CRAIG LEWIS identifies some of the good, the bad and the ugly to take away from the opening round of the Rugby Championship.
Well, Herschel Jantjies, of course. It was a joy to watch the young scrumhalf in action on Saturday. In his Bok debut, he simply looked born to play Test rugby. His speed and accuracy of pass was outstanding, while he was quick to the breakdown and kicked well. Then there’s just the small matter of scoring two tries – the last of which saw him display the sort of vision that would make Fourie du Preez proud as he sniped around the fringes of a ruck to score. For a ‘second-string’ Bok side to clinch such an impressive win over Australia, it bodes particularly well for this Test season, while overseas-based returnees such as Cobus Reinach and Frans Steyn looked hungry for international rugby. One also has to make mention of Elton Jantjies’ goal-kicking, with the Lions flyhalf looking in fine rhythm from the kicking tee.
It’s undoubtedly a good sign for the Springboks that it’s difficult to find anything bad to really say. Of course, it was by no means a perfect performance against the Wallabies, with the side lacking some defensive cohesion at times. However, that was certainly understandable when one considers how many new combinations there were in the first Test outing of the year. It can’t be forgotten that Australia did have one try disallowed for a forward pass, though, while Dane Haylett-Petty also knocked the ball on with the tryline at his mercy, which could have changed the context of the clash. So there will certainly be a few things for the Boks to work on, but ultimately they will be thrilled with Saturday’s outing.
This was actually reserved for the clash in Buenos Aires, with the All Blacks and Argentina contesting a scrappy, inaccurate affair in their Rugby Championship opener. It’s not often that you see the All Blacks struggle with their finishing as much as they did in Argentina, with coach Steve Hansen acknowledging afterwards that there were plenty of early-season blues as a host of new combinations were sent into action. Yet, when one considers just how poorly the All Blacks played, the Pumas will be gutted that they failed to find a way to clinch what would have been a historic win over the world champs. In the dying stages, Argentina had two golden try-scoring opportunities, but could not strike the decisive blow, and ultimately fell to an agonising four-point defeat.
Photo: SA Rugby