West Ghana/USA – The past two Saturdays have been great for the sport of Rugby. The start of The Rugby Championship is a huge checkpoint in the challenging marathon to grow the game. What makes this one extra special is that Argentina, which has a long, rich Rugby history, had long been on the outside looking in. Their entry in what was formerly known as the Tri-Nations, is bigger than when Italy joined the 5 Nations. It’s also arguably bigger than the reinstatement of South Africa after the end of Apartheid… I said “arguably.” Anyway, let’s look at the leader-board for The Rugby Championship and break down the situation for each team:
The Rugby Championship Leader Board after 2 Rounds:
New Zealand: With Maximum points from their first two games, you would think everything is fine in All Black country… but it is not. The All Blacks have a RWC Championship hangover of sorts. They have not looked as clinical; handling errors, poor decision-making, miscommunications on attack and defense have not been absent in their 2 wins over the Aussies. But they have been fortunate facing that underwhelming Wallabies side. Yet, they are blessed with players finding their feet at test level – like Liam Messam and Aaron Smith. The lost of Sonny Bill Williams to Japan is offset by the return of Conrad Smith.
South Africa: Under Heynecke Meyer, this squad is really tough to grade – especially if you judge by the panicked reactions of Meyer – even when his team is up by 20. He’s like NFL head coach Tom Couglin of the N.Y. Giants... I have feeling last week’s halftime speech, when the Boks were down by 13, went like this:
South Africa has had their share of injuries, however, there seems to be a groundswell of frustration that the under-performing backline needs a change at 9 and 10. Meyer is reluctant, critics say, since both are from Meyer’s home province. I do agree with the need for change; there is no reason for Ruan Pienaar and Patrick Lambie or Peter Grant not to start. The forwards are also lacking a leader with both Bismarck Du Plessis and Schalk Burger (was Shake Shack Burger taken?) out for the year. Meanwhile, Argentina showed a blueprint on how to beating these Boks; front up to them in the forwards. There is not enough spark in the back to beat you… as long as you don’t let Frans Steyn run wild.
Argentina: It is really tough to judge this team based on their first two games. I see it like this for the Argies: last week was as good as a win. With 4 games left they should target a close loss at home to the All Blacks, a draw in Australia and a win at home to Australia. If they can go 2-2-2 in their first go at this Tournament, it will bode well for Argentina and serve notice to Six Nations Teams about future tours and the 2015 RWC.
Australia: If South Africa was panicking, then alarm bells are going off in Australia. “This is not a drill, I repeat this is not a drill. All hands on deck!” I think Robbie Deans needs to go. In 5 years there, I can’t not say he has developed a particular style of attack, though the defense has improved. He has had some poor luck with injuries and Oz (Australia) is arguably the thinnest of the 4 TRC teams in terms of depth. Yet their best and fit 23 is as good as anybody’s. But this team does not seem to progress, plays to avoid mistakes and are either having trouble executing a game plan… or are executing a poor one.
I will check in a couple of weeks but I think this table will look the same. I want to give a heads up that over the next week, a preview of the Aviva Premiership season, Top 14 and RaboDirect 12 will be released.
That is it for for now. We’ll check in 2 weeks on this, but I think the Leader Board will look the same… Over the next week, a preview of the Aviva Premiership season, Top 14 and RaboDirect 12 will be released.
And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.