The Rugby Championship has almost drawn to a close, with Australia playing Argentina away and New Zealand visiting South Africa for the final round of the competition. Once again, though, Australian rugby has left me utterly disappointed and questioning our chances for next year’s World Cup.
The June Internationals against France weren’t an adequate barometer of Australian rugby this year. Winning the series 3-0 shone a gleam over some very average rugby, which has been exposed by the superior opposition in the Rugby Championship. The first game in Sydney, the Wallabies should have been able to close, with countless opportunities to score going to waste as poor handling and unexplainable decision making led to a draw which the All Blacks were lucky to get away with. The Kiwis showed their mettle as the best team in the world the following week, coming out at Eden Park and, to put it nicely, embarrassing the Wallabies. The Aussies’ next two wins against South Africa and Argentina were scrappy affairs where it seemed it was luck which won the game. Argentina had a few opportunities late in the second half to level the scores, and it was their unforced errors, predominantly, which didn’t allow them to follow through.
Once again on the road to South Africa, the Wallabies showed their inability to win in “hoodoo venues,” drawing their losing streak in Cape Town out to 22 years. Allowing the Boks to roar home, scoring three tries in the last ten minutes, isn’t the type of side who will seriously challenge at next year’s World Cup. This can be put down to the closing ability of the Boks bench, where players such as Schalk Burger and Patrick Lambie helped close the game out, whilst the Wallabies bench which included names such as Kurtley Beale and James Horwill, all very experienced players, failed to deliver the same punch. This is a worry with a year to go until the World Cup, as you can’t expect to win games with only 15 men.
One shining light of the game was the impact of Tevita Kurindrani at outside centre, finishing the game with the incredible stats of 16 runs for 134 metres, nine tackle busts, two linebreaks and a try assist to Adam Ashley-Cooper. Finally, it seems the Wallabies have someone to challenge the stranglehold of the All Blacks’ Conrad Smith.
Meanwhile, the maiden win for the Argentines must be just around the corner. In this tournament, they have played some really good rugby and pushed South Africa in the first two games, where they were very unlucky to not come away with a win. They keep going from strength to strength, and they exposed some very serious cracks in the Wallabies in the only game the two have played thus far. They are a side that consistently come away with the bonus point, and are playing solid rugby. As excited as I would be to see the Pumas finally get the maximum points from a game, unfortunately I believe this could come against the Wallabies, which would be another nail in the coffin. Argentina has recognised this, with the coaching staff stating they are targeting Australia as the side to beat.
In other news, it has been reported that Sonny Bill Williams will make his rugby return through the New Zealand provincial competition, the ITM Cup, this coming weekend. It is also believed he will be selected in the New Zealand end of year Northern tour, adding firepower to the rampant centre stocks the All Blacks thoroughly enjoy. It will be interesting to see how SBW goes back in rugby, as it has seemed, this year in the NRL, he wasn’t as close to the blistering form he had the year before when the Roosters won the premiership. This writer for one is very excited to see how he goes, just maybe not against the Wallabies – we need all the help we can get.