With Round 2 now done and dusted RUCK examines another five things we have learned from this weekends set of results.
1. New season, same old All Blacks
Although New Zealand were not at their scintillating best this weekend they displayed the professionalism and tactical awareness to score a smart try six minutes from time through Captain Richie McCaw to snatch a late victory at Eden Park. The result in Johannesburg demonstrated that more than ever that to overcome the All Blacks you need to produce a flawless 80 minutes as with just one opportunity they can turn defeat in victory.
Goal kicking was at a good standard for Argentina with fly-half Nicolas Sanchez being a very accomplished scorer from the tee, but from start to finish Los Pumas failed to get their tactical kicking to an acceptable level for Test rugby. A clearance kick straight to Israel Folau led to the opening Wallabies try, and that was just one of many examples of ‘aimless’ kicks. This is something they will simply have to improve ahead of the World Cup.
3. Australia has well and truly rediscovered their fighting spirit, at last
Michael Cheika has made good on his promise, as the Wallabies have played with desire and commitment now for two successive weeks after such passion having not been sighted since the early 2000s. Following last year’s defeat to Argentina Cheika has come in as head coach and shaken things up, and with that sort of passion they will believe against New Zealand, in Sydney, that they have the ability to overcome the All Blacks and claim their first Rugby Championship title since 2011.
4. South Africa needs to sort themselves out, and quick
Despite being ranked second in the world rankings, two games and two late defeats for the Springboks in The Rugby Championship will be causing Bok fans sleepless nights ahead of the World Cup. After conceding an overtime try to lose to Australia last week, the Boks conceded 10 points in the final six minutes on Saturday night to lose another close game, meaning questions around the team’s ability to go the full distance again come to the fore. The Boks fell apart badly in the closing stages following lock Lood de Jager’s substitution. So now, with the World Cup less than two months away, this will need to be addressed and a win in two weeks time against Argentina is now desperately needed.
5. There will be at least one Southern Hemisphere side in the World Cup final
Following two weeks of thrilling Rugby Championship action, you can be certain now that at least one of these nations will appear in the World Cup final at Twickenham, most definitely the experienced All Blacks who alongside the Springboks have been the two top-ranked sides in the world for the last three years. The pair have also got an imposing combined record of one defeat in 12 matches in World Cups against the North’s top trio, making it a tough ask for the likes of England and France to beat these rugby powerhouses.