Home > Rugby, The Drawing Board > The Drawing Board (17/08/2012)

The Drawing Board (17/08/2012)

Welcome to Who’s Playing Who?’s weekly rugby blog. This week sees the start of something new. This week sees the launch of the Rugby Championship, which replaces the old Tri – Nations. The Pumas (Argentina) will be making their long overdue entry into a top line competition, joining the Springboks, All Blacks and Wallabies to form the toughest competition in the world. There will be a huge travel factor in this competition.

How it works

The new competition works much like the old Tri – Nations (more like the one used till 2006) whereby each team plays each other twice (both home and away).  There will be four points for a win and the usual 4 try and lose by under 7 bonus points. Whoever gets the most points at the end of the competition wins.

The competition has three phases, all of which are based on travel. The first phase will see the Wallabies play the All Blacks in a home and away series, whilst the Springboks will play the Pumas in a home and away series. Phase two will see both the Springboks and Pumas travel to play the Wallabies and All Blacks on consecutive weekends. The final phase will see the reverse of this happen, whereby the All Blacks and Wallabies will go and play the Springboks and Pumas in their home patches. Each phase will be separated by a break for a week, to allow for the travel factor.

Previews

New Zealand v Australia

The Wallabies and All Blacks will resume their battle for the Bledisloe cup when they face off in the first match of the Rugby Championship. Last year the Wallabies managed to win the Tri – Nations, but failed when it counted in the Rugby World Cup.

Since winning the Rugby World Cup, the All Blacks have swept Ireland aside to give Steve Hansen the perfect start in the hot seat as he looks to continue in the same vein as his predecessor Sir Graham Henry.

While Hansen will be under the usual pressure which comes with the top All Blacks post, his opposite number Robbie Deans also needs success in this competition. The Australian public are becoming increasingly disillusioned with Deans and the home defeat to Scotland back in June coupled with unconvincing wins over Wales on home soil would’ve done little to boost their spirits. With Reds supremo Ewen McKenzie waiting in the wings, Deans will need to a solid showing in Sydney to build the foundations for the rest of their campaign.

Australia – Player to Watch: Berrick Barnes. He has been (and quite rightly so) chosen as the Wallabies fly – half for this match, as he put in several really good performances against Wales. Can he do this against the All Blacks?

New Zealand – Player to Watch: Sonny Bill Williams. SBW will be making one of his last appearances for the All Blacks as he makes a long awaited return to Sydney.  Can he replicate his Super Rugby form at the international level?

Key Battle: While the battle between David Pocock and Richie McCaw at openside will get a lot of the headlines, the second-row clash will be fascinating. Luke Romano with his solitary international cap will be going up against 105 Test veteran Nathan Sharpe. It’s master against the apprentice so expect Sharpe to use all of his knowledge and experience to try and get one over Romano.

Prediction: The All Blacks will kick-start their campaign with a win of less than seven points in Sydney

South Africa v Argentina

This match will represent the long awaited debut for Argentina in a major completion when they play South Africa in their Rugby Championship match.  It will be the first time that the Pumas have taken their place alongside the big three from the southern hemisphere in the newly expanded Tri-Nations. It has been mooted for a while but come late afternoon on Saturday, all eyes will be on Newlands to see how Santiago Phelan’s charges perform.

They have a history of doing well at Rugby World Cups, finishing third in the 2007 World Cup and getting knocked out by the imperious All Blacks at the quarter-final stage of the 2011 competition. This will be a different test for them, as this will be a much harder competition to crack.  They lost and then won against Stade Francais in their two warm-up matches in late July and August and before that drew a Test series against France. But the Springboks in front of their home crowd will be a different match altogether.

Heyneke Meyer’s charges defeated England 2-0 in their three-Test series back in June but this tournament will be the first time Meyer has taken his side up against one of their southern hemisphere rivals. They have not lifted the tournament title since 2009 so expect the South African crowd to be on their back if they fail to impress in their opener against the Pumas.

South Africa – Player to Watch: Andries Bekker. The big guy is back in the fold for the first time in a couple of years as his injury problems have finally abated. He is under pressure to step into the vast void left by Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha. Can he step up and take command of the lineouts?

Argentina – Player to Watch:  Juan Martin Hernandez. It has to be that man – El Magico.  Back in the side for the first time since 2009, this guy is their star playmaker.  He pulled the strings with consummate ease back in 2007 from fly-half, but can he do it again?

Key Battle: The game will be won and lost in the back-row. The Boks may feel Spies’ absence at No.8 with Daniel more lightweight but with Coetzee and Alberts alongside him, Daniel will have the support of their power. Lobbe is the standout player in the Pumas’ back-row but he will need Cabello – who performed well in the World Cup – and Galindo to be at their best. Alberts and Coetzee were superb against England and showed why the Boks aren’t feeling the absence of Schalk Burger and Juan Smith as much as people expected they would.

Prediction: Argentina will stay within touching distance of the Boks for about 60 minutes with South Africa running in a couple of late scores to give the scoreboard a one-sided feel.

 

 

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