Five lessons from this past weekend's international matches, according to CRAIG LEWIS.
Boks to face more pain against England
It was always going to be interesting to see what sort of value a clash against the Barbarians would add as tour-opener before big Tests against England, Italy and Wales. Ultimately, although the Boks will field a very different side against England on Saturday, this past weekend's match would have done very little to boost confidence in the group. The Boks were very fortunate to salvage a draw and were second best in a number of facets of play, particularly when it came to the collisions. While the Boks may be most grateful that there didn’t appear to be any serious injuris sustained, there was really very little else to be particularly positive about as the Boks get set for a battle against England that it’s impossible to see them being equipped to win.
No answer to loose-trio, breakdown woes
Another area where the Boks have battled to find balance throughout the international season has been in the back row. Francois Louw, Oupa Mohoje and Warren Whiteley combined in the loose trio during the Rugby Championship, but the Boks battled to have the desired impact at the breakdown and at the gainline. Louw has now been ruled out with injury, as has Jaco Kriel, which will further limit the Boks’ options in that regard. On Saturday, Mohoje and Nizaam Carr failed to give the Boks the necessary go-forward against the Baa-Baas, and while Roelof Smit made some important turnovers, there’s no doubt that it will be a big step up for him to start against England this weekend. In all, the Boks conceded 25 turnovers against the Barbarians, and besides their continued woes in this regard, it’s also clear that there are few answers to finding a better balanced loose trio.
All good things must come to an end
Undoubtedly the biggest surprise from the weekend’s international action was the defeat suffered by the All Blacks against Ireland. After securing the record sequence of 18 consecutive Test victories, New Zealand were expected to comfortably extend that record when they came up against the Irish in Chicago. Perhaps they too were complacent. In the end, Ireland clinched a magical piece of history as they secured their first-ever win over the All Blacks in 111 years. The Kiwis suffered without three specialist locks, but all credit should go to an Ireland side that showed no fear over 80 minutes and deservedly emerged with a historic win.
Wales are vulnerable
The Boks are set to finish their end-of-year tour with a clash against Wales in Cardiff. Considering the struggles South Africa have endured this year, it’s a result that many understandably believe may go the way of the hosts. However, there would appear to be some glimmer of hope for the Boks if Wales’ performance against Australia is anything to go by. The Welsh were simply awful against an average Wallabies side, and were never in a contest that they ultimately lost 32-8. The Boks are bad, but Wales may well be worse.
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