What we’ve learned

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

Contesting the ball in the air is a risky business
When two players contest a kick in the air it's the defending player's safety that is paramount in the mind of the referee. The attacking player has to be extremely careful not to take his opponent out in the air, as we saw in Cardiff. In the first half, Eben Etzebeth was harshly penalised for making contact with Dan Biggar, while a similar incident in the second half saw Cornal Hendricks yellow-carded after Leigh Halfpenny fell heavily. Hendricks' sin-binning was a massive moment in the match as the Boks were just starting to build some momentum going into the final quarter, but instead of taking charge they were forced to spend the next 10 minutes defending their tryline. With referees prone to making game-changing mistakes, attacking players need to decide if the risk of going up to contest the ball is worth it, or whether they should rather wait for their opponent to return to ground and then apply the pressure.

Wales can beat a top southern hemisphere side
So often have Wales contrived to lose a game against one of the Sanzar teams that you wouldn't have been surprised if they had conceded a late converted try on Saturday. Scott Williams's brain explosion, when he tried to keep a Handré Pollard penalty touch-finder in play when the ball was going to go dead, gave the Boks a gift 5m scrum, but this time Wales held their nerve, shoved their opponents off the ball and celebrated a famous victory soon after. While the Boks were missing their overseas-based players and at the end of a long season, Warren Gatland's men will now go into the 2015 World Cup knowing they can beat a top southern hemisphere side.

The Cardiff Test was one game too many for the Boks in 2014
The South African Rugby Union was paid £750,000 (nearly R13-million) by the Welsh Rugby Union for Saturday's match, which fell outside of World Rugby's international window. But while Saru's coffers benefited from the fixture, the Boks certainly didn't. It was their 14th match of the season and fourth on tour. The Boks, who were without their overseas-based players, produced a tired, listless performance, and looked as if they would rather have been lying on a beach back in South Africa.

The Wallabies won't win the World Cup without a competitive scrum
Australia were the better team with ball in hand at Twickenham on Saturday, with England's backline posing little threat. But once again, the Wallabies pack was pulverised and it cost them the game, with both of Ben Morgan's tries coming from dominant England scrums. The hosts were able to maintain the set-piece assault for the full 80 minutes, with the starting front row of Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley and David Wilson replaced by Matt Mullan, Rob Webber and Kieran Brookes. The Australian front rankers – James Slipper, Saia Fainga'a, Sekope Kepu, James Hanson, Benn Robinson and Ben Alexander – simply weren't in the same league.

George Ford can perform at flyhalf against a top team
Ford impressed in his first Test start last weekend, but that was against a tier-two team in Samoa. Saturday provided the 21-year-old with a far sterner challenge, and he met it. Ford kicked superbly out of hand to ensure England won the territorial battle, and while he missed two penalty goals, he was successful with four penalties and both conversions. Coach Stuart Lancaster must stick with Ford at 10 throughout next year's Six Nations and allow him to get as much game time as possible before the World Cup.

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Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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