Home > General, Rugby, The Drawing Board > The Drawing Board (24/08/2012)

The Drawing Board (24/08/2012)

Hello and welcome to Who’s Playing Who?’s weekly rugby blog. This week saw the start of the new Rugby Championship tournament with Argentina making their long awaited debut in a major international competition. This week’s action has taken its toll, with the Wallabies (David Pocock), Springboks (Bismarck du Plessis) and Pumas (Juan Martin Hernandez) suffering long term injuries. It will remain to be seen how much the teams miss their respective stars.

Championship Wrap

Australia 19 – 27 New Zealand

The All Blacks showed how good a defensive side they can be when they held on despite a strong comeback from the Wallabies. Israel Dagg and Cory Jane crossed for first-half tries as the All Blacks opened up a handy lead, with veteran Wallabies lock Nathan Sharpe able to reply just before the break. The second-half was a tale of the kickers, as Dan Carter and Berrick Barnes shared six penalties between them, the last a Carter shot to snatch a losing bonus-point away from Australia.

The Wallabies (reigning champions) turned in an error-strewn display and failed to trouble the All Blacks in defence, notably passing up possession and territory at regular intervals. The win leaves the Kiwis one win away from retaining the Bledisloe Cup prior to next Saturday’s return clash at Eden Park.

Arguably the All Blacks should have won by more, as they created several more chances, but failed to convert them. This was not a great game, and both teams will be looking for improvements in next week’s game.

Man of the Match: Israel Dagg popped up with the opening try, a scintillating break (with a little help from Richie McCaw) and closed the game down at the death by chasing his own kick to set-up Dan Carter’s final penalty. Excellent.

South Africa 27 – Argentina 6

There was no fairy-tale victory for the Pumas in their first match in the Rugby Championship, going down to the Springboks. Tries from Zane Kirchner, Marcell Coetzee and Bryan Habana set up the victory for the Springboks

The score line could have been closer had Juan Martin Hernandez kicked three second-half penalties. However, the Springboks never looked like they were going to lose the game with Morne Steyn imperious throughout and the Springboks back-row also putting in a solid shift.

Arguably the Springboks should have won by more, as they were dominant for most of the match, but failed to get a four try bonus point. How crucial this becomes will be seen later on in the tournament.

Man of the Match: Morne Steyn was back to his best after coming in for some deserved criticism for his form in the run up to the tournament. Steyn was nearly faultless from the kicking tee and played a key role in the Boks’ attacking game. An impressive performance.

The Preview

All Blacks v Wallabies

New Zealand will look to secure back-to-back victories over the Wallabies when they entertain their perennial rivals at Eden Park on Saturday.

The pressure is now on Robbie Deans to turn around the Wallabies’ fortunes. Ex-Australia coach Alan Jones has claimed that New Zealand-born Deans is “not up to” to the job and that the team is “badly coached”. In contrast, Steve Hansen has started his tenure as New Zealand coach in the perfect way – a win over their biggest rivals.

This match could go two ways. Either the Wallabies are going to get thrashed, or, like France in last year’s world cup final, they can sneak up on the All Blacks and push them hard.

New Zealand – Player to Watch: Israel Dagg is quickly establishing himself as the world’s premier fullback. He completely outshone his opposite number Kurtley Beale last weekend and is playing the same sort of rugby that saw him establish himself as one of the 2011 World Cup’s best backs.

Australia – Player to Watch: It simply has to be Quade Cooper. Exiled last weekend, supporters of the Wallabies will hope that the mercurial fly-half can get their backline firing once again.

Prediction: The All Blacks will take this one out, building a lead early and not relinquishing it.

Pumas v Springboks

South Africa travel to Argentina this weekend to play a historic Test match in Mendoza in what will be the first time that the Pumas host a Rugby Championship match.

Both teams will be looking for important victories, South Africa will not want to let the All Blacks get too far ahead of themselves whilst the Pumas will want to get their first victory out of the way sooner rather than later.

Regardless of the eventual scoreline, the atmosphere will be electric in Mendoza and the Pumas will be desperate to put on a good show for their home support.

Argentina – Player to Watch: Horacio Agulla was solid against the Boks last weekend and his turnover against Bryan Habana was one of their best moments. The Bath man will have to be at his very best if he is to make a dent in the Springboks’ defence this weekend, but he has the ability to cause them a few headaches.

South Africa – Player to Watch: Marcell Coetzee was one of the Springboks’ best players last Saturday and alongside Jacques Potgieter and Willem Alberts in their back-row, Coetzee has able enough lieutenants to allow him to play his normal and highly effective game.

Prediction: It will be much closer with the Springboks just sneaking it thanks to a late score

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