Five lessons from the second week of the World Cup, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
Fourie du Preez and Handré Pollard must be the Springboks' first-choice halfbacks for the rest of the World Cup
Pollard finally settled the Bok flyhalf debate with a Man of the Match performance against Samoa at Villa Park. The 21-year-old took the ball to the advantage line, his option-taking was good, and he was committed on defence. While one of his restarts went out on the full and he missed a simple conversion, he was successful with a conversion and four penalties. Pollard benefited from having Du Preez at scrumhalf. The 33-year-old provided his flyhalf with quick service, allowing him to take the ball flat and get the backline going. Du Preez's kicking also helped to pin Samoa in their own half and take some of the pressure off Pollard. Ruan Pienaar and Pat Lambie will still have a role to play at this World Cup but, barring injury, it will be as substitutes.
Traditional Bok rugby wins matches
The Boks suffered a shock defeat in their first World Cup match because they tried to play an expansive game against Japan, with Jean de Villiers and Victor Matfield ignoring instructions from the coaching box to stick to their structures. Heyneke Meyer made it clear to his players during the build-up to the match against Samoa that it was his way or the highway, and the result was a return to traditional Bok rugby. The Boks took the three points when they were on offer in the first half (which they failed to do against Japan), fed off opposition mistakes (JP Pietersen's first try came from an interception), and got themselves into opposition territory via the boot before attacking with ball in hand. They also dominated the set pieces, winning all 12 of their lineouts and stealing six of Samoa's, and made good use of the driving maul. The Boks built scoreboard pressure, with four penalty goals resulting in a 17-6 half-time lead, and were able to score five tries in the second half as Samoa faded. They also defended well and prevented the Pacific Islanders from scoring a try. The result, a convincing 46-6 win, should ensure that this is the way the Boks play for the rest of the tournament.
Tier-two nations are getting a raw deal
The minnows have every reason to be upset about the World Cup draw. Japan were expected to play Scotland just four days after their famous win against the Springboks, and while coach Eddie Jones made six changes in an attempt to keep the team fresh, they predictably faded in the second half. Would Scotland have scored five second-half tries against a rested Brave Blossoms outfit? Romania, meanwhile, were forced to play the top two seeds in their pool, France and Ireland, within the space of five days. They were very competitive in their first fixture, with the 38-11 scoreline flattering the French, but were hoping to avoid a big defeat to Ireland on Sunday as they'd had so little time to recover for the game. Yet the Oaks will have a 10-day break before their next match against Italy. Yes, the big nations also have to deal with quick turnarounds, but their follow-up fixture is against a weaker side (the All Blacks played Namibia four days after Argentina, for example) and their squad depth allows them to field a strong B team. World Rugby needs to level the playing field for the 2019 tournament by producing a draw that doesn't put the weaker teams at a disadvantage.
England must learn to put opponents away
The World Cup hosts looked set for a comfortable win when they led Wales 22-12 after 52 minutes at Twickenham. But instead of pulling away, they allowed the visitors to get back into the game. Wales were clearly the fitter team, but England's biggest problem was their inability to get the ball to the wings because Sam Burgess and Brad Barritt were unable to create anything in midfield. Coach Stuart Lancaster also bemoaned the number of penalties his team conceded at the breakdown that the Welsh were able to turn into points.
There are times to go for a draw
England were trailing 28-25 with three minutes to go when they were awarded a kickable penalty. It was close to the right-hand touchline, but Owen Farrell had kicked flawlessly for goal throughout the match and would have fancied his chances of success. However, captain Chris Robshaw pointed to the corner, England went to the front of the lineout (instead of to the middle or the back which would have provided better attacking ball) and Wales were able to repel the drive and ultimately regain possession. Had Farrell kicked that penalty, England would still have had a couple of minutes left to push for another score, and if he had missed, they would have regained possession from the 22m dropout. There's also the fact that a draw would have left England and Wales with seven log points each after two rounds, with the injury plagued Welsh having to play Fiji just four days later, and then the Wallabies, who they have lost 10 consecutive Tests against since last beating them in 2008.
Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images