DYLAN JACK looks at what we learned from this past weekend’s Tests and Super Rugby Unlocked action.
Wallabies got potential … but still have some way to go
The Wallabies talked a big game in the buildup to their decisive third Bledisloe Cup Test against the All Blacks in Sydney on Saturday, which also served as the opening match of the Tri-Nations.
However, it was the All Blacks who did all the playing on Saturday, as they ruthlessly exploited an inexperienced Aussie display to power to a 43-5 victory and retain the Bledisloe Cup.
Dave Rennie’s Wallabies would have taken a lot of confidence from their 16-16 draw in the first Bledisloe Cup Test, but two successive losses to the All Blacks have brought them right back down to earth.
It’s worth mentioning that the Wallabies have had their moments in all three Tests, from coming within a couple of metres of winning try in the first Test, to Marika Koroibete’s finish in the second, to debutant flyhalf Noah Lolesio scoring on debut in the third Test.
This a young Wallabies side, one that has plenty of potential, but also one that need to grow under Rennie’s mentorship over the next three years.
France will challenge for 2023 World Cup
France capped a dramatic final round of the 2020 Six Nations by beating Ireland 35-27 in the final match of the tournament in Paris.
Unfortunately for Les Bleus, it wasn’t enough to have them claim the title, which went to Eddie Jones’ England, who had earlier bagged a much-needed bonus-point win over Italy in Rome.
However cruel it may be to miss out on points difference, there is still plenty for France to take from what has been easily one of their best campaigns in years.
In halfback pairing Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont, France have a partnership that could guide them through the next World Cup and beyond.
Certainly, the performances from the French team, in general, have suggested that a 2023 World Cup challenge is not a far-fetched idea. Right now, Fabian Galthie’s side needs to prove that they have the mettle to win a title by claiming the upcoming Autumn Nations Cup.
Old heads show worth for Vodacom Bulls
A few eyebrows were raised when the Bulls brought Gio Aplon and Morne Steyn back to the country from Japan and France, respectively. Both players are well into their thirties and thought to be winding down towards the end of their respective careers, offering more off the field than on it.
However, if the opening rounds of Super Rugby Unlocked have shown anything, it is that the opposite is true.
Steyn’s role in the 39-6 thrashing of the Stormers proved, yet again, that experienced players have an on-field role to play for the South African franchises. Not only did Steyn pick up two try assists – one coming from a delightful bit of skill with a deft behind-his-back offload to Stedman Gans – but he also caused havoc among Stormers ranks with his tactical kicking.
Duane Vermeulen and loosehead prop Jacques van Rooyen – both aged 34 – were also massive in the Bulls pack that didn’t just contain the Springbok-infused Stormers, but at times overwhelmed them.
Wandisile Simelane needs to be backed
Those who know of Simelane’s immense potential wouldn’t have been surprised by his role in the Lions’ 61-31 victory over the Griquas, their first win in Super Rugby Unlocked.
On his first start in the competition, Simelane made an outstanding 82 metres from 14 carries, five clean breaks, scoring a try and assisting another four.
The former Junior Springbok has strangely found game time tough to come by in 2020 and was linked with a move away from the Lions during lockdown before he decided to extend his stay in Johannesburg.
Simelane certainly made the most of a rare start and showed that he brings a different directness and ingenuity to the Lions’ other in-form midfielders, Dan Kriel and Burger Odendaal.
If Simelane is to realise his potential, he needs to feel the full faith of both the coach and the team.
The 2019 World Cup legacy lives on
The fifth and final episode of the documentary based on the Springboks’ 2019 World Cup win, ‘Chasing the Sun’, aired on Sunday evening.
It was an emotional finale to what has been an incredible series which has shed further light on how Rassie Erasmus and his underdog team rose to the summit of the rugby world.
If the reaction to the documentary’s conclusion is anything to go by, people are still taking inspiration and hope from many of the Springboks’ stories.
In a year where so many have lost their livelihoods and loved ones to the Covid-19 pandemic, a year where South Africans have again found themselves divided on the issue of racial equality, the documentary was a reminder of what we can achieve when we pull together and keep getting up and moving forward, as the Springboks did in Japan.
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