POST-SANDY BLIZZARD, NYC – Okay, so maybe this snow storm doesn’t qualify as a blizzard, but with us still concussed from Hurricane Sandy, it sure feels like it. No heat, no power, no fun. But we will persevere and to that end, let’s go to Part 2 of our 4-part look at the Rugby November Internationals.
We did touch upon these a bit in our Weekend Wrap-up but now let’s take a closer look at the 4 SANZAR/SANZAAR Unions making the trip up north:
New Zealand: The reigning RWC and The Rugby Championship winners are still undefeated despite tying with Australia a few weeks back. The squad has only added two uncapped players in Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Dane Coles to the squad that won the TRC. It appears Head Coach Steve Hansen is focused on tightening the ship and keeping with its smooth sailing. Hansen also has an eye on the future with Captain/Living Legend Richie McCaw nearing his 6-month break from the game. Hansen will rest McCaw and is looking for new leaders to step up. Sam Cane will have the task of wearing the #7 jersey and we all await the new All Blacks captain in McCaw’s absence (Kieran Read – photo, Dan Carter?) … but let’s see how the tour goes first.
South Africa: Head Coach Heyneke “Yell-neke”Meyer‘s side finished the TRC 2-3-1. Disappointing to say the least, and unacceptable to most Saffers. If you think that provincialism skews Irish debates regarding a coach, then the Saffers give the Irish a run for their money. Fans of Meyer’s home province Blue Bulls, argue he is a smart coach with a proven track record who just needs time to settle a young team. Fans from other provinces say the team has boatloads of experience and that Meyer ignores talent from other provinces for players from his province because of familiarity and his blind loyalty to Morne Steyn. They say this loyalty cost SA wins in the TRC. They also say his side kicks too much. Listening to all this, you would think he has had the job for 5 years… like Robbie Deans. Yet, Meyer has been there for less than year. His 32-man squad will have boatloads of talent but will be without Johan “Golden” Goosen, Bryan Habana and Coenie Oosthuzien, so the road doesn’t get easier. Hopefully the additions of Ghana-born Raymond Rhule and Schalk Brits (photo) help offset things.
Australia: Poor Robbie Deans. The Wallabies Head Coach has had to deal with injury list so long it is hard to fathom; 32 players at its highest point. These injuries included 1st, 2nd and choice players in some positions. Yet, he managed to go 3-3 in the TRC. No matter, the Wallaby fan base wants him gone. And so does enigmatic fly-half Quade Cooper. It doesn’t help that Deans is a Kiwi and has a less-than-media friendly personality. That, and there has been no clear sign of a direction for the Wallabies or a style of play in 5 years… The 30-man squad is bolstered by the return of first choice captain David Pocock (photo). Only time will tell how long it will be before Australia fans get their torches and pitchforks out.
Argentina: After a winless TRC campaign that saw Argentine Rugby grow in stature and garner new levels of praise and respect (not that they weren’t respected before), Los Pumas are looking good. This comes with their second side Yaguarites winning the Americas Rugby Championship. An Argentine tour to the Northern Hemisphere is a bit misleadingm, though. Unlike the other TRC teams, the Argies select players that are primarily foreign-based, so over 90% of the side ply their trade in France or England. One domestic based player making waves is Gonzalo Tiesi. Tiesi (below) went back to his home club of San Isidro to rehab injuries and shoot for another overseas contract. He’s now fit and has been recalled into Head Coach Santiago Phelan’s 32-man squad. Hopefully, Tiesi’s form continues and Phelan can find room for him and RWU Class of 2012 member Manual Bustos-Mayoro.
Here is a look at the Full Fall Test Schedule including referee assignments for those of you that were curious.
That is it for me for now. Please feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter @RugbyWrapUp, @JunoirBlaber, @Declan Yeats and @Mathew Drew Turner, respectively.
And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.
*Sam Cane. He’ll be wearing McCaw’s #7.