End Of Year Tours
It has been a year for referees much as any other year – a year of highs and lows where the best they can hope for is no complaints from players on the field and no complaints from watchers off the field.
Referee abuse remains a universal problem for referees. Glen Jackson, once a great player and now a great referee, said that there was a difference between playing and refereeing, for you could make 5 mistakes as a player and then get cheered for doing something well. In refereeing you are jeered for doing something perceived to be wrong and after that nothing that you do can rehabilitate you in the eyes of the beholders.
Much of the abuse is a repeat of what commentators have to say, regardless of whether what they say is wrong.
This year saw another pack of exciting young players force their way into the Springbok fold and into contention for a place at the World Cup.
A lengthy injury list meant that Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer had to turn to inexpeienced players more often than he would have liked, but the flip side is that it gave some players the chance to prove themselves at the highest level.
Admittedly there is still a lot of rugby to be played before the World Cup, but it will probably take something exceptional for any uncapped players to force their way into Meyer’s thinking next year.
The Barbarians will round off their 125th anniversary year by tackling Argentina at Twickenham in November 2015, organisers announced on Tuesday.
After a chastening 2013, the invitational side proved themselves credible opponents for the world’s elite teams this year, going down 49-39 to a youthful England team in June and narrowly losing 40-36 to Australia last month.
They are scheduled to play Ireland in Limerick on 8 May and will play England three days later before finishing the year against Argentina.
While South Africa finished the year second in the world, and the only side in 2014 to defeated the All Blacks, their two losses at the end of the year against Ireland and Wales exposed deficiencies that will be studiously worked on by the coaching team.
One thing is for certain, there is likely to be some changes to the portfolio after Heyneke Meyer admitted that elements like the team’s kicking weren’t working, while the usually reliable power game of the Springboks wasn’t able to rule proceedings in Dublin and Cardiff.
They did however, during that 27-25 win at Ellis Park over New Zealand, show that they have the breakdown belligerence and attacking sense to match any side.
Even if four losses in their last eight of the year came seemed to come from a lack of crystal concise mindset than anything else, at times kicking, running or passing seemed to come without the smart bomb like precision we usually expect from a Boks team.
The World Champions for the most part could pat themselves on the back and claim job well done, winning 12 from 14 and retaining all major titles that were on offer.
Not only did they win The Investec Rugby Championship and defend the Bledisloe Cup, but recently the All Blacks celebrated five years at the top of the world rankings.
Yet despite some mighty mental powers and impressive depth, tactically the team isn’t able to thrash sides as many of the predecessors have in the past.
A win is a win yes, but has the proverbial gab closed but gone unnoticed due to the continuation of results?
While some might be quick to suggest Australia needs to put 2014 aside and focus on the upcoming season, no Test nation has as many potential improvements and as a consequence the prospective growth potential for the Wallabies excites.
Michael Cheika took over midyear but any who thought his success with the Waratahs would quickly translate to the national setup were sadly mistaken as the significant gap between Super Rugby and the Test arena was proved again.
There is plenty to like even if the old issue of the scrum reared its head, especially out wide, where man for man there is nothing to suggest that the Wallabies backline couldn’t become the world’s glamour division in time for the Webb Ellis trophy.
The one time in Europe that Argentina strayed slightly away from their traditional strengths, they lost, engaging in an entertaining running contest with Scotland, but otherwise closed the year with a 3-1 record over their last four.
It means that Los Pumas finish the season with form behind only New Zealand and Ireland, defeating the Wallabies in Mendoza, before grinding down Italy and France on consecutive weekends to return to South America on a high.
Coach Daniel Hourcade has been superb and his feats have been lost somewhat when talking about the likes of Steve Hansen or Joe Schmidt.
Yet the former Pampas mentor has turned many local players into hardened Test regulars, further ridding Argentina of a heavy reliance on European based stars.
Dan Carter is still aiming to be a factor in the 2015 World Cup after an injury plagued couple of months that have seen him stuttering with form.
Cater now faces a nine-month race to regain the fine form he is capable of for the World Cup after an uncharacteristically below-par year-end tour.
