The Drawing Board (17/8/11)
Welcome to the Drawing Board, Who’s Playing Who?’s one stop rugby shop. Only 23 more days left until the beginning of the Rugby World Cup and everything is in full go. Whilst most down here in the southern hemisphere have been concentrating on the Tri Nations, the northern hemisphere teams have been playing a series of warm up tests against one another. I don’t think they will be too concerned with the results, but more with the way they are playing in the build up to the most important event of all. Firstly though, here is some news.
- Former All Blacks centre Luke McAlister has successfully negotiated an early release from his contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union in order to link up with Top 14 side Toulouse immediately.
- Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has signed a new contract with the Australian Rugby Union taking him up to the end of the 2013 season.
- The Western Force Super Rugby franchise has increased its portfolio of rugby league players by signing North Queensland Cowboys rugby league outside back Will Tupou.
- Benn Robinson ruled himself out of the World Cup.
- A hamstring injury has ruled South Africa fullback Francois Steyn out of the Tri Nations rugby union Test against New Zealand but John Smit has been cleared for the bench.
ITM Cup/Currie Cup Roundup
In ITM Cup action, Waikato upset defending champions Canterbury with a resounding 27-13 win whilst Wellington smashed Northland 43-19 to breathe some life back into their stuttering campaign and to end round eight. Auckland picked up their third straight victory win on end with an unconvincing 25-22 victory over Counties Manukau to kick off round nine. Taranaki remain in the hunt at the top after a narrow 26-23 victory over Tasman whilst Southland showed their bottle to repulse a stirring challenge for the Ranfurly Shield and claim a 25-23 victory over North Harbour. All Blacks utility back Israel Dagg made a try-scoring return to action for Hawke’s Bay as the Magpies crushed Bay of Plenty 32-13. Aaron Cruden created two tries and kicked 16 points as Manawatu humbled Wellington 31-25 to give Manawatu their first win in Wellington in 125 years. Canterbury saw off Northland 28-13 whilst Waikato moved top of the ITM Cup standings thanks to a 25-10 win over Otago. In an extraordinary start to round 10, Tasman upset the form book and recorded an impressive 30-28 victory over Auckland.
The Sharks kept the pressure on the Currie Cup leaders with a narrow 21-19 victory over Western Province to kick off round five. The Griquas remain very much in touch having scored a 32-18 victory over the Leopards whilst in the other day’s game the Blue Bulls notched only their second win of their campaign with a 16-12 victory over the Pumas. The Golden Lions maintained their 100 percent start to the Currie Cup season with a 17-10 victory over the Free State Cheetahs.
Springboks 9 – 14 Wallabies
Despite a much improved effort from the Springboks, the Wallabies were able to win a tight game to move to the top of the table and set up a decider against the All Blacks in Brisbane in a fortnight. Springboks coach Peter de Villiers packed his side with Test match know-how – the starting XV had 810 caps between them – but they suffered a third defeat from three Tri-Nations matches, with a losing bonus point coming as no consolation to a team in need of a win.
A superb second half display got the Wallabies over the line, with a well worked try to Pat McCabe and three penalties from James O’Connor doing the damage for the visitors. The Springboks could manage only three penalties between Butch James and Frans Steyn. However, this didn’t really reflect how well they played in this game, and will feel that they could have won this one, especially after they were ahead 6 – 0 at the break.
Finally fielding their A-side after sending out their backup boys for two disastrous losses in Australia and New Zealand, the Springboks looked dangerous and certainly could have won this game. However, they missed three scoring opportunities through handling errors and a few others through poor choice. If they had taken any of these chances it probably would have been enough for victory in a tense match where heavy rain arrived for the final quarter.
The Boks will be hugely disappointed by the result but will take heart that they have things moving in a better direction and they will certainly be better for this outing. The Wallabies will be even happier. They showed great character to come for 6-nil down at halftime to dominate the second half and see out a rare win on South African soil.
Springboks v All Blacks
The Springboks will be looking for yet another improved performance this week, with the hope that this time, a win will result. They played well against the Wallabies and could have easily won that game, but for some rustiness. The All Blacks will be coming off a week’s break and will be sending a weaker squad over to the republic. More important than the result of the game will be the performance of several fringe players who will be looking to stake a claim for World Cup selection. This is the last Tri Nations test before the squads are announced for the RWC.
For the All Blacks, they would want to see a seamless transition between their frontliners and some of the second string players. They will want to see the same hunger and prowess on attack that was displayed against the Australia’s a fortnight ago. Counter attack is the name of the game, but their forwards will need to lay a solid platform for them to execute this game plan effectively. Running the Springboks off their feet will be one of their aims, but whether they can implement this properly is another question.
For the Springboks, they have juggled with their side again and will want more of what was on display in the first half against the Wallabies, but with better execution. They cannot afford to let the All Blacks off the hook at any time. They will want another good display from their forwards and more running from their backs.
All in all this should be, like last week, a good tight test. With the World Cup only a bit around the corner, this will be the last hit out for the Springboks. However, I’m going to back the All Blacks to win a tight one.
Springbok team: Patrick Lambie, JP Petersen, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez, Pierre Spies, Willem Alberts, Heinrich Brussow, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Gurthro Steenkamp. Replacements: John Smit, Tendai Mawarira, CJ van der Linde, Danie Rossouw, Ashley Johnson, Francois Hougaard, Butch James.
So until next time, it’s back to The Drawing Board.