The Rugby Championship
He has been keeping a low public profile during the 1st half of Super Rugby’s ordinary season … and it is probably just as well.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer must be scratching his head worriedly already over how to construct his national side for the 1st assignment of the 2015 Test season, against Australia in Brisbane on 18 July as part of a condensed Rugby Championship.
Presently several Boks are either injured, suspended or undergoing rest periods (the sudden pulling of Duane Vermeulen from the Stormers’ overseas tour after only 1 match has tongues wagging despite official statements that it was “always planned”), whilst other staple characters have suffered form dips in line with the general struggles of their sides in the local conference and overall.
It is difficult to envisage any SA team actually winning Super Rugby at this point – not the ideal state of affairs in a World Cup year, even if it is not always proved to be relevant — just as it is hazardous to predict which franchise will eventually top the ho-hum domestic pile.
It is true that a few additional players like overseas-based Bryan Habana, Fourie du Preez and Francois Louw and a rehabilitating Pieter-Steph du Toit should brighten the Bok equation, fitness permitting, nearer the Test roster itself, and 1 or 2 outsiders like Stormers tighthead strongman Vincent Koch and some surprise-package Lions personnel have stuck up their hands.
Yet a look at the last Springbok line-up for a Test – the unpalatable 12 / 6 loss to Wales in Cardiff on 29 November9 last year – gives you an idea of Meyer’s quandary; things look considerably more unsettled than he would like.
The South African Rugby Union (SARU) on Monday confirmed that the Springboks will get their season underway against a World XV in Cape Town on 11 July, a week after the Super Rugby final.
The match was initially scheduled for late August.
The Springboks also got their 2014 season under way with a clash against the World XV at Newlands, with the South Africans running out 47 / 13 victors on that occasion.
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 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.
The South African Rugby Union (SARU) on Friday confirmed the home venues for the 2015 Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
The Springboks will play New Zealand at Emirates Airline Park (formerly Ellis Park), Johannesburg, on Saturday 25 July and Argentina at Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban, on Saturday 8 August.
The schedule was amended as a result of the condensing of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship competition to three rounds because of the Rugby World Cup, which begins in mid-September.
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 Western Province Rugby Union wants to persuade the South African Rugby Union to hand Newlands the Springboks / All Blacks Rugby Championship Test next year.
This comes after SANZAR on Monday issued a release revealing that the Springboks will tackle the All Blacks at a South African venue to be decided on Saturday, 25 July.
It will be part of a curtailed, single-round Rugby Championship for the first time since its inception in 2012, a situation brought about by the priority given to next year’s World Cup in England and Wales from September.
The Boks play both the defending champion All Blacks and Argentina (Saturday, 8 August) at home, with their only overseas obligation being against Australia in Brisbane (Saturday, 18 July).
WP president Thelo Wakefield said that they will send a letter to SARU president Oregan Hoskins to consider handing the All Blacks Test to Newlands.
Australia will play New Zealand twice in a week as part of their preparation for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
The draw for the condensed 2015 Rugby Championship sees champions New Zealand host Argentina in Christchurch but travelling to South Africa and Australia.
South Africa finished second overall courtesy of their Ellis Park derring-do against New Zealand, and for but five points, the collective margin of defeat against the Wallabies in Perth and All Blacks in Wellington, it could have been a massive celebration for the team.
Admittedly the eventual champions boasted a 49-point difference advantage over the Springboks, but if the South African’s 4-2 ledger had been 5-1 (bonus points wouldn’t have come into the equation), the trophy would be theirs.
The victory is Meyer’s 24th in 33 Tests (a 73% winning mark), closes the gap in the IRB rankings (versus one and two) to just over two points, while the Republic boasts nearly a five point advantage over newly promoted England in third.
South Africa’s four wins and two losses equalled their return from last season, and their overall ten victories in The Rugby Championship’s history over 18 Tests gives them a three win lead over Australia (from 2012-2014) and second over the last three years (All Blacks 16-1-1).
The All Blacks second defeat in 44 Test matches was met with mixed reaction throughout the rugby world, not enough to prevent New Zealand from claiming The Rugby Championship, but it did stop a tournament whitewash for the third straight season.
Generally Kiwis did not panic, the consistency of Steve Hansen’s results deservedly have built up some emotional credit.