The All Black flyhalf has decided sitting back on his laurels is no longer an option and that regular and consistent game-time will bring him back to his best.
“Throughout the tour my injury had healed. The body felt good but the game-time was lacking,” Carter admitted.
“That tour wasn’t the best situation to get regular game-time but it got me back in the environment, back into the team and a better understanding of the game we’re trying to play.
The South African Rugby Union received handy compensation from the Welsh Rugby Union for agreeing to play last weekend’s Test in Cardiff.
The Test at Millennium Stadium fell outside World Rugby’s international window, but was played after both rugby union’s agreed to square off.
According to reports, SARU received £750 000 (about R 13 Million) from the WRU for the Test.
Once again the four Rugby Championship teams have been and gone but this time they did not have it all their own way on their annual visit to the British Isles as it ended five wins apiece from the 10 Tests.
Ireland beat both South Africa and Australia, Wales downed the former and England the latter, and Scotland defeated Argentina.
Admittedly, the Pumas are not part of rugby union’s traditional southern hemisphere big three, and the incomparable All Blacks sailed through their Tests unbeaten, but even discounting the Scottish win over Argentina the matches against the three giants from the south only ended 5-4 to the visitors.
Former England and Lions great Jeremy Guscott has been out and about during November and here he selects a XV for both the home nations and the Rugby Championship sides.
The International season is done for the Southern Hemisphere and for Springbok rugby for 2014 and the only rugby of real importance left for us southern rugby junkies, are the 2 remaining HSBC Sevens World Series Tournaments in 2014 – the Dubai Sevens this coming weekend and the Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens Tournament the week thereafter.
In the meantime the Southern Hemisphere Super Rugby sides are extremely busy with their preparation work, conditioning and getting ready for Super Rugby 2015.
The question is, what has the Springboks learnt from the year of 2014 and from the End Of Year Tour?
Will we see a total change of tack and a move away from the high-ball kick and chase bombs from the Springboks? Very few International Tests remain before the start of the Rugby World Cup 2015 (18 September 2015) in England, however a full season of Super Rugby and the abbreviated Rugby Championship still loom in 2015 before the World Cup starts.
South Africa suffered a big blow when Springbok captain Jean de Villiers was injured during their 12-6 defeat to Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.
De Villiers was forced to leave the field in the 58th minute after twisting his left knee and dislocating his knee cap. The dislocation was reduced on the field and he was sent for scans shortly after the match.
“The scans revealed significant ligament damage to the inside of his knee and the supporting muscles,” said Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts.
“Jean will return to South Africa and see an orthopaedic specialist in Cape Town early in the week. He has had previous surgery on this knee and the further management of the injury is dependent upon the specialist’s recommendations.”
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said losing De Villiers was a massive setback as the team were just beginning to build momentum in a tough encounter against Wales. The home team’s points came via four Leigh Halfpenny penalty goals, while Pat Lambie responded with two penalty goals for the visitors.
“It was a massively disappointing way to end the tour and our season, as we always strive to make our country proud,” said Meyer.
Reigning champions New Zealand remained the team to beat less than a year out from the World Cup in England after yet another successful November campaign in Europe.
There’s nothing new in the All Blacks being the yardstick for the global game and their rivals will take some comfort in knowing New Zealand have yet to win the World Cup on foreign soil.
So the fact they were pushed close by both England (24-21) and Wales (34-16) this month before emerging victorious won’t have done the All Blacks any harm, nor will the success of a virtual second-choice side in preserving their unbeaten record against Scotland.
However, all these matches demonstrated how no team goes for the full 80 minutes quite like New Zealand, who have enviable depth.
England found themselves needing two scores in the closing stages against the All Blacks and managed one while Wales conceded 24 points in the final 17 minutes.
A try in both halves from Ben Morgan helped England claim a well-deserved 26-17 victory over Australia at Twickenham.
England displayed excellent composure in defence and made the most of their possession by running in two tries to claim a massive psychological advantage with the World Cup a few months away.
