As we gear up for the second week of the Rugby Championship, Luam Ackermann looks back at the opening weekend’s action and writes that the All Blacks laid down the early marker for the 2012 tournament.
New Zealand impress on opening weekend:
A lot was expected from the Springboks against a largely unknown Argentina side, particularly with home ground advantage, but the Boks seemed to have difficulty finding their feet over the weekend. On paper, South Africa was the superior team and a bonus point victory would have been expected, but an inability to finish off their chances left them one try short of the maximum points.
They won with little difficulty, but there is still room for improvement.
New Zealand on the other hand looked much more impressive against Australia in Sydney. Within the first 33 minutes they led the Wallabies by 15 points after some terrific skills by their backline. A strong comeback from Australia was still not good enough to overturn New Zealand and the All Blacks are again the team to beat in the southern hemisphere showpiece.
The players that disappointed:
The Springboks midfield pairing of Jean de Villiers and Frans Steyn failed to live up to expectations and Steyn in particular had a forgettable match. To be fair, for an inside centre Steyn received very little ball from his flyhalf Morne Steyn, with the Boks relying heavily on their kicking game. Many think that the number 10 deserved the Man of the Match award for his performance, but is it worth giving him the award for kicking well at goal? There are still question marks over the Bok flyhalf’s ability to dictate the game in general play.
A number of Wallabies had poor games, but Kurtley Beale was one who had a shocker, missing vital tackles – one that could have prevented the All Blacks opening try - while both his kicking and ability on attack were not on song. Beale’s performance has seen him get the chop this week with Quade Cooper returning to the line-up as the Aussies look to invest in his attacking abilities at pivot.
Stand out players:
Marcell Coetzee and Willem Alberts were again rock solid for the Boks. Coetzee’s energy around the field has shades of Schalk Burger and he was rewarded with his first Test try,while Alberts lived up to his ‘Bone Collector’ status making hard runs and big tackles.
Israel Dagg was hands down the stand-out performer for the All Blacks. He is busy establishing himself as one off the most skilled rugby players in world rugby today and his try this weekend is an example of the dangers he poses for opposition defences.
Try of the week:
Brayn Habana’s second half try was outstanding, but the try of the weekend has to go to Dagg. All Blacks flyhalf Dan Carter showed his class by pulling in three Aussie defenders and then offloading to the number 15. With about 22 metres to the try line he only had Kurtley Beale in his way but easily got rid of him with an inside, outside step and then cruised to the line.