The Rugby Championship 2018 – All Blacks again?
The 2018 edition of the Rugby Championship kicks off this weekend. Since the induction of the tournament in 2012, New Zealand has won it five times and Australia once. All indications show that the All Blacks will probably be the champions for a sixth time. South Africa, Australia and Argentina will have to battle it out for the second place.
The All Blacks defeated the French during the June internationals in a three match series 3-0. Everything didn’t go as smoothly as planned for the men in black and the French made them work for the victories. France was leading 11-8 after 50 minutes of play in the first test. The final score was 52-11. The All Blacks scored 44 unanswered points during the final 30 minutes. The second test, the French played the majority of the game with 14 men after their fullback Benjamin Fall received a red card for colliding with Beauden Barret. The referee decided that Fall was not in a position to challenge for a high ball. The final score was 26-13. The third and final test the All Blacks won 49-14. Yes, All Black Coach Steve Hansen gave a few players their first taste of international rugby during this series including Karl Tu’inukuafe, Shannon Firzell, Jack Goodhue, Jackson Hemopo and Richie Mo’unga, but in the end they were still too classy for the Les Blues.
South Africa under new coach Rassie Erasmus faced Eddie Jones’s England team. England came to South Africa with a few successive loses. The Springboks chose a very young and inexperienced side for all three the tests and the injuries to Eben Etzebeth, Warren Whiteley, Coenie Oosthuizen, Malcolm Marx, Trevor Nyakane, Jaco Kriel, Lood de Jager and Jan Serfontein did make things difficult for Erasmus. New captain Siya Kolisi did a superb job and the Boks won the series 2-1. In the first test in Johannesburg the Boks were down 24-3 after just 20 minutes. They made a brilliant come back and end up beating their old rivals 42-39. The second test in Bloemfontein was a similar slow start for the men in green as they were trailing 12-0 after just 10 minutes. Again the Boks came from behind and won 23-12. The final test in Cape Town was a cold and wet game. The Boks’ shortcomings and inexperience in wet conditions were exposed and they went down 10-25.
Australia was involved in a bruising test series against Ireland. The first test in Brisbane the Wallabies won a tightly contested match 18-9. It was only due to a late try by David Pocock that secured the match for the men in gold. Ireland had to win the second test in Melbourne to keep the series alive. They did just that by winning 26-21. The third and final test played in Sydney was the series decider. In a titanic and bruising encounter the Irish prevailed as 20-16 winners and secure only their second series win against the men from Down Under. Of all the June internationals, this was probably the best series to watch.
Argentina had a very disappointing June International series. Argentina went down 10-23 in the first test against Wales, 12-30 in the second test again against Wales and 15-44 against Scotland in the third test. Over all the June test matches were very disappointing for the Argentines.
18 August 2018 – Australia v New Zealand, Sydney
The first test of the 2018 Championship is between The Wallabies and The All Blacks in Sydney. The last two matches played at this venue the All Blacks ran out victors with a 42-8 win in 2016 and a 54-34 win in 2017. For the hosts, inspirational captain Michael Hooper recovered in time from his injury to lead his side. Australia will be fielding a new and untested centre pairing of Kurtley Beale and Reece Hodge. This is mainly due to the injuries of Tevita Kuridrani and Samu Kerevi. In the front row injury has ruled out Scott Sio with shoulder problems. Tom Robertson has been drafted in the front row, alongside recalled hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau and veteran Sekope Kepu. Dane Haylett-Petty overcame his injury concern and will be ready to slot in the number 14 jersey.
The All Blacks were dealt a late blow when reserve tighthead prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi has been ruled out of the Rugby Championship opener with a rib cartilage injury. Crusaders prop Tim Perry, a loosehead specialist, has come on to the bench and tighthead Jeffery Toomaga-Allen is on route to Sydney to join the squad as cover. All Black lock Sam Whitelock will be playing in his 100th test match for the men in black. Kieran Read is back at number 8 and as captain. Rising star Richie Mo’unga who had a superb Super Rugby campaign was not included in the match day 23.
15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Lukhan Tui, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Tom Robertson
15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Prediction – All Blacks by 7
18 August 2018 – South Africa v Argentina, Durban
The second test between South Africa and Argentina will take place in Durban. The Argentine side famously broke their hoodoo by beating the Boks for the first time in 2015 on SA soil at the same venue. This time around it is highly unlikely that an upset will happen again. For the host side a few old famous faces will be back in the green and gold like lock Eben Etzebeth, 8th man Warren Whiteley, hooker Malcolm Marx and flank Francois Louw. The Bulls loose forward Marco van Staden and the young Stormers flyhalf Damian Willemse can both make their debuts from the bench. The fast paced Sharks wing Makazole Mapimpi can also start for the first time since his debut against Wales earlier this year. The centre paring will feature the strong Andre Esterhuizen and Lukhanyo Am. Lionel Mapoe is also included on the bench and will play his first test since June of last year.
The new coach of the Pumas side Mario Ledesma has asked to ease restrictions on European-based players. Since 2015 Argentina has only used home-based players and saw them win only 2 of their last 17 test matches. Ledesma asked for permission to call up Saracens tight head prop Juan Figallo and Stade Francais prop forward Ramiro Herrera so that his team can get back to their fundamental strengths which is strong set pieces. Ledesma who coached the Jaquares in the Super Rugby to a play-off spot for the first time. The majority of this national side were competing in the Super Rugby. Forwards Lucas Favre, Marco Ciccioli, Diego Fortuny, Santiago Grondona, Franco Molina and Mayco Vivas are the new caps in the Pumas squad.
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Makazole Mapimpi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Siya Kolisi (captain), 6 Francois Louw, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Bautista Ezcurra, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matias Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Agustin Creevy (captain), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Prediction – Springboks by 10
By Carl Coertzen – 17/08/18