• What we’ve learned

    Five lessons from the fourth round of the Rugby Championship, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.

    Handré Pollard is the real deal
    A few eyebrows were raised when the 20-year-old was selected to start for the Springboks against the All Blacks in Wellington ahead of Morné Steyn. The latter had kicked well for goal in Perth, but his failure to find touch with a penalty late in the game, and subsequent missed tackle, cost the visitors victory. However, that 24-23 loss may prove to be a blessing for the Boks. Had they won, Steyn would have probably stayed at 10 for the rest of the Rugby Championship. Instead, Pollard was thrown into the deep end and produced a composed performance against the best team in the world. He attacked the advantage line regularly and it was his deft inside pass that put Cornal Hendricks away for the Boks' only try. Pollard also kicked well out of hand, and slotted a conversion and a drop goal, with the only minor blemish on his report card being a 50m penalty attempt in the 64th minute that went just wide of the right-hand upright. Pollard proved on Saturday that he is the real deal and must be backed to start against the Wallabies and All Blacks in South Africa.

    The Springbok scrum can dominate against the best
    After poor performances against the Pumas in Pretoria and Salta, the Bok scrum did well against the Wallabies in Perth, but their true test was always going to be the All Blacks. And they passed it, dominating the first scrum with a double shove and then going on to win a free kick and a penalty from another two scrums in the first half. The Bok pack was not as good in the second – with Jannie du Plessis being penalised twice and another scrum disintegrating – but they finished strongly by pushing the All Blacks off their ball with two minutes to go. Scrum coach Pieter de Villiers would have arrived in Australasia a worried man, but he will leave with a smile on his face.

    Victor Matfield is vital for the Boks at lineout time
    Matfield often troubled the All Blacks in the lineouts before his retirement in 2011, and he did so again on Saturday. The 37-year-old stole New Zealand's first throw-in, in the second minute, and went on to win six of his own, all from four-man lineouts. Does anyone still think the Boks would be better off without him?

    Pre-determined substitutions can backfire
    Bismarck du Plessis had been told before the match in Wellington that he would replace Adriaan Strauss with 25 minutes to go and that's what happened. But why did Heyneke Meyer take off Strauss, whose lineout throwing had been excellent? The Boks lost their next three lineouts, with Brodie Retallick stealing two throws and the other going over the top, and lost momentum as a result. Meyer should have taken the match situation into account, which he also failed to do during last year's title decider at Ellis Park when he yanked off the Du Plessis brothers just before a vital scrum.

    The Wallabies are still scrumming illegally
    As Nick Mallett pointed out in the SuperSport studio, the Australians keep talking about how well they have been scrumming, but against the Pumas on the Gold Coast they constantly scrummed with their shoulders below their hips, which is against the law. And whenever they were put under pressure by the Pumas they just collapsed the scrum and let the referee make a call. Hopefully someone in the Bok camp will have a chat with the referee before their game against the Wallabies at Newlands.

    Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

    Post by

    Simon Borchardt