The Rugby Championship
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.
1 – 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.
2 – The Pumas’ ‘Bajada’ scrum is a thing of beauty, unless you are the Springboks, then it is a thing of nightmares.
The Waratahs are hopeful of locking in off-contract playmaker Kurtley Beale within a fortnight.
Coach Michael Cheika said he wasn’t taking anything for granted, but was reasonably confident of re-signing the 43-Test back for another season.
“It looks like it’s going better, so hopefully something’s going to happen there in the next week or two,” Cheika said.
Australia has announced a 30-man squad for its next two Rugby Championship matches, including the return of New South Wales Waratahs hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau.
Coach Ewen McKenzie said Wednesday that Polota-Nau will not be considered for selection in Australia’s match against South Africa in Perth on 6 September.
Argentina head coach Daniel Hourcade has named his touring squad for the Rugby Championship fixtures in Australia and New Zealand.
The majority of the squad that tackled South Africa over the last two weeks remain, with the addition to the touring party of Juan Imhoff, Benjamín Macome and Santiago Iglesias Valdez.
The only major absentee is Pablo Matera, who suffered a partial dislocation to his shoulder against the Springboks in Salta. Argentina will return to their training base in Pacheco on Thursday before flying out on Friday, arriving at in Napier the following day to prepare to take on the All Blacks.
The Brumbies have watered down head coach Stephen Larkham’s comments that hardman Pat McCabe has retired, saying the 26-year-old’s playing future hinges on a meeting with the Wallabies’ doctor.
McCabe fractured his neck in the Wallabies’ 51-20 loss to the All Blacks at Eden Park on Saturday, with Larkham telling ABC radio on Wednesday morning the 24-Test winger had decided to hang up his boots after consulting with a specialist.
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.
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.
Possession, Position, Pace – the Three P’s of rugby preached on a regular basis through his career by the great Otago man Charlie Saxton, and still applicable in this modern era.
But on Saturday night at Eden Park the All Blacks might have been more about the three “A’s”.
Accuracy, Attitude, and Anger?
“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.
The Wallabies will have plenty of down-time over the next week to ”mentally relax” after their humiliation by the All Blacks at Eden Park, captain Michael Hooper has said.
The 22-year-old flanker was one of the few Australian players to stand up during the 51-20 onslaught, which kept the Bledisloe Cup, the annual trophy contested between the two nations, in New Zealand hands for a 12th consecutive year.
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.
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.
What a difference a week makes.
The All Blacks forwards confirmed they had the acid put on them during that week, both by their coaches and by themselves, to put things right.
The conditions were perfect at Eden Park on Saturday night and when the black pack turned up with much improved intensity, physicality and enthusiasm the platform was laid on for a rout.
At the centre of it was Chiefs lock Brodie Retallick – at the tender age of 23 already a tight five international veteran and continuing to build his reputation as a test rugby super star within a 2.04 metre, 119 kilogram body.
Another Test, another couple of world records for All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.
The veteran flanker scored two tries, the third double of his 129-Test career, as New Zealand pummelled the Wallabies 51-20 in Auckland to retain the Bledisloe Cup.
In doing so, he took his tally to 23 tries, the most in Tests by any forward from a tier-one nation.
The previous record was 22, scored by former Wales No 8 Colin Charvis.
McCaw, 33, also holds the record for the most tries by any player against a tier-one opponent, surpassing a number of prolific outside backs.
The All Blacks have become like those bad guys in western movies who you hate so much you end up loving them.
Yet again Australia had their pants pulled down and we have this deflating scenario where the Test year is nine days old yet nothing seems to matter any more.
The Bledisloe Cup is gone, the four nations title is on its way out the door yet for some reason I feel minimal pain because there is a sense that justice has been done.
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).
I reckon we’ve heard a lot of talk over the last 24 hours about how well New Zealand played – which the did.
Did they play unbelievably well? There’s no way of making that assessment. There’s no way to completely evaluate their performance.
Sure, their passing was accurate and running straight. Sure, 95% of their passes weren’t too long.
Sure, their support play and their realignment in both attack and defence were good and urgent.
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.
New Zealand centre Ryan Crotty has been ruled out for four weeks after fracturing a facial bone during the weekend’s win over the Wallabies.
The Crusaders back, who enjoyed an impressive first start on the international scene in the 51-20 triumph, suffered a heavy impact in Auckland.
Steve Hansen must now decide whether Malakai Fekitoa should don twelve against Argentina if Ma’a Nonu does not recover by September 6.
Meanwhile, Cory Jane (knee), Beauden Barrett (ankle) and Aaron Cruden (pectoral) are all expected to recover in time for the Napier fixture.
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.
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.
There is no hiding at Eden Park.
The rain, wind and mud confused the picture in Sydney a week ago, allowing the Wallabies to draw with the All Blacks and their fans to hope.
Not so in Auckland.
In the clear, cold air of Mt Eden, back on their turf, the All Blacks made a mockery of Australian confidence with a six-tries-to-two massacre of Australia, keeping the Bledisloe Cup in New Zealand hands for a 12th straight year with their biggest ever score against their neighbours.
Los Pumas (13) 31 / 33 (16) Springboks (Final Score)
The South African Springboks and Argentinian Pumas did battle in The Rugby Championship at
Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena, Salta at 21:40 SA Time (16:40 ARG Time, 19:40 GMT).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & M-Net on TV in SA.
All Blacks (23) 51 / 20 (6) Wallabies (Final Score)
The New Zealand All Blacks and Australian Wallabies did battle in The Rugby Championship at
Eden Park, Auckland at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & CSN on TV in SA.
Jean de Villiers has said that he is hoping that his team can dominate in the forwards like they are used to ahead of Saturday’s game against Argentina in Salta.
The Springboks have been famed for the physicality since the inception of the game in the Republic with the forwards often being the heroes on game day.
The Springbok captain is calling for that famed physicality to take centre stage again on the weekend so that the Boks can play their natural game.
This time, Ewen McKenzie couldn’t bite his tongue.
Two weeks in a row All Blacks coach Steve Hansen fired barbs his way – the first about the Australian Rugby Union influencing Kurtley Beale’s selection and this week questioning how much more the Wallabies had to give.
Before yesterday, McKenzie wasn’t biting. But, finally, the Wallabies coach couldn’t help throwing out one subtle jab.
“Steve has got lots of thoughts. I enjoy reading his thoughts,” McKenzie began.
“Last week he was picking the team. This week he’s wondering about our improvement. We’ll just concentrate on what we’re about. That worked alright for us last week.”