What we’ve learned

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

Pre-planned substitutions can backfire
Bismarck du Plessis had an outstanding 49 minutes in Brisbane, before being replaced by Adriaan Strauss. The Boks, who were leading 20-7 at the time, suddenly lost a couple of lineouts and started to struggle at scrum time, allowing the Wallabies to come back into the game. Heyneke Meyer's pre-planned substitutions were done to keep players in the mix and give them game time ahead of the World Cup, but the match was far from safe when they were made. Du Plessis had been the best Bok on the field and should have stayed on for much longer.

Schalk Burger can be a like-for-like replacement for Duane Vermeulen
Burger showed in Brisbane why Meyer decided to start him in the No 8 jersey ahead of Warren Whiteley, who had worn it against the World XV. Burger is a more physical player than Whiteley, whose linking game doesn't suit the Bok game, and has a similar skill-set to Duane Vermeulen. The 32-year-old played the full 80 minutes, gaining 30m from six carries, forcing a couple turnovers and making five tackles. If Vermeulen doesn't recover from neck surgery in time for the World Cup, Meyer will be glad to have Burger around.

The Boks need to learn to close out games
When Jesse Kriel scored an outstanding try early in the second half, and Handré Pollard slotted the touchline conversion, the Boks led by 13 points and looked set for a bonus-point win. But they sat back on that lead, failed to hold on to the ball and didn't kick accurately out of hand, which allowed the Wallabies to fight their way back. The Boks also had numerous opportunities to score again, and put the result beyond doubt, but failed to take them. Hopefully they will learn from this defeat and ensure it doesn't happen again if they find themselves in a similar situation at the World Cup.

The All Blacks are vulnerable when defending lineout driving mauls
It would not have escaped Heyneke Meyer's attention that both of Argentina's tries against the All Blacks in Christchurch on Friday came from lineout driving mauls. The hosts put too many players on one side of the maul, which allowed the Pumas to rumble over with relative ease, with a furious Richie McCaw lashing his players on the second occasion. The lineout driving maul is one of the Boks' biggest strengths and you can expect them to use it often against the All Blacks at Ellis Park this Saturday.

The All Blacks are making greater use of short restarts
Dan Carter gave his side the best possible chance of regaining possession from restarts in Christchurch by kicking the ball short, often only just over the Pumas' 10m line. While Carter hasn't travelled to South Africa for the Ellis Park Test, it's something the Boks should be expecting from the All Blacks on Saturday no matter who wears the No 10 jersey.

Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

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Simon Borchardt