The Wallabies outscored the hosts 14-13 in the second half but failed to overturn a 10-point half-time deficit.
Scrum dominance, allied to fine work at the breakdown led by England captain Chris Robshaw, were the cornerstones of England’s victory.
The win saw England end the November programme with a 50 percent success rate after defeats by both world champions New Zealand (24-21) and South Africa (31-28) were followed by last week’s 28-9 win over Samoa.
Wales (3) 12 / 6 (3) Springboks (Final Score)
Wales and the South African Springboks did battle in the End Of Year Tours at
Millennium stadium, Cardiff, Wales at 16:30 SA Time (14:30 BST & GMT).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & M-Net on TV in SA.
Take Note that the England vs Australia game was at the same time slot as the Wales vs South Africa game, therefore we concentrated on the Wales vs South Africa game, with SCORE UPDATES at the Bottom of the Article on the England vs Australia game.
South Africa need no extra motivation to raise themselves for Saturday’s season-ending Test match against Wales after being pushed hard by the Welsh in their last match earlier this year.
The South Africans led 17-0 and 30-17 early in the clash in Nelspruit in June before the Welsh staged a dramatic comeback, only to fall short by a solitary point, as the Springboks hung on for a 31-30 victory.
That win stretched the Springboks’ formidable record over Wales to just one loss (1999) and one draw (1970) in 29 matches between the two countries.
“It’s pretty easy to motivate yourself. It’s the last one, you can put all your effort into it, not that you don’t in any other week of the year.
Wales centre Jamie Roberts insisted he was ready for more of the same against South Africa on Saturday, despite being unable to run for four days after his exploits against the New Zealand last week.
Roberts, a qualified doctor currently taking a medical sabbatical playing for Racing-Metro in the French Top 14 league, admitted that he did not dwell too long on the pain and suffering he caused his own body.
“It’s taken me about four or five days to recover from last weekend,” Roberts said of the battering he took in the 34-16 loss to New Zealand.
“It was car-crash stuff last weekend.
“I take anti-inflammatory medication before most games now just to reduce swelling in knees and ankles and so forth.
England captain Chris Robshaw is an “absolute pest” according to Australia counterpart and fellow openside flank Michael Hooper.
The two loose forwards will be involved in a contest to boss the breakdown when England face Australia at Twickenham on Saturday, less than a year out from the teams’ 2015 World Cup pool clash at the London ground.
Yet even though Robshaw has established himself as England coach Stuart Lancaster’s undoubted first-choice captain, there are those who continue to question whether his leadership skills offset the fact he is not a turnover specialist in the mould of New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw.
Lancaster has faced repeated demands to abandon England’s policy of selecting overseas-based players in “exceptional circumstances” only and revive the Test career of impressive flank Steffon Armitage, the reigning European player of the year, who has been starring for French and European champions Toulon.
But Hooper, one of the best scavenging openside flanks in the modern game, said Robshaw’s qualities as a flank should not be discounted.
Wales coach Warren Gatland has denied he was under extra pressure as his team sought an elusive win over a Southern Hemisphere side when they clash with South Africa on Saturday.
Gatland’s record against the SANZAR sides of Australia, New Zealand and the Springboks since taking charge in 2007 does not make for pleasant reading: played 27, won one, lost 26.
That solitary win was against the Wallabies, 21-18, back in 2008, but Gatland on Thursday played down reports in the media that he was under extra pressure, 10 months away from the World Cup in England.
After opening their November campaign with a 28-33 defeat by Australia, an experimental Wales side scraped past Fiji 17-13 before rebounding against New Zealand, leading after 69 minutes before leaking three late tries to go down 16-34.
Xerox Golden Lions scrumhalf Ross Cronje has been called up to the Springbok tour squad in Cardiff as replacement for Rudy Paige.
Paige injured his medial knee ligaments in training earlier this week and will be out for approximately four weeks.
A request was made for Toulouse scrumhalf Jano Vermaak to rejoin the squad but it was rejected as he is playing for his club this weekend.
