What we learned from this past weekend’s Test matches involving the Boks, All Blacks and Wallabies, according to CRAIG LEWIS.
Inspired comeback boosts Boks, reignites faith of fans
At Saturday’s post-match press conference in Johannesburg, Rassie Erasmus admitted to being a very worried man when the Boks fell 21 points behind in the opening quarter against England. At that point, a new-look Springbok side could easily have wilted under the pressure. Instead, a sense of maturity prevailed as the Boks refocused and began a remarkable comeback that resulted in a 42-39 win. In conversations after the Test, the likes of Faf de Klerk and S’bu Nkosi insisted that the Boks never doubted their ability to fight back to claim a victory even when they trailed 24-3. It spoke volumes about the belief in a Bok team that will surely be even more confident when next weekend’s Test in Bloemfontein rolls around. The sensational win at Ellis Park was also just the tonic for Springbok supporters who have been desperately crying out for a reason to believe in the Boks again. That reason was provided in bucket loads during the final hour at Ellis Park.
Debutants, overseas Boks made their mark
De Klerk walked away with the official Man of the Match award, but he faced stiff competition at Ellis Park. De Klerk ignited a talented backline, but Nkosi was also sensational on the right wing. The powerful Sharks star made 10 runs for 95m, which included three clean breaks and a couple of well-finished tries on his Test debut. Aphiwe Dyantyi was another vibrant presence out wide, beating four defenders and making 47 running metres, while also getting stuck in on defence. Willie le Roux added a calming presence at fullback, and was a constant threat when running on to front-foot ball. Although the back was largely the star of the show, debutant lock RG Snyman deserves plenty of plaudits for his physical and fearless performance in the second row. The big Bulls lock made nine tackles while racking up an impressive 49m from nine runs that underlined his all-round value. Finally, a mention should also go to Duane Vermeulen, who was an imposing presence throughout the clash.
All Blacks can turn it on like no other side
Coming into the second half against France on Saturday, the All Blacks trailed by three points after producing a lacklustre first-half performance. However, New Zealand typically upped the ante in the decisive second half as they ran in seven tries and scored 44 unanswered points to claim a resounding victory. Although the All Blacks were undoubtedly helped by a couple of poor refereeing calls, it’s clear that they remain a team that is virtually unstoppable when they get on a roll. To France’s credit, they did produce a gutsy first-half effort, but to concede over 50 points in the end will dent their confidence for the remainder of the three-match series.
Officials need to do better
It’s an unfortunate fact that the engrossing Test between the All Blacks and France was ultimately influenced by some particularly poor officiating. Despite trailing 11-8 at half-time, New Zealand were effectively able to take control of the match during a period where French lock Paul Gabrillagues had been sent to the sin bin for a high, but far from dangerous, tackle. Later in the match, French wing Remy Grosso was caught in the middle of a dangerous double hit from Sam Cane and Ofa Tu’ungafasi, and yet a penalty was deemed sufficient punishment. It capped off a poor overall effort from rookie Test referee Luke Pearce and the officials, who failed to display any semblance of consistency.
Wallabies fully deserved impressive victory over Ireland
The clash between the Wallabies and Ireland was an enthralling affair on Saturday. It was tough, uncompromising Test rugby at its best, with both teams remaining well in the hunt for victory until the latter stages. Although the No 2-ranked Six Nations champions had come into the clash as marginal favourites, they simply had no answer to the steely resolve that Australia displayed on defence. David Pocock was in classy form for Australia, and in the end, there could be no denying that the hosts were the better side on the day – scoring two tries and conceding none. For Australia, it was also a result that saw them snap Ireland’s 12-match winning run, and put Michael Cheika’s team in the ascendancy for the remainder of the series.