of South Africa after turning in 80-minute audition for the Sydney Stars in their loss to Melbourne Rising at Leichhardt Oval.
Whether the rugby equivalent of a fight scene from Jurassic Park — 140kg Skelton duelling with South Africa’s lumbering monsters — occurs at the start or the end of the Test in Perth remains to be seen, but the big lock did what was asked of him by seeing out the entire match.
It wasn’t a pleasant Sunday for the Stars — pumped 45-13 by Melbourne — but Ewen McKenzie said if Skelton was to be considered to start against South Africa, the impact player needed to display a capacity to play 80 minutes.
The Waratahs’ super-sub hadn’t done that in more than three months but came through comfortably.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer expects higher standards in Australia than his side achieved against Argentina.
Although they beat the Pumas at home and away, neither of the wins were convincing with torrential rain slowing them down in Pretoria before they got out of jail in Salta.
Meyer admitted that he was not satisfied with their two performances thus far, and added that they will have to lift their standards if they are to get the better of a competitive Wallabies outfit.
On merit, history suggests Sonny Bill Williams will play second fiddle to Ma’a Nonu again.
The only time Williams genuinely cracked the All Blacks was when Nonu had a wretched run with injury. He was No 1 by default. At the last World Cup he was a bit-part player at best.
In terms of the exemption he was granted to be picked for the end of year tour without having to play in the NPC for Counties Manukau, I’m not in favour of it.
Jan Serfontein, Morné Steyn, Adriaan Strauss, Victor Matfield en Marcell Coetzee ín. Damian de Allende, Handré Pollard, Bismarck du Plessis en Lood de Jager uit.
Moenie verbaas wees indien Heyneke Meyer dié verrassende skuiwe maak in sy Springbokspan wat die Wallabies Saterdag in Perth in die Rugbykampioenskap pak nie.
Round 2 of The Rugby Championship and Round 3 of the Currie Cup is done and dusted!
No real surprises with the results, except the huge margin the All Blacks smashed the Wallabies by, and the fact that the Bokke hardly scraped their way to a 2 point win.
The Springboks have struggled in Argentina the past three years, but most pundits thought the Bokke would at least still be closer to a 10 point margin better than the Pumas, even on a bad day.
The awful truth about the Wallabies’ hammering last weekend is that by 2015 the All Blacks could roll out an entirely different back line and dish it out all over again.
Wallowing in pessimism? Perhaps, but look at the stockpile of talent that wasn’t even in the 23 in Auckland that, in theory, they could select next year.
Willem Alberts has been ruled out of the Springboks’ Rugby Championship tour to Australia and New Zealand and will be replaced in the 30-man squad by Warren Whiteley.
Alberts missed both Test victories against Argentina because of a hamstring injury and he underwent a fitness test on Thursday afternoon.
Although his hamstring is recovering well, he experienced some nerve irritation in his lower back and was sent for scans.
Springbok fullback Willie le Roux says he has settled in the role coach Heyneke Meyer has entrusted him with.
Le Roux has become a popular player in South Africa since making his Test debut against Italy in Durban in 2013.
His attacking influence has given the Springbok backline an expansive approach as he’s played a playmaker’s role in a number of tries scored over the past year. He’s also scored seven tries in his 17 appearances.
Jonathan Kaplan has questioned whether the Springboks understand the nuances at scrums and breakdowns.
Despite winning 33-31 in Salta at the weekend, the Bok front row suffered humiliation at the hands of Argentina, with the reputations of Jannie du Plessis and Gurthro Steenkamp taking serious body blows.
Kaplan noted this when he analysed the Boks’ performance on his website, www.ratetheref.co.za.
Not until we get into the next group of games will we have some perspective and context in which to put the first two rounds of the Rugby Championship.
The All Blacks’ forward strength will be tested when they take on the Pumas and their physicality will be tested against the Springboks.
A win in either away game will put the Bokke in a powerful position, the Wallabies will have to bounce back from their thumping defeat at Eden Park or face an exit from calculations, and we will find out how many of their bullets Argentina has fired already.
For all the criticism I levelled against Argentina for their negative play in the Loftus Versfeld test, in stark contrast, they deserve a world of credit for their impressive display in Salta.
In theory, the second-ranked Springboks should have destroyed the side placed 12th in world rugby. However, in practice, three main factors determine the outcome of a match:
They are, your own team’s performance, the performance of the opposition and, last but not least, the standard of officiating delivered by the assigned referee on the day.
When on song, the Bajada is basically pornography to us flat eared folk who have done battle in the front row.
And on Saturday against the Boks, it was at its titillating best!
There are two defining characteristics of the Bajada – a scrum technique used by the Argentinians … One is that all the power is directed into the hooker, meaning that they scrum as an imaginary arrow pointing inwards from either side of the 8th man.
The other, and perhaps more important characteristic of the Bajada, is the ‘coordinated push’, which sees them act on a three part call.
