South African tactics against All Blacks were really puzzling

After South Africa lost to New Zealand in last weekend’s 100th rugby game between the two countries, there has been much criticism of the Springboks’ style of play.

Some have dubbed it boring, others have gone so far as to say it will end up driving crowds away, something that rugby can ill afford.

Given that rugby fans, like all sports fans, are a devoted lot, the Springboks’ supporters have been equally loud in defending their team and backing the way they play.

But it was a bit puzzling to hear the captain Siya Kolisi and coach Jacques Nienabar claim that the strategy they had followed succeeded. It didn’t, unless they were aiming to lose the game.

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Australia seems to be living in another world when it comes to rugby contests with New Zealand

When Australian scrum-half Nic White was walking off the field after the whistle blew for half-time in the third Bledisloe Cup game on 31 October, he was given a headset and microphone by Fox Sports and asked for his take on the game upto that point.

Australia had been outplayed by New Zealand in the first 40 minutes and were trailing 0-26, meaning that the horse had well and truly bolted and any chance of them making a fight of it had disappeared.

But White seemed to be in an alternate universe. “No disrespect, but they haven’t done a whole lot, it’s just been all our mistakes. We’re just gifting them points,” was what he had to offer.

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Australia pulls in new kids on the block for crucial Bledisloe Cup game

The focal point of the third Bledisloe Cup game in Sydney on Saturday will be the Australian back-line where two rookies will be playing as fly-half and centre; that, incidentally, is the place on the field which many opposition players slip through when making a line-break.

Noah Lolesio and Irae Simone will be under a lot of scrutiny and it may well be the game that establishes them. Both have come in because of injuries to the regulars in these positions, James O’Connor and Matt Toomua respectively. It will be a literal baptism of fire.

For the second time in as many years, Australia will be going into a Bledisloe Cup game against New Zealand with more Pacific Islanders in its ranks than Anglo-Saxons.

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Australian sports writer’s predictions prove to be those of a false prophet

After the first match in the Bledisloe Cup series ended in a 16-all draw, Australian sports writers were on a giddy high, predicting that the dominance of the All Blacks had more or less ended and the big boys had been caught with their pants down.

Well before this hype began, at the end of the game, there was a gesture by the Australian team which showed that its mental state was still very fragile. When the final whistle blew, the ball was still live, so the referee let play proceed.

A thrilling nine minutes ensued, with first Australia, and then New Zealand, threatening to score. Strangely, though, neither team thought of attempting a drop-goal to win the game. After one of the New Zealand forays, the Australians regained the ball and fly-half James O’Connor kicked it into touch, ending the game.

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High time for Michael Cheika to stop whinging about referees

When Australia loses a rugby match, it is generally put down to some external factor like refereeing. This is the response of both the so-called experts and the coach, Michael Cheika, whose middle name should be “whinging”.

Thus when Wales beat Australia in a pool game in the Rugby World Cup last week, a match that is very likely to decide the winner of that pool and condemn Australia to meet England in the quarter-finals, the reaction was no different.
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No first-time starter needs this kind of pressure

At times, even a polished outfit like the All Blacks can get it wrong. When the team was picked for the game against Argentina on Saturday, a number of second choice players were chosen, in order to get them match-ready and also to establish the depth that the team will need as it builds towards the next World Cup in Japan in 2019.

The major change was the presence of Richie Mo’unga as standoff, taking over from the man acknowledged as the best at that position, Beauden Barrett. Thus, there was tremendous pressure of Mo’unga, more so given that Barrett had put in an excellent performance in the previous outing, against Australia, dominating the game and scoring 30 of the team’s 40 points.

This was Mo’unga’s first start in a Test; he had only come on as a substitute in one earlier Test. That was the depth of his experience when he took the field.
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