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Matthew Burke

Matthew Burke

I always find it interesting how people think they need to reinvent the wheel. They think they can make it work better when in fact it is spinning around just nicely as it is.

The wheel I am speaking of is the Waratahs combination at five-eighth and inside centre, and the fact that it wasn’t used for the Wallabies for the opening two games of the Rugby Championship.

Publicly Kurtley Beale was happy about his selection at five-eighth and I am sure he was in his preferred position, but I wonder if privately he ever thought, “have I spent enough time in the role?”

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The 1995 All Blacks

LINGERING PAIN: The 1995 All Blacks look on after losing the World Cup final at Ellis Park, Johannesburg.

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.

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Willie le Roux

Springbok flyer, Willie le Roux

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.

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Michael Hooper

DEJECTED: Wallabies captain Michael Hooper trudges off Eden Park after his team was hammered by the All Blacks on Saturday night.

Test captain Michael Hooper says the Wallabies will hear a few home truths when they come back together for the first time since one of their worst losses to the All Blacks.

Hooper, who scored one of the Wallabies’ two late tries at Eden Park last weekend, described the side’s performance as ”terrible” and way off their best.

After a few days to stew on the 51-20 drubbing – he still has not watched a replay – Hooper said the Wallabies had to bounce back.

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Jonathan Kaplan

Jonathan Kaplan

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.

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Israel Folau

Wanted man… Israel Folau playing against the All Blacks.

The risk of losing star Wallabies like Israel Folau after the 2015 World Cup has prompted the Australian Rugby Union to change its rules to allow overseas sabbaticals.

The Australian Rugby Union will dangle a sizeable carrot to lure the country’s top players to sevens in the lead up to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.

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Tony Johnson

Tony Johnson

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.

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Argentina scrum

How Jannie Du Plessis and Gurthro Steenkamp saw the Argentina scrum

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.

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Kurtley Beale and his Waratahs teammates

Feeling good: Kurtley Beale and his Waratahs teammates celebrate their Super Rugby triumph

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.

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Pat McCabe

Wallaby Pat McCabe returns from New Zealand.

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.

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South AfricaVictor 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.

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South AfricaAustraliaNow 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?”

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Jean De Villiers

Jean De Villiers

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.

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Michael Hooper

DEJECTED: Wallabies captain Michael Hooper trudges off Eden Park after his team was hammered by the All Blacks on Saturday night.

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.

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Fireworks & Haka

Fireworks signal the end of the haka

The New Zealand Rugby Union has apologised to three fans who were hurt by fireworks during the build-up to Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup game at Eden Park.

One woman had to go to hospital after she was hit by debris from the fireworks which marked the end of the haka while another man suffered a gash to the head and was treated pitchside by paramedics.

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Brodie Retallick

Brodie retallick

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.

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Richie McCaw & Kieran Read

Richie McCaw and Kieran Read showing off the Bledisloe Cup.

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.

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Ewen McKenzie

Ewen McKenzie

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).

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Matthew Burke

Matthew Burke

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.

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Bob Dwyer

Bob Dwyer

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.

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Ryan Crotty

Jaw injury: Ryan Crotty

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.

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw once again holds aloft the Bedisloe Cup

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.

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Joost van der Westhuizen

Joost van der Westhuizen

 

The Springboks have accepted the challenge:

WATCH: Springbok video here:

 

Former Springbok legend Joost van der Westhuizen has become the latest celebrity to take the Ice Bucket Challenge, to raise funds for motor neuron disease, according to the Times Live website.

WATCH: Joost take the Ice Bucket Challenge:

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Ewen McKenzie

EWEN MCKENZIE: ‘‘Steve has got lots of thoughts. I enjoy reading his thoughts. Last week he was picking the team. This week he’s wondering about our improvement.”

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.”

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw, does he still have plenty to offer?

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen disagrees Richie McCaw is a fading force but insists neither he, nor his captain, will be afraid to make the right call to end his illustrious career.

On either side of the Tasman, there are growing concerns an ageing McCaw won’t make it to next year’s World Cup.

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AustraliaThe Wallabies are brimming with confidence and have challenged the All Blacks to bring their A game to tomorrow night’s test at Eden Park in Auckland.

The Australian side arrived in Auckland yesterday and have their captain’s run this afternoon.

They come to Auckland having not won at Eden Park since 1986 but captain Michael Hooper said at a press conference it was not something that bothered his side.

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Jaco Peyper

Referee Jaco Peyper gives a yellow card to Beauden Barrett of the All Blacks during the Bledisloe Cup opener

The performance of Romain Poite in this weekend’s Bledisloe Cup re-match will be under more scrutiny than ever after provocative comments from the All Blacks and Poite’s contemporary Jonathan Kaplan this week.

Kaplan, who refereed 68 Test matches, including seven Bledisloe Cup battles to become the most experienced international referee before his retirement last year, opened the batting with a defence of Jaco Peyper, who has come under fire for his officiating of the Wallabies’ 12-12 draw in Sydney last week.

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New ZealandKiwi straight-shooter Steve Hansen says the All Blacks can lift 10 or 12 notches from their Bledisloe-opening draw but doubts whether the Wallabies can rise any further.

Hansen has reacted to the 12-12 Sydney stalemate like a loss and admitted widespread criticism of his team’s poor display was wholly warranted.

He said New Zealand needed to improve “just about everything” to continue their amazing 32-Test Eden Park streak on Saturday night.

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Steve Hansen

All Black coach Steve Hansen.

It was no consolation at all to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen that a post-game meeting with last week’s referee Jaco Peyper yielded a frank “mea culpa” from the South African whistle-blower.

Hansen factored a poor refereeing performance into the contributing reasons for a sub-par All Black performance in last week’s 12-12 draw with the Wallabies in Sydney to open the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup series.

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Mike Brewer

Mike Brewer says if your name creeps up in All Black losses the big black marker comes out.

It was probably a good thing for Mike Brewer’s rugby career that the defeats that link him to Eden Park’s two remarkable All Blacks streaks happened far enough apart to escape much notice.

Brewer, the Pukekohe-born flanker who first made his name representing Otago, played 61 games — including 32 tests — for the All Blacks between 1986 and 1995.

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