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The biggest takeaways from the opening round of the Rugby Championship.

Rugby Championship Round 1 Biggest Takeaways

22 July 2019, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld


The biggest takeaways from the opening round of the Rugby Championship, according to Quintin van Jaarsveld.

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One man stood head and shoulders above the rest in the Springboks’ 35-17 bonus-point win over the Wallabies at Ellis Park on Saturday, and he happened to be the smallest man on the field. Herschel Jantjies had a dream debut in the Springbok No.9 jersey, scoring a brace, providing quick, crisp service, kicking well and making brave tackles.

Undaunted by the occasion, the diminutive dynamo played with confidence and maturity well beyond his 23 years. Based on Saturday’s Man of the Match performance – and substantiated by a stellar rookie Super Rugby season – he looks like a prodigious talent born for the big stage.

For a greenhorn, who would’ve been one of the Wallabies’ primary targets, to have the confidence to kick the Boks out of their 22 in the ninth minute, when he could’ve shifted the responsibility to veteran Elton Jantjies, and do so with a good touch finder was an early sign that the Stormers revelation felt at home, and he made Ellis Park his house on Saturday.

Earmarked as one of our future stars earlier this season, Jantjies is the real deal. The Paul Roos product is going to run into challenges along the way, as every international newcomer inevitably does, but he’s an exciting addition to the Bok squad and has a bright future ahead of

It was a gutsy move on Rassie Erasmus’ part to field a ‘B’ team against Australia. Strategically shrewd, with an eye on the World Cup, but bold nonetheless. The two-team approach Erasmus is employing this year says a lot about the faith he has in his larger squad and the second-stringers who did duty on Saturday more than repaid the faith shown in them.


The collection of overseas stars, rookies, fringe players and veterans returning from injury experienced expected issues such as a lack of cohesion and defensive shape – especially in the first half – and were fortunate to lead 14-10 at half-time after the Australians had looked in for a try, only to be (rightly) called back for a forward pass, and butchered another.


The second half was a different story, however, and saw the hosts pass their first depth test with flying colours. Experienced campaigners like captain Eben Etzebeth, Tendai Mtawarira, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Francois Louw and Jesse Kriel were outstanding in their senior roles, Jantjies’ fellow rookies Rynhardt Elstadt (who recovered after missing a few tackles early on) and Lizo Gqoboka were solid and the overseas stars all made a big impact.

Optimism was in the air in Argentina throughout last week. With an understrength All Blacks side sent to Buenos Aires and the Jaguares’ stellar Super Rugby season, which saw them reach their maiden final, Saturday’s showdown was widely seen as Argentina’s best opportunity yet to record their first-ever win over New Zealand.

And that’s exactly how things played out. In the end, an inspired and passionate Los Pumas side were five metres and one try away from shocking the rugby world when they conceding a turnover that allowed the All Blacks to escape with a 20-16 win. Will Argentina ever get a greater chance to topple New Zealand? Probably not. It would’ve been the bitterest of pills to swallow for Los Pumas, especially given the fact they failed to convert a number of try-scoring opportunities.

From a New Zealand perspective, it was the poorest performance by an All Blacks team in recent memory. They looked flat, were clearly “out-passioned” (to use a Robert du Preez phrase) by their hungrier hosts and were kept scoreless in the second half. The All Blacks shutout for an entire half? It’s unheard of.

One can understand why the makeshift team struggled to find their rhythm, but what was baffling was how lackadaisical the men and black looked. The only real show of passion and emotion came from Brodie Retallick, who had earlier scored an intercept try, when he rallied the troops with the game on the line at the death.

They had to lean heavily on their winning culture to avoid the biggest upset in All Blacks history. Steve Hansen would’ve been a furious and mightily relieved man.

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Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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