Five lessons from the first round of the Rugby Championship, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
Rain is a great leveller in rugby
The Springboks would have expected to begin their Rugby Championship campaign with an emphatic bonus-point win against Argentina at Loftus on Saturday. However, when a hail storm coincided with the singing of the national anthems, it became apparent that scoring four tries would be damn difficult. The Boks did manage to cross the line early on, through Ruan Pienaar, but the heavy rain that fell throughout the match meant they had to settle for the four log points. Rain also had a big say in Sydney, with neither side able to score a try in a scrappy drawn match.
The Springbok set piece needs work
In conditions that required a dominant pack, the Boks battled at scrum time with Beast Mtawarira and Jannie du Plessis being schooled by Ramiro Herrera and Marcos Ayerza respectively. The Pumas also stole two of the Bok lineouts while winning all 14 of theirs.
Accurate tactical kicking is crucial in wet weather
With the driving rain making running rugby impossible, the Boks needed to kick accurately into space, put the Pumas under pressure and feed off their mistakes. They also needed to kick up-and-unders that allowed the chasers to contest the ball in the air and hopefully win it back. South Africa didn't manage to do either well enough and it prevented them from playing the game in Argentina's 22. Handré Pollard was the main culprit for the Boks, and it was no surprise to see him substituted in the 45th minute.
The All Blacks do kick, and kick well
The myth that the All Blacks run teams ragged with ball in hand and rarely kick was again exposed in Sydney on Saturday. The world champions kicked 21 times compared to the Wallabies' 18 and made 354 running metres compared to the hosts' 966. The All Blacks put the Wallabies' back three under pressure by kicking accurately into space, especially in the first half when Israel Folau was forced to come up and collect the ball, only to be swamped by black jerseys. As a result, Australia's most dangerous player was never given the chance to counter-attack from kicks. For the record, the All Blacks who kicked the most were flyhalf Aaron Cruden (seven times), scrumhalf Aaron Smith (six) and fullback Ben Smith (five).
Bernard Foley should have retained the Wallabies No 10 jersey
Ewen McKenzie's decision to start Kurtley Beale at flyhalf in Sydney was always going to be a gamble. As the coach admitted when announcing the team, Foley had not put a foot wrong since being given the No 10 jersey for the three-Test series against France in June. Foley's confidence was sky high having kicked a last-minute 45m penalty to win the Super Rugby final and finished the tournament with a 77% goal-kicking success rate. Beale missed six of his 13 shots at goal in Super Rugby this season and while he slotted four penalties in Saturday's 12-12 draw, he missed an easy attempt on the stroke of half-time that could have made all the difference. Foley and Beale formed a good 10-12 combination for the Waratahs, and McKenzie should have stuck with it for the opening match of the Rugby Championship.
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images