Some quarters of the media almost ridiculously hailed it as the beginning of the end for the World Champions, most were restrained wary to feed the wounded beast.
The All Blacks finished first overall, winning their 13th title since 1996, winning four Tests, drawing one and losing their final match – which was their first tournament defeat in 18 fixtures.
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has confirmed that Tawera Kerr-Barlow faces a six to nine month recovery period.
Kerr-Barlow suffered a nasty injury in the second half after coming against the Springboks at Ellis Park.
The Chiefs scrum-half may possibly need two surgeries to correct the injuries to his leg.
“He’s done his ACL,” Hansen said.
Troubled Wallaby Kurtley Beale faces new allegations of having breached the players’ code of conduct.
It is almost certain the latest revelations will result in Beale not being offered a new contract by the Australian Rugby Union.
It was revealed by ARU the that a new disciplinary allegation involving the utility back, Beale, will be referred to a tribunal.
Beale was dropped for the last Rugby Championship Test against Argentina last Saturday, after an ugly in-flight public spat with members of the team management.
ARU Chief Executive Bill Pulver said Thursday that while investigating the incident, during the flight from Johannesburg to Sao Paulo, officials were made aware of another matter involving Beale and text messages he sent in June.
The ARU said Beale will not be considered for Australian selection until the tribunal concludes.
While the Springboks must be commended for ending their Rugby Championship campaign with consecutive home victories, it’s important to remain performance rather than results-driven.
I believe it’s fair to say that most of us view rugby games through a retrospective scope, which effectively means that the final result fundamentally informs our thought patterns and opinions.
Although the Springboks whipped the All Blacks in the first half, the reality is that had referee Wayne Barnes not gone upstairs to the TMO, having being probed by the matchday producer, captain Jean de Villiers and the partisan home crowd, the Springboks could easily have lost the Ellis Park test.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has taken time off his busy schedule to answer some of your rugby related questions.
Meyer’s Springbok team just finished their Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign with a famous win over New Zealand at Ellis Park.
The Q&A session once again proved very popular with our readers with hundreds of questions streaming in. We picked out the widest possible range of questions to put to the Springbok coach.
Here is what he had to say:
This weekend saw the finale of The Rugby Championship and we saw two very contrasting games. The All Blacks won the trophy… again. Deservedly.
The Pumas won their first ever fixture in this tournament, a historical moment and one they will never forget… I certainly won’t, but the highlight had to be the bromance in the coaches box after the game where their Latin exuberance, warmth and hot blooded nature got the better of some of them… Put it this way, there was lots of lovin!!
During the wee hours of Sunday morning SA Time the 2014 edition of The Rugby Championship came to and end with a dramatic first victory for Argentina over Australia.
Those who stayed up for the match might have been a tad disappointed with the fare dished up, unless they were into one penalty after the other type rugby.
What an absolute shambles. A rudderless and distracted Wallabies outfit got what they deserved by suffering the embarrassment of being Argentina’s first victim in The Rugby Championship.
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie’s position is now under serious question after the team suffered one of its most inexplicable losses of recent times at the end of a road tour from hell that publicly exposed the division within the Australian team camp.
Full marks to Argentina for taking advantage of a sidetracked opposition, who made it so much easier for them by being ill-disciplined, disorganised, dispirited and clearly lacking on-field leaders.
In the end, the most entertaining moment of the Australian performance was singer Marcelo Zelada’s mangled version of Advance Australia Fair before kickoff, which included snatches of English, Spanish, gibberish and even a bit of humming.
Bernard Foley has refused to blame laser beams for the Wallabies shambolic capitulation to the Pumas on Saturday but conceded it would be helpful if match officials granted kickers a second shot at goal when the potentially harmful practice takes place.
Foley battled green laser beams on his face for the entire match and missed two crucial kicks when Australia trailed Argentina 18-17 towards the end of the Test.
One kick was from 49 metres out – beyond the range of even Foley, the Waratahs’ new ice man after his title-winning kick two months ago – but the second, in the 70th minute, was inside the 22-metre zone and just to the left of the posts.
20 Springboks contracted by the SA Rugby Union (SARU) will take part in a training camp in Stellenbosch from October 20 to 24, the union announced on Sunday.
The camp forms part of the team’s preparations ahead of the Outgoing Tour next month.
