The five outstanding lessons from the opening round of the Castle Rugby Championship, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
1. The Springboks need Fourie du Preez for the whole tournament
As it stands, Saru only has permission from Fourie's Japanese club, Suntory Sungoliath, to play him in the three home Tests of the Rugby Championship. However, after the scrumhalf's outstanding 25-minute performance off the bench at Soccer City, Heyneke Meyer and his bosses should be doing everything in their power to get him available for their matches in Brisbane and Auckland. Ruan Pienaar had a decent game, but Du Preez's service was far superior and it's no coincidence that the Boks scored five tries when he was there. 'Everything flowed from the moment he got on to the field,' said Nick Mallett in the SuperSport studios after the game. 'The ability of the players to run on to the ball ... the accuracy of his pass ... every single pass went in front of the player who was receiving it. He made short passes to forwards, long passes to flyhalves, a long pass to [Bryan] Habana for his try. I thought he was sublime.' Yes he was, which is why the Boks cannot afford to be without him if they want to win the Rugby Championship title.
2. Adriaan Strauss will not give up the Bok No 2 jersey without a fight
Strauss must be feeling a bit of heat from a fit-again Bismarck du Plessis, but the Cheetahs captain has risen to challenge. He was a worthy recipient of the Man of the Match award, making 29m through seven runs (including a linebreak). He also did a good job at the set pieces (his lineout throwing was impeccable) and hit the rucks hard. Du Plessis may have to spend a bit more time on the bench in this competition.
3. The Pumas need to go back to what works for them
When Argentina had possession at Soccer City they tried to run the ball, only to concede turnovers and be punished by the Boks. Perhaps it has something to do with the involvement of former All Blacks coach Graham Henry as a consultant, but the Pumas have moved away from the 'boring' game plan that saw them finish third at the 2007 World Cup. In that tournament, they kicked for territory, launched up-and-under after up-and-under and never ran the ball from inside their own half. It may not have entertained the crowds, but it resulted in wins against Ireland, Scotland and France (twice). That is the way Argentinian teams play, and it's what the Pumas of 2013 should go back to if they want to avoid being the whipping boys of the Rugby Championship.
4. Teams will pay the penalty for not putting the ball in straight at scrum time
The days of scrumhalves putting the ball in under their locks' feet are well and truly over if this past weekend is anything to go by. Referee Craig Joubert awarded a free kick when Will Genia's feed at the first scrum was crooked but let Aaron Smith get away with it at the next one. When Smith's feed at the third scrum was skew, Joubert told both teams that he would be awarding penalties, and not free kicks, from then on. Genia's feed at the fourth scrum was 'perfect', according to Joubert, who would penalise Smith for another skew feed with 15 minutes to go. The Boks-Pumas game a few hours later also saw the scrumhalves penalised for not putting the ball in straight, which suggests that referees have been told to strictly enforce this aspect of the new scrum laws.
5. Ewen McKenzie's brief honeymoon is over
There was a lot of optimism in Australia going into the first Bledisloe Cup clash, and McKenzie's first Test as coach of the Wallabies, which I found strange. Yes, teams often win the first game of a new era, but the Wallabies had been pumped by the British & Irish Lions a few weeks earlier, and while the bulk of their team was made up of players from Super Rugby finalists, the Brumbies, they were coming up against the All Blacks. I predicted a comfortable 10-point win for the world champions, which turned out to be well off the mark as they racked up 47 points to win by 18. The Wallabies had their moments (Adam Ashley-Cooper's linebreak, Will Genia's try) but for most of the game they offered little on attack and their defence was poor (28 tackles were missed). If McKenzie didn't already know how much tougher coaching at Test level is compared to Super Rugby, he sure does now.
Photo: Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix
Junior Boks fullback Warrick Gelant has made the most of his opportunity to start for the Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
Leading from the front
Paul O’Connell is an inspirational captain and player for Ireland, writes GERRY THORNLEY.
Fourie firing for Boks
Fourie du Preez holds the key to the Springboks’ fortunes during the business end of the World Cup, writes CRAIG LEWIS.