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

Rugby Championship Round 2 - Biggest Takeaways

29 July 2019, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld


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

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The Springboks’ thrilling 16-all draw with the All Blacks in Wellington on Saturday more than served its primary purpose as a World Cup case study.

For both Rassie Erasmus and Steve Hansen, finding clarity on combinations and tactics ahead of the arch-rivals’ opening World Cup clash on September 21 superseded winning the virtual Rugby Championship decider at all costs. The scintillating stalemate answered several questions the coaches would’ve had and both teams will be better for it at the global showpiece.

Even though a rare second successive win on New Zealand soil eluded them, the Springboks received confidence-boosting confirmation that they indeed have the game plan to beat the world’s best team. With accurate tactical kicking and press defence as pillars, they rattled the usually calm and clinical hosts and dominated most of the first half.

Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard’s pinpoint kicks were key to South Africa’s early success and allowed them to win the aerial battle. After coming up short in this department against Argentina as well, the All Blacks appear to have a chink in their armour when it comes to aerial assaults.

Failing to convert their dominance into a substantial lead was the Boks’ biggest crime. It took just two mistakes in quick succession, captain Duane Vermeulen losing the ball in contact and Makazole Mapimpi shooting in off his wing, for the All Blacks to erase the Boks’ dominance up to that point with a turnover try in the 37th minute, which gave the hosts – despite their shaky first half – a 7-6 lead at the break.

That the All Blacks turned the tide in the second half, and produced a particularly momentum-shifting third quarter, highlighted the need for a sustained 80-minute performance if one is to conquer the conquerors. Areas of concerns for the Boks were the lineouts and breakdown. The hosts made an early statement when they poached two of Malcolm Marx’s throws, giving them a mental edge that took the Boks a long time to recover from. Bongi Mbonambi then botched a lineout with 10 minutes to go that almost cost the visitors a try and put them under the pump in their own 22.

When it came to the breakdown, the Boks were beaten to the punch. This wasn’t due to the make-up of the loose trio but rather because of superior speed and technique by the All Blacks. The Boks had often put themselves in perfect pilfering positions only to concede penalties, especially during the third quarter. That said, Kwagga Smith showed that he belonged with a tireless and highly influential all-round showing.

Out wide, Cheslin Kolbe cemented himself as a Test calibre wing with a standout performance. Brilliant with ball-in-hand and even more impressive on defence, the diminutive dynamo proved once and for all that he possesses all the qualities to punch above his weight at the highest level.

Erasmus’ substitutions were spot on and offered the Boks a much-needed boost. Rolling out Tendai Mtawarira and Trevor Nyakane in tandem earned the Boks key scrum penalties at the death, Francois Louw saved the day with a crucial turnover inside his own 22 and of course there was the try by red-hot rookie Herschel Jantjies – so coolly conversed by Handre Pollard – that saw things end in a dramatic draw.

Clearly, these Boks have heart and brains to go with their brawn. Under Erasmus, the Boks have closed the gap on the All Blacks in spectacular fashion. Rugby’s greatest rivals are 1-1-1 and tied on 82 points since Erasmus took over from Allister Coetzee, a remarkable turnaround after being blown out 57-15 in 2016 and 57-0 in 2017.

As for Hansen, the Richie Mo’unga-Beauden Barrett experiment failed. The Crusaders flyhalf was a step off the Test-pace, twice being charged down early on, and forced an offload that gave the Boks a try-scoring opportunity. Another tactical error on his part was giving the goal-kicking duties to Barrett to start with rather than the more reliable Mo’unga, a curious decision that cost his team six points.

After the war in Wellington, this stop-start affair dragged on Down Under. Los Pumas were the main culprits; they looked like imposters of the hungry, clinical collective who pushed the All Blacks to the limit the previous week.

All the pressure was on the Wallabies after their heavy defeat at Ellis Park, which scraped opened the wounds of a painfully poor 2018 season in which they won just four of 13 Tests. What was a great opportunity for Pablo Matera and company to pick up a key win, instead, quickly descended into a horror show.

After a decent start and 3-0 lead after 10 minutes, it’s as if the Argentinians experienced a collective adrenaline dump. The wounded Wallabies were all too grateful for the reprieve and while they deserve credit for an improved performance, they were aided significantly by the listless Los Pumas.

The visitors idled for most of the match and made a whopping 13 handling errors in the first half alone, one five metres out from the Wallabies’ line with a four-man overlap, which summed up their day. It was mistake after mistake, and to make matters worse, they were absolutely annihilated in the scrums. The excellent effort against the All Blacks and trip to Australia must’ve taken everything out of the Argentinians for them to produce such a disappointing display.

The Wallabies can be pleased with the way they manned up and controlled the game. They imposed their will, not just at scrum time, but at the gainline as well. Most pleasing for Michael Cheika would’ve been the defence, Australia’s Achilles Heel in recent years. It took all of 73 minutes for Argentina to cross the whitewash, and that was through brute forcevrather than a defensive error. In the end, it was a welcome win for the Wallabies and another missed opportunity for Los Pumas.

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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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