“The Springboks are our first priority and the provinces have been very supportive, which we’re very thankful for,” SARU chief executive officer Jurie Roux said.
Argentinian tenor Marcelo Zalada managed to cock up the words of Advance Australia fair, but at least, unlike Ras Dumisane, he still managed to make it sound decent.
In case anyone forgot what Ras did to Nkosi, have a listen.
Liam Napier explains the mystery of why South African rugby bosses are keeping the All Blacks away from the nation’s second-biggest city.
It’s one of the world’s most popular destinations. In 2008, 25,000 readers of South Africa’s Daily and Sunday Telegraph readers voted it the world’s best city.
But while the All Blacks travel to South Africa at least once every year, 2008 was the last time Cape Town hosted the All Blacks.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer described the 27-25 win over New Zealand in the final match of the Springboks Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign as one of the best matches in which he had been involved.
The support of the sell-out Ellis Park crowd also lifted the team’s effort, he said.
“I have been involved in rugby for almost 30 years and this support was unbelievable. We saw the crowd support on the way into the stadium and the national anthem was awesome. It was an unbelievable Test match,” Meyer said.
What former Springbok coach NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about the Springbok victory over the All Blacks at Ellis Park.
On what the win means moving forward
“What a Test match. It can’t get better than that, can it? South Africa played some of the best rugby I’ve seen them play in that first half, but the All Blacks showed their championship quality the way they came back at them in the second half.
Los Pumas (8) 21 / 17 (14) Wallabies (Final Score)
The Argentinian Pumas and Australian Wallabies did battle in The Rugby Championship at
Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza at 00:40 Sunday SA Time (22.40 GMT, 19:40 ARG Time, 09:40 Sunday AEST).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & CSN on TV in SA.
Springboks (21) 27 / 25 (13) All Blacks (Final Score)
The South African Springboks and New Zealand All Blacks did battle in The Rugby Championship at
Ellis Park, Johannesburg at 17:00 SA Time (15:00 GMT, 04:00 Sunday NZ Time).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & M-Net on TV in SA.
In most cases, comparing a young player with a legend of the game is to burden him with unfair expectation.
To say Julian Savea is the new Jonah Lomu is definitely unfair. Unfair because it is selling Savea short. The 24-year-old wing may already have surpassed Lomu, according to All Black coach Steve Hansen.
SARugbymag asked some experts on their thoughts on tomorrow’s clash between the Springboks and All Blacks.
Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen will be given as much time as possible to recover from injury while Bismarck du Plessis will start Saturday’s final round Castle Lager Rugby Championship Test against New Zealand at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
This match will be Springbok captain Jean de Villiers’ 50th appearance in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, the most by any South African.
Vermeulen is recovering from a rib cartilage injury and if he doesn’t recover in time to face New Zealand, Schalk Burger will start in the No 8 jersey with Warren Whiteley coming onto the bench.
John Mitchell holds concerns for the Springboks’ World Cup prospects and doesn’t believe they have the attacking threats to upset the All Blacks at Ellis Park on Saturday.
After four years in South Africa, following his departure as All Blacks coach after the semifinal exit at the 2003 World Cup, Mitchell is well placed to assess the country’s changing landscape.
His main worry is the lack of youth being promoted by the Boks.
With about 250 South Africans now playing rugby overseas – the equivalent of six professional teams – Mitchell says the next generation are suffering through a lack of faith from Boks coach Heyneke Meyer, who has instead turned to aging veterans Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield and Schalk Burger.
A request that Kurtley Beale change his T-shirt escalated into a heated inflight argument that has shrouded the playmaker in controversy, put a staff member’s future in doubt, and now threatens to engulf the Wallabies a day out from a Test match.
Wallabies team business manager Di Patston flew back to Sydney on Tuesday, two days after she and Beale were involved in a heated stoush across the aisle in the business class cabin of South Africa Airways flight 222 from Johannesburg to Sao Paulo on Sunday morning.
Two injury-enforced changes in the tight-five, rewards for strong form, and a new-look bench are the features of the All Blacks team to take on the Springboks at Ellis Park on Sunday morning (NZT).
Lock Brodie Retallick (concussion) and prop Wyatt Crockett (facial cuts) have been officially ruled out with Jeremy Thrush, in his second start against the Boks, and Joe Moody, in his maiden test start, respectively promoted.