The outstanding lessons from the past weekend's international matches, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
Siya Kolisi belongs with the Boks
Kolisi made his Test debut just five minutes into the Scotland game after Arno Botha sustained a serious knee injury. The Stormers flank went on to have a storming game, deservedly being named Man of the Match. He made a big impact as a ball-carrier, tackled anyone who came his way, and did well at the breakdown considering he's not a specialist fetcher. Kolisi has given Bok coach Heyneke Meyer a selection headache ahead of Saturday's match against Samoa. Francois Louw is the Boks' first-choice opensider and will be available again, having missed the Scotland Test because of his wedding, while blindsider Willem Alberts may be back to full fitness. Kolisi could well find himself on the bench again and if that is the case, it would be good to see him get a decent run in the second half.
Eddie Jones's Japan are on the up
Yes, Wales were without 15 of their Lions players as well as another four or five who were being rested. Yes, Wales should probably have toured Japan as Wales A and the matches not given Test status, but Japan's 23-8 win against the depleted Six Nations champions, their first against a top Test nation, was a momentous one nonetheless. In the past, a B or C team from a tier-one country would still have been far too good for the Japanese (New Zealand's B team put 145 points past them at the 1995 World Cup). Now, though, Japan can be competitive, as we saw in the first Test against Wales, and even claim an upset victory, as we saw in the second. With the 2019 World Cup being held in Japan, rugby needs the Cherry Blossoms to become a strong tier-two nation like Samoa. Saturday's result was a big step in the right direction.
The 2013 All Blacks will be tough to beat
New Zealand made a big statement when they smashed France 30-0, keeping them scoreless for the first time since Scotland achieved the feat in 1990. The All Blacks played an intelligent game, kicking well for territory (take a bow, Aaron Cruden) and counter-attacking from deep when it was on (resulting in two cracking tries to Ben Smith and Beauden Barrett). They dominated territory but were still forced to make 139 tackles, many of which would have come early in the second half when France strung together 20-plus phases on New Zealand's tryline. So good was the All Blacks' defence in that passage of play that France went 20m backwards and were forced to go for a drop goal (an error of judgment from Frédéric Michalak that led to Smith's try). It was a complete performance from the world champions, and one that will give the Boks, Wallabies and Pumas a lot to think about.
Simon Zebo should be on the Lions bench for the Test series against the Wallabies
Zebo joined the Lions squad after fellow Irishman Tommy Bowe was ruled out through injury and was inches away from scoring a try in the first minute of the match against the Waratahs (his foot went out just before he grounded the ball). The winger went on to make another seven runs for a combined total of 98m. While Zebo may not have had enough time to secure a starting place for the first Test on Saturday, Lions coach Warren Gatland should seriously think about using him as an impact player off the bench (a role he will play for the Lions against the Brumbies on Tuesday). Zebo is a genuine game-breaker and could come in handy against a tiring Wallabies team in the second half.
The Argentina-England 'Test' series was a farce
The Pumas rested 21 players for their two-Test series against an England team missing a dozen Lions players and got badly beaten in both matches (32-3 in Salta and 51-26 in Buenos Aires). Because Argentina's best all play in Europe, they are given a break in June after the European season so that they are fit and raring to go for the Rugby Championship, which is obviously the Pumas' top priority. That's fair enough, but then don't give these June matches Test status and don't hand out Test caps to 23-plus players who don't deserve them. An Argentina Jaguars vs England Saxons A-team series should have taken place instead.
Photos: Barry Aldworth/David Rogers/BackpagePix/Getty Images
Green Bok side could struggle
The Springboks’ Rugby Championship squad is light on experience as well as genuine Test options at blindside flank, inside centre and fullback, writes JON CARDINELLI.
Boks have bigger worries
There are many reasons for the Springboks’ ongoing woes, but blaming transformation agendas is futile and far off the mark, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Bank on Boks to stand up in Salta
THE MONEY MAN is putting R2,000 on the Springboks to beat Argentina comfortably in Salta on Saturday.