Wales have made three changes to their side to face South Africa on Saturday, with Gethin Jenkins, Scott Baldwin and Liam Williams all coming into the starting fifteen.
Jenkins and Baldwin will link up with Samson Lee to form the same frontrow that started the clash against Fiji a fortnight ago.
The rest of the pack remains unchanged from last weekend’s game against the world champions New Zealand, with Jake Ball partnering Alun Wyn Jones in the second row and Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau lining up alongside captain Sam Warburton.
Ospreys halfbacks Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar continue their partnership as do the record breaking centre duo of Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies.
Sean McMahon returns to the Australian starting lineup in one of three changes ahead of their final year-end Test, against England at Twickenham on Saturday.
With Tevita Kuridrani unavailable due to a low-grade ankle injury, Test veteran Adam Ashley-Cooper has been selected at outside centre, which allows Rob Horne to earn a starting position on the wing.
The starting line-up is otherwise unchanged with McMahon part of a back row including captain Michael Hooper and Ben McCalman, locks Sam Carter and Rob Simmons, and a front row of James Slipper, Saia Fainga’a and Sekope Kepu.
In the backs Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley continue their play-making partnership,Matt Toomua joins Adam Ashley-Cooper in the centres, with a back three consisting of Israel Folau, Rob Horne and Henry Speight.
Billy Twelvetrees has been handed his first start of the 2014 Internationals against Australia at Twickenham on Saturday with Owen Farrell reverting to the bench.
The Gloucester Rugby centre, who started every game in last season’s Six Nations campaign, takes the No 12 jersey and shifts Saracen Owen Farrell to the replacements’ bench as George Ford is retained at flyhalf.
Up front, Northampton Saints pair Tom Wood and Dylan Hartley take over from James Haskell (Wasps) and Rob Webber (Bath Rugby) at blindside flank and hooker respectively.
Despite those changes to the run-on side, the same match-day 23 who beat Samoa 28-9 last weekend will be on duty as England look to secure a 10th victory in 13 Twickenham Tests.
Reviewing his selection, Head Coach Stuart Lancaster praised Twelvetrees for his committed self-development over the current campaign.
Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks and Lwazi Mvovo are back in the Springbok starting line-up for Saturday’s Test against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
The changes in the back three were required because Johan Goosen, Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen, who started in last weekend’s victory over Italy in Padova, are not available this week. The two changes to the front row are rotational.
Adriaan Strauss, who started at hooker in the victories over England and Italy, moves to the bench, where he will be joined by Trevor Nyakane and Damian de Allende in the only other changes to the match-23.
“This tour has been a good test of our depth and we’re looking forward to see what the team can do on Saturday,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
Ireland’s John Lacey will referee Saturday’s Test between Wales and the Springboks at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
Lacey, 41, was also in charge of the Springboks’ Rugby Championship clash against Argentina at Loftus Versfeld in August this year. The Boks won 13-6.
Saturday’s Test will be his 11th to date.
Welsh defensive coach Shaun Edwards has bad memories of what Willie le Roux did to them in June and is wary of the Springboks’ threats.
South Africa managed two victories over the Welsh back in June, with a tight one-point win in Nelspruit proving to be a heartbreaking one for Wales.
Springbok fullback Willie le Roux was instrumental as an attacking threat in both those games and was seen to terrorize the Welsh defence.
For Edwards, a watchful eye will be kept on Le Roux, but he is not fooling himself into believing that the wylie fullback will be the only threat.
“They have got intelligent players, they’ve got a constructive kicking game as well,” the coach said.
They’ve got an outstanding fullback in Willie le Roux, who was the main torturer for us throughout the June Tests.
England head coach Stuart Lancaster has retained the 23 players that faced Samoa for this weekend’s Test match against Australia at Twickenham on Saturday.
The same 23-man squad that secured a first win of the autumn against Samoa will line up against the Wallabies at Twickenham Stadium for the final November Test.
Gloucester Rugby centre Billy Twelvetrees keeps his place and will compete with Saracens’ Owen Farrell for the inside centre slot, as explained by head coach Stuart Lancaster earlier today.