The Rugby Championship Round 1 saw two entertaining matches between the Southern Hemisphere’s best teams. Here are ten things we learnt from the weekend;
1) Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer promised a fitter Springboks team, but they fell apart in the final 20 minutes against the Wallabies, losing by 24-20 and seemingly unable to get either territory or possession in the final quarter.
2) On that note, I know that the bigger picture is the Rugby World Cup, but you can’t help but wonder what would have happened if the Springboks didn’t sub some of their stars off early. thinking that the game was in the bag.
3) Should the world be on watch for the Wallabies? Remember that this team hadn’t played a game all season and finished strongly. Could Matt Giteau be the answer to settling their backline down and will their lack of depth in most positions actually be an advantage as they develop combinations, where other teams like the All Blacks and Springboks keep rotating their squads?
4) Was this a try or no try? What is it with important games and important TMO decisions? Most replays appeared inconclusive, but this one shows that the ball looks to be on the grass, but only just. The home groundsman may have saved the day with that one!
5) The Rugby Championship only goes for three weeks, but it is hard to know how much to read into Round 1 results. The next round will shed further light into where these teams are at. The All Blacks comfortably outplayed Argentina, but one look at the Argentina team suggests that they really missed their handful of missing stars. While South Africa was great for sixty minutes and the Wallabies only really started firing until the final quarter, so time will tell on the form of these teams come Rugby World Cup time.
6) Dan Carter has gone from over the hill, to best option to start for the All Blacks in the space of a few weeks. It is amazing how fickle fans are and how loyal the All Blacks coaches are to their players. The All Blacks’ coaches have faith in their players and players like Carter, Israel Dagg, Sonny Bill Williams, Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock repaid that confidence.
7) How much depth does New Zealand have? The All Blacks are losing outside backs from their ranks with the likes of Cory Jane and Waisake Naholo injured, but how timely is that return to form of Israel Dagg and to a lesser extent Charles Piutau, to fill the void. Waiting in the wings is the exciting Nehe Milner-Skudder. This is not bad backup to Ben Smith and Julian Savea.
8) It will be interesting to see how much rotation takes place for Round 2 of the Rugby Championship. The bigger picture is the Rugby World Cup, but it will the likes of Argentina and Australia who have less depth in most positions to the All Blacks, may also do player rotation, although with so few tests left until the Rugby World Cup, it could also be detrimental to make too many changes. The team cohesion vs player freshness. The All Blacks for example, have left Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams from their squad to play South Africa next weekend.
9) There were several disappointed tipsters from the weekend, who picked the Springboks to win and were sitting pretty until the 82nd minute of the game. This game really did split the tipsters, and left many people cursing the Springboks inability to play for 80 minutes and the subsitutiton of players. Almost everyone picked the All Blacks to beat the Pumas in the other game.
10) Any doubts over if the Rugby Championship 2015 means anything, were quickly quashed when seeing the reactions of the Wallabies in Brisbane after being awarded the try by the TMO. Given that this competition is only three weeks long and teams are using it to warm up for the Rugby World Cup, there were some doubts over how committed teams would be, but these fears disappeared with such a close game in Brisbane.
What are your thoughts on The Rugby Championship Round 1?