In summary of this past weekend’s results it reads rather like so many weekends before it thus far in 2017. The All Blacks showed just enough moments of mortality to leave one thinking that they are less godly and more human.
Yet there were also enough of those scintillating glimpses of class, silky skill and clinical finishing at times to remind us all that these gentlemen are a cut above the rest at present. The Wallabies continue their upward curve under the passionate tutelage of Michael Cheika as there appears to be a touch more grit in their forward effort whilst the attacking balance seems to have been found amongst the backs. And then there is the Springboks who bumble their way to yet another record low.
THE INSANITY PERSISTS
It has been said that insanity is the concept of doing the same thing and expecting a different result… Well after yet another Allister Coetzee led fiasco there are surely no South African supporters left willing to follow Toetie to the mad house. In the lead up to the tour of the north it was the plea from most corners that passengers in the Springbok squad be cut loose and fresh faces be given a go. But alas, an improved showing against the All Blacks in Cape Town and the fact that the men in green in gold did not lose in two outings against the Kiwi beating Wallabies made AC hold firm on his designated chargers.
Like using the work’s suspense account card to pay for an outing at Teazers it might have sounded like a good idea at the time to keep faith in the likes of Damian de Allende and CourtnallSkosan. But when it comes time to please-explain to the Accounts department (in this case it is the SA rugby public) it won’t be easy convincing the bean counters that a “Candy table dance” is the new value for money red wine brought out by Nederburg. Instead there will be a lot of “I-told-you-so’s” thrown around this week and barring a Lazarus like turnaround in Europe there is certainly more cheap wine with home cooked meals and less champagne and fancy dinners in the current leader’s near future.
This critic was one of the very few who actually thought that the green and gold boys had not been taken to the cleaners as badly as some thought in the half century hammering of Albany. In New Zealand EbenEtzebeth and his lads at least put up a valiant fight in the opening half and things just got out of hand quite quickly after that. In Dublin it was a completely different story. The Springboks never appeared to be in the contest. It was 38-3 in the final shake-up and the visitors had hardly threatened their opponents’ line during the entire 80 minutes. Their pack was bossed and there was little to be seen of the physically imposing, robust domination from the big boys upfront.
To a large degree it was the Irish who were implementing the Boks blue-print to a tee. The pack had pitched up to take their counterparts to task. The battle of the gain line was won by the likes of CJ Stander and the halfbacks were supplied with clean, quick ball. There was little flashy at the back but their defense was rock solid and after more than an hour of total control the backs were skilled and clinical enough to snap up the opportunities which came their way toward the end of the contest. A game-plan implemented to perfection from the home side.
THE SOUTH STAYS STRONG
At the Principality Stadium a strong start from the visitors from the south saw them rack up 3 opening half tries to take control of the contest against Wales. Warren Gatland’s side refused to go quietly into the night though and made the Aussies dig deep for the win in the second stint. After 20 minutes of pretty much full on attack from the hosts they only had a penalty to show for continuous efforts inside Wallaby territory. Clinging 22-16 to a lead like an orphan koala to his adapted mother the men in yellow needed a moment of fortune to seal the victory as Kurtley Beale miraculously emerged with the ball to streak away for a 50meter run-in score. The Welsh would continue to throw the kitchen sink at the visitors but it is a feather in the cap of Michael Hooper and his merry men that they were able to roll up their sleeves and do the dirty work to get the job done whilst seriously under the pump for pretty much 40 minutes straight.
In France the script followed a similar line. New Zealand seemed to have caught the French on one of those un-inspiring days where they just don’t pitch up for the contest. Coming out of the sheds trailing 31-5 there was the fear that the home side could completely go belly-up and be taken apart by what is often proved to be a ruthless Kiwi side. To the pleasure of the home crowd Les Blues pulled themselves together and actually had visitors the under constant pressure for the entire second half. The comb was straightened, the chest was puffed and the cockerels were full of endeavour in that second stint but the World Champions could rely on their impressive defense to always keep them out of reach of their passionate opponents. The brilliance of the Blacks was epitomes ide right at the end of the clash when the only glimpse of an opportunity to come their way in the entire second forty minute period was immediately and greedily snapped up by the All Blacks to end the game on a high.
This coming weekend we brace ourselves for the battle of the rugby ego’s as Cheika’s Aussies look to topple Eddie’s England at Twickenham. Rankings and past results show that these two are quite evenly matched and this one is a must-watch - as much for the action on the field as the facial expressions from that booth upstairs. It also promises to be a carnival like clowning about in the media this week between the two feisty coaches.
It will be no laughing matter in the Springbok camp this week though. A loss to the French will surely mean the end of road for Coetzee. After the poor first half performance against the All Blacks on Saturday there should be no lack of spirited fight from the Frenchies. Will it be a chance for redemption or a trip to the gallows for the South African coach and a number of his players?
Who is Couch Critic?
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…
This Blog is brought to you by leading South African bookmaker World Sports Betting – click here to “Bet with the Best”
Don’t miss the trademark Goodforthegame Betting Previews for this coming weekend