The Rugby Championship Round 4 gave us two more exciting matches with the All Blacks and Wallabies both claiming victories at home. The Rugby Championship is a great competition when you consider that with the exception of the All Blacks thrashing Argentina and the Wallabies at home, all of the other matches have been close contests which is a testament to Argentina rising to the challenge and night time rugby.
It is actually ironic that the All Blacks have been struggling to put teams away in slippery night time conditions which is the time that they must play games in order to please the European and South African television market. Everyone knows that most of New Zealand struggles in the winter and early spring with damp dewy and wet conditions, but while this is keeping games close, I do find it more enjoyable watching either a day time game or one played at night time in dry conditions. Both the All Blacks and Wallabies have played most of their home games in such inclement weather which has the ability to keep the scores closer, but it also leads to more mistakes.
Should we say stuff the television audiences in Europe or do we play all night time tests indoors at Forsyth Barr Stadium? On a side note, I think Christchurch and Wellington need indoor stadia, otherwise we will see rugby played in wet conditions at night time. On the other hand, rugby is traditionally a winter sport and you wonder if these conditions suit the All Blacks, but I tend to think now that rugby is a professional game with so much money riding on the results, that I would much rather see the All Blacks dangerous outside backs given more opportunities in try conditions, rather than having games ruined by handling errors.
Anyway, my rant is over. The All Blacks won in less than convincing fashion against the Springboks. Most people had written the Springboks off before this match, but the conditions kept the game close as a contest and the Springboks could have even snatched a late victory at the end. You can say what you like about this Springboks team, while they are not as dominant as the 2007 Rugby World Cup winning Springboks side, they are still tough to beat and barely get thrashed. The four point margin was closer than most people expected, but the conditions and some staunch Springboks defence insured a close game with both teams scoring a try a piece.
Who was your man of the match? Richie McCaw would have to come close, especially after scoring a great try, while is Aaron Cruden the best person to be starting in the Number 10 jersey after a mixed night? I think he thrives when the All Blacks pack is dominant, but there are some question marks over his ability when he isn’t getting front foot ball. Julian Savea was also impressive on a wet night. The question mark is also out on Keven Mealamu. He has been a loyal servant of the game in New Zealand, but surely he is on borrowed time!
In the other match of The Rugby Championship 2014 Round 4, the Wallabies just held off a fast finishing Argentina Pumas team 32-25. Super Rugby Tips actually picked the seven point margin in this game as the recent matches between these two teams in Australia have been close. Again this match was affected by slippery conditions. The Wallabies hooker curse continues, while the Pumas did manage to not only dominate the Wallabies upfront, but they scored some long range tries too and almost stole a draw at the end of the game.
In the Super Rugby Tips tipping conference, most people picked an All Blacks and Wallabies double, but very few picked both margins to be so small. It is tough to make up ground with most picks so close to the actual margins.
What did you make of The Rugby Championship 2014 Round 4? Should we return to day time rugby in Australia and New Zealand and who was your Man of the Match?