What we’ve learned

Five lessons from the past weekend's Test matches, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.

Francois Hougaard struggles at scrumhalf in northern hemisphere conditions
After good performances in the Springbok No 9 jersey against the Wallabies at Newlands and the All Blacks at Ellis Park, it looked as if Hougaard had proved that he could be as good at scrumhalf as he is on the wing. His true test, though, was always going to come on the Boks' European tour, and he failed dismally in Dublin on Saturday. With morning rain resulting in wet underfoot conditions, Hougaard made several handling errors, including one at the back of a ruck when the Boks were a metre out from the Ireland tryline early in the first half, was indecisive over the ball and his passing was ponderous. He was substituted after 56 minutes and will be fortunate to retain his starting spot for the match against England at Twickenham.

Always take the three points in a tight Test
Twice during the first half, Springbok captain Jean de Villiers told Handré Pollard to kick for the corner instead of at goal, and twice the Boks lost possession from lineout driving mauls. De Villiers justified his decision after the match, saying that when they had done that a third time, in the second half, it had led to Marcell Coetzee's try, so they got seven points when taking all three shots at goal would have resulted in just two points more. But with Ireland leading 6-0 in the first half, the Boks needed to take the points on offer, and get themselves back into the game on the scoreboard. And if De Villiers was so convinced with his kick-for-the-corner approach, he would have stuck with it with three minutes to go in the first half, instead of telling Pollard to kick for goal and make it 6-3.

There's life after Brian O'Driscoll for Ireland
O'Driscoll's retirement left a gaping hole in Ireland's midfield, and with Gordon D'Arcy having only just returned to full fitness, coach Joe Schmidt started Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne against the Boks. Henshaw had been anointed by O'Driscoll as his successor at outside centre, but was given the No 12 jersey in his fourth Test, with Payne making his Test debut at 13. The duo had limited attacking opportunities, but grew in confidence as the match progressed, with Henshaw making tackles and hitting rucks, and Payne having a go with ball in hand and getting across to make cover tackles. With D'Arcy sure to return at 12, Henshaw and Payne may never play in the same midfield again, but they can be proud of their performance against the more experienced Jean de Villiers and Jan Serfontein.

The All Blacks reign in the rain
No team adapts to wet conditions better than New Zealand. When heavy rain began to fall with 20 minutes of their match at Twickenham remaining, the All Blacks kept the ball among the forwards and used their big ball-carriers to get over the advantage line. That approach paid off when a 22-phase buildup, which saw them driving up around the fringes, finished with Charlie Faumuina scoring a match-winning try in the 71st minute.

Wales still have a mental block against the big three southern hemisphere sides
On Saturday in Cardiff, Wales scored four tries against the Wallabies for the first time in 39 years, yet still fell to their 10th successive defeat against them (seven of which have been by seven points or less). Since beating Australia in 2008, Wales have lost 21 matches in a row against the three southern hemisphere giants, with Warren Gatland having won just once against them in 25 matches as Wales coach. Gatland, though, focused on the positives after the gutting 33-28 loss to a Wallabies team playing just its second match under new coach Michael Cheika, saying that while he wasn't happy with the result, he was pleased with the performance and the fact that they scored four tries. Gatland added that his team would get better throughout the November campaign, and they will have to if they are to challenge the All Blacks and Springboks.

Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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