There are two things that we can take from the second round of the Rugby Championship 2014.
- The All Blacks are clearly not ‘on the slide’. In fact if anything they are on the up and up and all the 12-all draw did was to inspire them to dick punch the Wallabies in their faces, hard.
- The Pumas’ ‘Bajada’ scrum is a thing of beauty, unless you are the Springboks, then it is a thing of nightmares.
Victor Matfield is over his injury problems and will rejoin the Springbok squad when they get together for the Australasian leg of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, while Marcel van der Merwe has been called up for the injured Frans Malherbe.
Furthermore, Willem Alberts has also been drafted back into the squad, pending a fitness test on Thursday when the squad gets together in Johannesburg. Both Alberts and Matfield were part of the initial 30-man squad, but missed out on the victories over Argentina in Pretoria and Salta because of injury.
Communities across the length and breadth of England and Wales will share in the excitement of hosting Rugby World Cup 2015 after tournament organisers England Rugby 2015 and owners Rugby World Cup Limited announced the selection of team base camps.
With Rugby at heart, a selection of 41 venues from the University of Exeter in the south to Newcastle Royal Grammar School in the north, extend the reach of the showcase tournament, while delivering the stage for the world’s best teams to perform to their potential.
The search for team bases was launched via an open tender process in April 2013 and just under 100 bids were received from across the country and in Wales. All prospective team bases were subject to a rigorous selection process which included an expansive and detailed programme of site visits as well as liaison with the competing Rugby World Cup 2015 teams.
Willem Alberts says he’ll be ready to play for the Springboks in their Rugby Championship encounter against Australia in Perth on 6 September.
Loose forward Alberts and lock Victor Matfield were on Monday recalled to the Springbok squad for the trip Down Under. Both missed the home and away Tests against Argentina because of injury.
Matfield suffered a knee injury during a cleaning drill, while Alberts withdrew shortly before the game in Pretoria as he picked up a hamstring tear during the captain’s training run.
Now for some better news after the desperately close shave in Salta, Springbok fans: even Australians seem to believe South Africa will beat the Wallabies in Perth on Saturday 6 September.
The Sydney Morning Herald website has a poll up asking the simple question of the Castle Rugby Championship clash: “Who will win between the Wallabies and Springboks in Perth?”
After the mauling the Springbok scrum received at the hands of the Pumas in two consecutive tests there have been calls from armchair critics for coach Heyneke Meyer to make changes, but in the naming of his 30-man squad for the Australasian leg of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship came confirmation that his hands are tied.
“Wat my gelukkigste dag ooit in die Springbok-trui moes wees, was toe my donkerste dag van my rugbyloopbaan.”
Só het ’n teleurgestelde Juan Smith Maandag gesê wat met sy aankoms in Suid-Afrika ook onder kritiek moes deurloop, omdat hy nie die volkslied in Saterdag se toets in die Rugby-kampioenskap teen Argentinië in Salta gesing het nie.
Die 33-jarige Smith was die eerste keer sedert 2010 weer vir die Bokke in aksie, en het nie die terugkeer gemaak waarop hy gehoop het nie.
“Die opbou na die toets was baie emosioneel gewees. Ek moes tydens die sing van die volkslied op my lippe byt dat die trane nie rol nie,” het Smith gesê.
Lood de Jager, the ‘next big thing’ in the Springbok second row, has been ‘missing in action’ of late.
De Jager, after a series of stand-out performances for the Cheetahs in this year’s Super Rugby tournament, made his debut in the Green and Gold against Wales in Durban during the Incoming Series and currently has five Test caps to his name.
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers is clear that his team need to take a massive step up before they face the Wallabies in Perth in their next Castle Lager Rugby Championship game on 6 September.
The Bok captain arrived home from the great Salta escape – where the Boks needed a penalty four minutes from time to beat a plucky, aggressive Argentinean team – knowing that the weight of public outrage at the result would be waiting for his team.
But De Villiers is a pragmatist, and, as he points out: it wasn’t the greatest of performances, but a win is a win.
In a weekend of close calls for Springbok and Sharks fans, the demand for explanations has been met with the cliches of ‘character building’. Surely it is time for coaches to own up?
On Saturday the Sharks took on their bogey team, the Cheetahs – who are accustomed to struggling, but who have been exceeding in delivering poor performances this year.
The Sharks on the other hand are defending champions of the Currie Cup with some of the best structures and facilities money can buy – and they remain unbeaten through three rounds – just.
Three minutes from time the Sharks flyhalf, Fred Zeilinga, kicked a 45-metre penalty to deny the Cheetahs a deserved victory (this after the TMO also stepped in to snatch the win away from the Free Staters).
Frans Malherbe will miss the rest of the Rugby Championship after sustaining a serious injury to his right ankle in Salta.
Malberbe helped to stabilise the Bok scrum when he replaced Jannie du Plessis in the 46th minute, but was forced to leave the field in the 79th.
