ALL GUTS BUT NO GLORY
Springboks 22 – Wallabies 19
The Wallabies showed today that they are far from being the easy-beats of this years Tri-Nations, and proved that they have the foundations of a RWC challenging side. However, despite marathon stretches of heroic defence, some key errors and the boot of a gifted 20 year-old stopped them from breaking their 15 year hoodoo at Newlands.
I’m not going to give a blow by bow account – for those who didn’t see the match, it was one of those hard fought arm wrestles where despite a lack of open play, kept you gripped to the end. South Africa completely dominated possession and territory for three quarters of the match, playing one out bash and run rugby.
When Australia did get the ball in space they looked far more dangerous, but made mistakes at exactly the wrong times. Australia was ahead until the 73rd minute when Francois Steyn hit the first of two brilliant drop goals to seal the win in the 77th.
So what should an Aussie supporter take from this game? First of all, and most importantly, our forwards fronted up. I haven’t seen our pack scrum like that in years – they actually looked like they knew what they were doing, using new techniques to get a good hit on the fancied boks. It might well be a cover up for other faults in the front row, but it worked. Dare we hope that it’s repeatable? Note; Baxter on the bench.
Defensively in the loose we didn’t give an inch, consistently hitting and driving their big men behind the gain-line and patiently forcing mistakes. You could see the South African back row getting frustrated. It was actually superb, but I wish we hadn’t had to see so much of it.
Where the forwards let us down was the line-out. At some absolutely crucial times jumpers were overthrown by both Moore and Frier. Australia also rarely contested the Boks throw, giving them free reign, as if Matfield had won this psychological battle before running on the pitch.
With the ball in hand we had good go forward. Giteau’s try came from 10 phases of play, and there could have been another 2 if not for Pietersen’s boot and a Spies professional foul, which he was carded for. There were also flashes at the end when a last minute escape looked on the cards until the boks got away with outrageous offside and Frier turned over on our ruck.
However, again there were mistakes at key times, predominantly from Larkham and Huxley kicks, even though I’m loathe to single Huxley out as he seems to be continually improving and shows flashes of real class and pace. His try-saving tackle on Spies and cover of the Montgomery chip were also impressive.
Gregan’s passing was crisp, but neither he nor Larkham even tried to threaten the South African defence, allowing it to drift out with little concern. Giteau was the pick of the backs and a Giteau 10, and Staniforth 12 combination could gain momentum if Larkham’s running form doesn’t reappear.
Whilst the game left you flat – we scored only 3 points in the second half – it painted a small incremental improvement for the Wallabies in some fundamental areas. I suspect Knuckles might have taken this outcome if offered it before. The next step – a win at home.
The All Blacks are proving every day why they are considered the best team in the history of this sport. They have destroyed the Wallabies in Australia and then smashed the Springboks in South Africa, something that very few teams in rugby history have done. Undoubtedly are the team to beat and an Argentina’s win is very difficult, almost impossible. All Blacks by 15