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Craig Lewis

Five takeaways from past weekend


Pieter-Steph du Toit carries the ball against Australia Pieter-Steph du Toit carries the ball against Australia

What we learned from round three of the Rugby Championship and round nine of the Currie Cup, according to CRAIG LEWIS.

Springboks continue gradual progression
Captain Eben Etzebeth’s patent disappointment during the post-match interview that followed Saturday’s 23-23 draw against Australia spoke volumes about how far the Boks have come over the past year. Despite having previously won just four games in Australia since 1996, the Boks fully believed they had what it would take to overcome the Wallabies in Perth. Ultimately, the manner in which they finished with a flourish certainly left the feeling that they would have emerged victorious if the game had continued for another five minutes. Some may lament the unsatisfactory nature of a draw, but if the Boks had been offered this result 12 months ago, they would have accepted it more than happily. The Boks are now unbeaten in six Tests this year, and while they produced probably their worst half of rugby during the first 40 minutes in Perth, they showed plenty of character to battle back and clinch a result that does point to their steady progress.

WATCH: Highlights of Wallabies vs Springboks

Pieter-Steph du Toit grabbed his chance
There were many people who might have questioned the decision to start Pieter-Steph du Toit ahead of Franco Mostert in this past Saturday’s Test. Yet it was a decision based purely on player management, with the impressive Mostert having carried a heavy workload this year. Handed an opportunity to start, Du Toit was arguably the Boks’ best performer on the day, making 57m, five carries, three clean breaks, six tackles and winning four lineouts (while stealing one). The performance by Du Toit illustrated the Boks’ enviable second-row depth, but may also have provided Allister Coetzee with a dilemma of sorts, considering Mostert would have been expected to return for the next All Blacks Test. Either way, the industrious performance by Du Toit can only be seen as a considerable positive.

WATCH: Springboks post-match press conference

All Blacks aren’t invincible
In New Zealand’s first Rugby Championship Test against Australia, they conceded as many as four tries, but still came away with a comfortable win. However, they then had to use a get-out-of-jail-free card in the second Test, with the Wallabies squandering a 17-point lead. Regardless, Australia did once again expose the All Blacks’ defence as they scored five tries in that clash. That narrow escape led some to questions whether New Zealand’s aura of invincibility might be waning, and that view was fairly vindicated when they trailed 22-15 at home against Argentina this past Saturday. In the end, the All Blacks typically fought back to clinch a relatively comfortable 39-22 win, but the Boks should certainly believe that they have a fighting chance in this Saturday’s Test in Albany.

ALSO READ: Advantage All Blacks

Goal-kicking continues to haunt All Blacks, Beauden Barrett
Barrett regularly struggled with his goal-kicking during Super Rugby and throughout the all-important series against the British & Irish Lions series earlier this year. It essentially proved to be the difference when the Lions won the second Test in Wellington, with Barrett missing three kicks on that occasion.  Barrett struggled from the kicking tee again in Saturday’s clash against Argentina, with three missed conversions enabling the Pumas to take a surprise one-point lead into half-time. Although it ultimately didn’t cost the All Blacks the win, coach Steve Hansen would still have taken note of the far more impressive goal-kicking of replacement flyhalf Lima Sopoaga, which leaves the All Blacks with a rather interesting dilemma.

WATCH: Highlights of All Blacks vs Argentina

Curwin Bosch will benefit from Currie Cup game-time
There was an extensive outcry when Handré Pollard was included ahead of youngster Bosch for the Boks’ tour to Australasia. Allister Coetzee essentially opted for the experience of Pollard, but his selection on the bench for Saturday’s Test ultimately proved to be a moot point as he never made it on to the field. By contrast, Bosch turned out for the Sharks in Friday night’s Currie Cup clash against the Pumas, and produced an up-and-down performance. While there can be queries over the reasoning behind the preference of picking Pollard after being out of the game for so long, the 20-year-old Bosch will benefit from an extended run in the Currie Cup. The Sharks are favoured to go all the way in the domestic competition, and it should serve Bosch well to continue honing his craft in the Currie Cup, while getting plenty of game time under the belt before looking to win his Bok place back for the end-of-year tour.

ALSO READ: Sharks battle past Pumas

Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

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