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SO IT GOES

Written 31 August 2016

New Zealand 29-Australia 9.

There is really nothing one can write that is new or original about the All Blacks vs Wallabies encounter last Saturday. Hansen and his coaching staff tick every box, Cheika is an oaf, NZ take every penalty kick at goal, Barrett is brilliant but an inexcusably poor place-kicker. Who in his right mind would kick the ball to an amazing counter-attacker like Ben Smith? Answer: Quade Cooper, Bernard Foley and anybody under pressure, who cannot think of anything else to do. Barrett kicks equally well off either foot; Cooper hasn’t bothered so was trapped on ‘the wrong side’ and gave away a try. So what’s new? Pathetic!

It’s easy to see I’m fairly sick and tired of repeating this sort of thing week-in week-out. But I love the matches. What a great game rugby is today. The All Blacks have set the bar so high I can’t see anyone reaching it. But there just has to be more detailed and intelligent thinking on the part of the South Africans and the Australians. As we saw last Saturday, Hourcade and his Argentinian squad are thinking and planning with great perception and skill.

A few points:

  • Read Archie Henderson’s rugby column in The Times; he sees things I don’t;

  • What was Coles doing punching into a ruck? Plumb dumb; and Justin Marshall, on air, tried to justify it. What’s his IQ?

  • the All Blacks have the infantry, the artillery and the cavalry; the Wallabies have the cavalry but no heavy artillery and erratically led infantry;

  • how on earth did the Australians give away 6 penalties in 7 minutes in the second half?

  • Folau is a great attacker without adequate support;

  • are the Wallabies fit enough?

  • Genia may be a better scrumhalf than Phipps but the latter is a striking all -round attacker; he’s everywhere.

So on to the Springboks versus Pumas match: Argentina 26- South Africa 24.

To cut a long story short, they outgunned us, outran us, outkicked us and, most important of all, out-thought us. They played with confident speed and confidence. Only in the second half did we turn it on and it was exciting, positive rugby. But Coetzee needs to stress that the first half sets the tone, the standard and the pace. Maybe he tells the players but, apart from Etzebeth, Louw, Habana, Mapoe and a few others, they don’t apply his advice. On the good side, of course, one must mention the outstanding flip pass from Louw to send Habana over late in the game. Pure magic!

Jantjies, despite his erratic form, has no credible rival. He has to stay. Morne Steyn, a solid flyhalf, is yesterday’s man. Faf must ensure he handles the fame he has achieved. As Monica Puig, the Olympic women’s singles champion found when she was knocked out in the first round of the US Open, success is fickle mistress. Take note Faf and get to the breakdowns quicker.

The Pumas showed us how the tactical kicks should be done – chips, grubbers, high ball etc. They were more polished. For the Springboks, Mapoe was excellent on attack and defence, Habana ran well, du Toit made a terrific difference when he came on. Why the hell isn’t he in the starting line-up? A final point: Goosen, a flyhalf and inside centre is not only undercoached, he’s not coached at all. He hasn’t  the faintest idea where to position himself. (Yes, yes, I know I said it all last week.)

Did we call and effect a single rolling maul in the match. Perhaps my eyesight and concentration are sliding. Strauss is not at his best. He looks confused and lacking in drive. Is the shadow of Marx jinxing him? John Smit and Bismarck du Plessis all over again.

Neil Jardine

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