A month ago we said that the tour up North will be a good gaugewith regard to where exactly the balance of power lies in world rugby at present and how teams from across the pond stack up against each other.
Well, the acid test has been done and it’s time to get stuck into whose backyard pool is sparkling clear and who is stuck with a swamp which no amount of h2h can fix in a short time.
Despite comfortably running away with the Rugby Championships there were still people (like myself) who felt this All Black team showed some signs of being very human – think James Bond, smooth, cool and a hit with the ladies; but not exactly Superman. The Kiwis lost to the British Lions as well as the Wallabies in 2017 and the trip up North promised to be a good test despite them not having to face Ireland or England.
The French in their current guise were never going to test the Blacks. The Welsh were plucky but didn’t have the guns to go toe-to-toe with the World Champions. It was the Scots who offered the most resistance and eventually came bitterly close to pulling off the upset.
Call me crazy but their midfield is not exactly world class and the front row won’t be scaring the like of England or Ireland.On the positive front, the exposure gained by the likes of Squire and Fifita will hold New Zealand in good stead going forward. Codie Taylor also stepped up to the plate well. Rieko Ioanealso made his drastic imprint on the world stage even deeper with some scintillating showings whilst Damian McKenzie was hardly shown up in conditions that some might have doubted him in.
Flying high in April, shot down in May… Having beaten New Zealand on 21 October, Cheika’s chargers shit the bed less than a month later by being bashed by the English. Okay, it was hardly a bashing and in fact a seriously unfortunate loss but none the less. They followed this up with another record defeat against a Scottish side who gave them a proper lesson in running rugby.
One victory over the Welsh does not make up for the two losses. It was however a very long season for the Aussies and the match against the Poms was a cliff-hanger which just didn’t go their way. I wouldn’t read too much into their slip-up against the bravehearts. There are still a few positives to take from the tour for the Aussies – the side continues to show more mongrell than what we’ve seen in years gone by. The loose trio have come together nicely and Marika Koroibete and SamuKerevi proved themselves to be serious game breakers even in less than ideal conditions.
And then we have the Boks… Two victories over struggling opponents, France and Italy were book-ended by humiliating losses to Ireland and Wales. Not only did the Boks lose two matches but it was the manner in which this happened.
The Irish had no problem in dismissing the Springboks. They looked to have complete control of the clash from pillar to post and apart from the odd game against the Black, this is not something that South African supporters are used to seeing. In the last game the Welsh were missing a number of first choice players and yet the men in green and gold could not prevail against a team who quite clearly are below England, Ireland and Scotland in the Northern hierarchy.
Whilst the All Blacks and the Wallabies can look back on their tours and at least be satisfied by some of the exposure gained by their extended squad the Boks can hardly puff their chests in the same manner. Perhaps the only positive from the disastrous tour is that a spotlight has been shone on the shortcomings of certain individuals. One hopes that the new coach will have taken note of the failings of Skosan, Andries Coetzee and even Jesse Kriel.
In terms of the foreigners England did what they needed to do without really showing that they have progressed from last year. Wales for mind are still behind England and Ireland but were tough opponents on home turf, giving a good account of themselves against both Aus and New Zealand whilst beating the Boks.
Ireland will no longer start as underdogs against anyone in world rugby on their home field at present and even away from home there are few who will be fancied over the lively leprechauns who have firmly established themselves as a world force.
The real team of November was Scotland. After giving the Kiwis a good scare they followed it up with a Wallaby walloping. Toetie can only thank his lucky stars that he beleaguered Boks were not exposed to the pace, skill and attacking intent of these lads as it would without a doubt resulted in yet another loss.
When the North and South meet we get an opportunity to look at the various teams across the board and get to determine a new world order as we approach a new World Cup year. Currently my rankings would look something like this:
Of course, a lot of this is dependent on where the match is played. The interesting thing about this coming World Cup is that it will be a neutral continent for most of the sides and as such none of the big teams will really have an advantage over any of the others. (Unless making those Adidas adds in Tokyo has given the Kiwis some “home” advantage).
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Hein Diemont is the resident “Couch Critic” in the Goodforthegame Forum and he shares his weekly Super Rugby Blog the “Post Match Scuffle” or “PMS” with us.
In his blog Couch Critic channels his usual weekend swearing, ranting, cheering, whinging and bickering to the written word. Brutally honest opinions of how the Super Rugby action went down from his perspective – no punches pulled, it’s PMS time…
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