Early Warning Signs

The Springboks retained their strong record against the Wallabies in Pretoria – I think it’s now 7 games since Australia won there.

The 18-10 win wasn’t without a number of scares for the home side though and the win came courtesy of the boot of Morne Steyne – back in Springbok colours after 2 years – who accounted for their entire points tally.

It was a full blooded test match between two very physical teams. Australia dominated both territory and possession – certainly enough to have won comfortably.

It was more the strength of the Boks defence than a flagrant butchering of chances that won the game despite the Wallabies scoring the sole try.

Adriaan Strauss was on fire and demonstrated why Coetzee has so much faith in his captain.

I didn’t quite get the score right – I had the Boks by 7 and they actually managed 8 and I quote from Friday –

“It will be a hell of a battle but home advantage and Morne Steyne will see the Boks home by 7.”

The aggression and physicality of both sides was enough to convince me (at least) that neither side will be a soft touch in November or early December at Twickenham.

It therefore comes as little surprise that Eddie Jones selected some pretty muscular guys in the squad he announced on Friday.

I would have liked both Dave Attwood and Guy Thompson to be at the training camp in Brighton today though – especially after watching both Rugby Championship matches.

Much later yesterday at the Estadio Jose Amalfitani in Argentina it was a real clichéd ‘game of two halves’.

A much changed (9 in the 23 squad) All Blacks team duly won comfortably and notched up their 5th consecutive bonus point victory in the Championship. They also recorded their 16th consecutive win and the very real prospect of beating the current record (jointly held with the Springboks) of 17.

For the first 50 minutes the All Blacks were sublime – even with new faces and combinations, they were so far ahead of everyone else on the planet that you wondered if they were ever going to lose.

With only about half an hour to go they were 36-3 up.

It wasn’t that the Pumas were poor – it was the ABs who were brilliant. Their line speed and aggressive tackling just swarmed over the home team never letting them settle. Add in speed of thought, passing and offloads and a cricket score looked possible.

In Hamilton the Pumas had been competitive for 50 minutes before capitulating – here they stepped up for the last 30 and really rattled the world’s best side.

They were never going to win but the pressure they exerted led to the ABs losing composure, shape and the giving up of many offside penalties and two yellow cards.

The Pumas won the second half 14-7 and by 2 tries to one!

The second half video replay will make uncomfortable viewing for Steve Hansen and his coaching team.

They will also have some tough selections to make for next week in Durban – Lienert-Brown and Crotty looked almost as comfortable as Nonu and Smith in midfield and if Aaron Smith is the best number 9 in the world then TJ is not much behind him – and both are way ahead of anyone else on the planet.

Ardie Savea, Liam Squire and Patrick Tuipulotu also looked right at home in the black shirt alongside the impressive trio of Dan Coles, Brodie Retallick and Kieran Read.

In addition to the rested players it looks like Jerome Kaino, Waisake Naholo and George Moala will be available after injury for next week.

Wouldn’t Allister Coetzee just love those sort of problems.

So, with just one round to go my record for predictions in the Rugby Championship remains at 100% – roll on Twickenham (Pumas v Wallabies and Durban Springboks v All Blacks next Saturday.

One final thought – the Pumas are becoming a seriously good outfit – and Augustin Creevy and Facundo Isa would not look out of place in a World XV – except for the existence of Dan Coles and Kieran Read that is!

England face three of the SH giants at Twickenham in the autumn internationals plus the physical Fijians – none of them will be a pushover!

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