Five things we learned from The Rugby Championship
Fly-half is an issue for all four Southern Hemisphere nation’s, Michael Cheika is getting the Aussies in good shape ahead of the World Cup and three more lessons learned from The 2015 Rugby Championship.
Michael Cheika’s Wallabies are getting better and better
Australia fought from start to finish to eventually overcome the All Blacks in real style as they claimed their first Rugby Championship title. The Wallabies scrum was strong and robust all evening at the ANZ Stadium as once again they showed that they are made of stern stuff. They are also able to turn to the expertise amongst their backs, especially through world-class fullback Israel Folau, when required. There is still serious work to do if Australia is going to be genuine World Cup contenders, but Cheika has got them moving in the right direction. Nevertheless, this will have sent a solemn warning to Wales head coach Warren Gatland, who will be now under no illusions of the size of the Challenge facing them in Pool A.
New Zealand is beatable
Although the All Blacks are still hefty favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Cup in England this Autumn their Aussie neighbours outclassed them. This must act as a wake-up call for New Zealand as to regularly in recent Tests they have taken their foot off the gas once finding themselves in front. With a reverse fixture against Australia on home turf next weekend Steve Hansen will be hopeful his side can bounce back at the first effort. Nevertheless, this will give the likes of England a major boost in self-confidence going into the World Cup.
Argentina still has spirit
Despite the poor defeat to Australia, on the whole, the Pumas have displayed they still have that fighting spirit during The Rugby Championship. Their tough front row, led by their rousing Captain Agustin Creevy, displayed their distinguished muscle at the scrum and the breakdown is still one of their key attributes. Their first ever win against South Africa also ensured they finished off the bottom of The Rugby Championship for the first time. They now will move forward to the World Cup elevated in confidence as they attempt to match their historical impressive third place finish in 2007.
Springboks error-prone and fragile
The Springboks were poor from the first whistle to the last as they were stunned by Argentina. The Boks, like the last two Tests, were again nowhere near the standard they will need to be measured as serious title challengers at this year’s Rugby World Cup. Captain Jean de Villiers is also now facing yet another injury battle ahead of the Rugby World Cup after fracturing his jaw during the defeat, adding to the Bok’s woes.
Lack of world-class fly-half?
The position fly-half is where many questions are still being raised about all four nations. Handre Pollard was second-rate against Argentina; Dan Carter was shaky, and Bernard Foley has been a victim of criticism throughout the Championship. The Pumas Nicolas Sanchez, whose goal kicking has been fantastic, got some of the blame for their uninspiring defeat to the Wallabies due to his widely inaccurate tactical kicking. Juan Hernandez then came in for Sanchez and was terrific in Durban, giving Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade a selection nuisance. Overall, there are lots of choices still to be made for all four nations. The All Blacks will probably stick with the experienced Carter while South Africa doesn’t have many other choices other than Pollard. Anything could still happen with the Wallabies and Pumas.