The tighthead prop will consult with a specialist in Cape Town upon his return to South Africa, when a call on further treatment and his replacement will be made.
Taking their heads out of the sand and admitting that there is a massive problem with the scrum would be a good start, but the Springbok self-analysis will have to go far further than that if the problems that were exposed by Argentina are not to lead to crisis later in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
On a Saturday when New Zealand comprehensively swept away any doubt that they remain the team to beat and confirmed the pre-tournament predictions that they should retain their hegemony in southern hemisphere rugby, Salta provided evidence that the creaks that started to show themselves in the South African game in the second test against Wales may not have just been an aberration.
Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett says Boks’ the scrum performance against Argentina at the weekend was a bit embarrassing.
The Boks sneaked a 33-31 win but was completely overpowered in the scrums, with Jannie du Plessis and Gurthro Steenkamp having a nightmare Test.
Mallett was speaking in the SuperSport studio after the game and had the following to say:
“There were lots and lots of issues that we need to talk about. The Boks have got real problems with their front row’s scrummaging, particularly against the Argentines.
Several retired Springbok front-rankers took to Twitter over the weekend to offer their varied takes on the national team’s scrummaging humiliation at the hands of Argentina in Salta.
The Boks summoned last-ditch reserves of energy and grit to squeeze past the Pumas 33-31 in a Castle Rugby Championship nail-biter, although the violent way they back-pedalled in the scrums at times will be a lasting, unpleasant memory for the players and their fans alike.
Ewen McKenzie is sharpening his axe, forecasting changes to the Wallabies side massacred by the All Blacks at Eden Park.
Injuries to hooker Nathan Charles and winger Pat McCabe will bring at least two new selections but more are in the offing following Saturday night’s 50-21 drubbing.
McKenzie confirmed he would look closely at promoting several squad members “itching to get a go” for Australia’s next Rugby Championship clash, against South Africa in Perth on Saturday week.
He earmarked powerful Brumbies centre Tevita Kuridrani for a return that would likely see Adam Ashley-Cooper move back to the wing spot left vacant by McCabe (neck).
Two games are gone against New Zealand and it’s now time to move the attention to South Africa. That is a whole different kettle of fish. When you take on South Africa, the playing field changes slightly.
The first change is in terms of physicality, the second in aggression and finally in terms of tactics. Games against South Africa just seem to be just that little bit harder and definitely more scatty.
South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer hailed the character of his team Sunday in the wake of a lucky 33-31 Rugby Championship victory over Argentina in Salta.
Serial match-winner Morne Steyn ignored whistling and booing to slot a penalty three minutes from time and give the Springboks a second win over the Pumas within eight days.
It was the climax of a stirring last-quarter comeback by the visitors as tries from right-wing Cornal Hendricks and flank Marcell Coetzee wiped out a 12-point deficit.
Argentina captain Agustin Creevy bemoaned the fact that his team did not have the nous and fortitude to close out the game when they had a big lead.
Flyhalf Morne Steyn kicked a penalty three minutes from time to earn South Africa a very fortuitous 33-31 win over the Pumas at the 20,000-seater Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena in Salta at the weekend.
Trailing by 12 points with the final quarter approaching, a Springboks side – given a torrid time in the forward exchanges for much of the match – clawed back to snatch victory.
Nogmaals broekskeur, nogmaals Morné Steyn en die reserwes wat Suid-Afrika se kastaiings uit die vuur moes kom krap.
Dít nadat die Bokke gister vir sowat ’n uur vodde gespeel is deur Argentinië in die tweede kragmeting van hul Rugbykampioenskap.
Suid-Afrika was met 33-31 baas, maar Harry Houdini sou trots gewees het op só ’n ontsnapping. Laat drieë deur die immer gewillige Cornal Hendricks en die reserwe-flank Marcell Coetzee het die oënskynlik onvermydelike gety omgedraai, maar die ooms tuis sou strykdeur gryp na die hartmedisyne.
Morné Steyn kicked a pressure penalty four minutes from time to secure a nailbiting 33-31 win for the Springboks over the Argentina Pumas in their Castle Lager Rugby Championship match in Salta on Saturday night.
Coach Heyneke Meyer likes character tests and his team most certainly passed this one as for the second time in four matches they came from more than a double figure score behind to win at the death.
However, Meyer will have added to the grey hairs on his head for it was a desperately tense affair and there were enough weak points in the Bok game to keep him awake at night mulling over his options ahead of the next match against Australia in Perth.
Beware the Boks. The more things change with our old mates across the Tasman, the more they stay the same with our greatest rivals in the republic.
We’ve been a bit preoccupied with the Wallabies of late but when you think about the challenge last year and the challenge that never goes away, it remains the South Africans. Nothing changes there.
Their tests against the All Blacks this year are important for them, not just for the Rugby Championship but working out how to beat the world champions.