Just a quick round of our musings this week, as we seem to have been swept by a particularly nasty version of the fall cold that is sweeping through our kids’ schools – end result not much time or energy to talk about matters pertaining to the oval ball. So it will be a quick summary set of points rather than our usual head to head analysis this week to back up our predictions.
So no surprises here, New Zealand have once again got the Championship sewn up with a round to spare. Sure they have provided us with plenty of talking points, especially as they have used this tournament to really experiment with new players and combinations. While it may not have fired with their usual clinical efficiency they have still retained the title of the world’s only rugby superpower blessed with a depth of talent that most national coaches can only dream about.
South Africa have also had a go at experimentation, but for the most part it hasn’t worked. Sure they got wins against a fractured Argentinian side in their opening two encounters, but even those victories looked laboured at times. They have showcased some phenomenal talent over the course of the tournament but there has been a lack of cohesion in the team especially when under pressure. Lastly their ability to execute some of the key basics of the game, and turn possession into points has been a major weakness.
Australia have had many of the same problems, but their comeback against New Zealand away from home in Round 2, even though they ultimately lost, has left us with the impression that they are having more success with their own learning curve than South Africa. They are developing some solid foundations and there is the nucleus of a team there now with some proven depth and promising talent. Australia are not out of the woods yet, but they seem to have made more progress in moving on from their own nightmares of the last twelve months.
Argentina, have been a conundrum. A team blessed with individual talent that seems to lack the structure and cohesiveness needed at Test level, coupled with an inability to last much beyond 60 minutes. They have put in some brilliant performances, but sadly been unable to turn it into results. Perhaps more worrying is the fact that even though we have loved watching them at times, we have never really felt that they are actually going to walk away the winners. Something just isn’t clicking in Argentinian rugby right now, and it remains to be seen if the lessons learnt in this tournament can be translated into some positive results come November and two very demanding Tests against the best in the Northern Hemisphere England and Ireland.
South Africa versus New Zealand
Saturday, October 7th
We’d all love to see South Africa regain some honor after the horror show that was the 57-0 drubbing they received in New Zealand a month ago. However, given the team that New Zealand have assembled for one of the highlights of the annual Test calendar, we sadly see more pain in store for South Africa despite home advantage. South Africa in turn have assembled a squad that continues to have us scratching our heads in terms of selection choices.
New Zealand look set to annihilate South Africa once more at scrum time. The new look All Black scrum without veteran props Owen Franks and Joe Moody, has gelled into a solid and reliable unit. South Africa are without the services of Tendai Mtawarira, and continue with Ruan Dreyer at tighthead prop. Mtawarira has been one of the standout performers in a troubled tournament for South Africa, and although he is replaced by Stephen Kitshoff, who we have a great deal of respect for, it is still a new unit with Ruan Dreyer a consistent weak link at tighthead. Dreyer did score a fine try against Australia, but his bread and butter work in the scrum is exceptionally weak and a constant source of penalty opportunities for the opposition.
South Africa also put the exceptional second rower Pieter-Steph du Toit at flanker, a position he clearly is not comfortable in, and flanker Francois Louw at number 8, a role the veteran Springbok has never performed. In short, the forward pack for the Springboks reeks of far too much forced experimentation for such a crucial match against a settled and dangerous All Black unit. Add to that a very average Springbok half back and back line contingent against an absolutely lethal All Black offering and we can’t see anything other than a convincing All Black victory.
While we don’t see New Zealand having it all their own way on Saturday, given it is home turf for South Africa, it is still fairly easy to predict the winner. South Africa will manage to get some points on the board this time, but that is about all we can say. New Zealand to finish the tournament in style with another emphatic win by 22 points!
Argentina vs Australia,
Saturday, October 7th
Argentina should and could win this match on home soil, however sadly we haven’t seen anything this tournament from them that makes us believe they will. It should be a good contest make no mistake, but Argentina have’nt quite got the momentum that Australia seem to be slowly building.
Argentina are clearly battling at scrum time despite the presence of the legendary Captain and Hooker Agustin Creevy, and this traditional wonder weapon in their arsenal is rarely giving them a platform to work with. Australia on the other hand have made huge progress with their scrum in the last two months, after it having been the laughing-stock of Test Rugby for the last year. Argentina continue to field a strong second row and back row, but Australia’s seems to have gelled more in the tournament, despite continuous tinkering and experimentation with different players and combinations. Argentina have enormous individual raw talent in their second row and back row, but it has rarely clicked as a unit.
Australia are fielding the more reliable half back partnership in the shape of Bernard Foley and Will Genia, as sadly for us Nicolas Sanchez at fly half simply hasn’t been there for the Pumas this year when they have needed him most. Australia’s back line is clearly developing into the kind of strike platform of Wallaby sides of old, with Kurtley Beale in particular showing some exceptional skill and vision at times. Australia boasts a set of fast pacy runners who all seem to have a strong understanding of how to use space and create opportunities for the rest of their teammates. Argentina have some real talent here too, but they look at lot less patient than Australia and as a result too many moves look forced and consequently the errors mount.
As we always do, we’ll be cheering on the Pumas in their last fixture of the tournament, as this team so desperately needs and deserves a win in the Championship to build some much-needed confidence ahead of a daunting European tour next month. Sadly though we haven’t seen anything from Argentina this year that leads us to believe that they can win that vital final quarter of a Test match, whereas Australia look more dangerous in this department especially off the bench. A good match in prospect in which Argentina are likely to give it their all, but sadly in doing so are likely to trip themselves up as the match wears on. Australia to be the more accomplished side and walk away with it by eight points in the last ten minutes!
We’re including the 1014’s excellent preview of this year’s Rugby Championship on YouTube. As stated after the Lions Tour, we are HUGE fans of the work these two fine gentlemen, Steven and Gareth, are doing. So give them a big thumbs up and subscribe in order to keep this excellent content coming. Well done guys and looking forward to more!
And as always head over to our TV listings page for video highlights if you missed last weekend’s action: