Tense Newlands reverberates with drama

2016-06-15 06:00

IT’S a rare occurrence when you are able to judge six international rugby sides – one after the other – on the same day.

It happened last weekend and it said quite a few things about the teams concerned – good, bad and indifferent. The teams in question were: All Blacks 39, Wales 21; England 39, Australia 28; Ireland 26, Springboks 20.

New Zealand were always considered too strong for Wales, and so it proved in Auckland. Indeed, on this showing the Welsh on the day were easily the weakest of the six. “I couldn’t have asked for better,” said All Black coach, Steve Hansen.

“We’ve got several new youngsters in now. New captain, new vice-captain.” What must have pleased Hansen most was the manner in which his team performed in spite of the loss of stars of the past: captain Richie McCaw, flyhalf Dan Carter and the centre pairing of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith.

Across the ocean in Australia, England continued to show new coach, Eddie Jones, what they are made of with their first-ever win in Brisbane, taking a 1-0 lead in their three-match series against the Wallabies.

The tourists have never scored more points (39-28) against the Wallabies. It was in many ways a commanding performance, which is certain to give the tourists much hope of a clean sweep in the remaining Tests in Melbourne and Sydney. Under coach, Eddie Jones, England have now racked up seven wins in seven Tests.

South African fans no doubt were bitterly disappointed in the result against Ireland. Somehow the Springboks never managed to get going at Newlands in Cape Town, a favourite venue, of course, where the South Africans have played some of their finest rugby.

At halftime, with the score standing at 13-all, one could already sense an air of desperation about the Springboks.

Defeat was lurking; things were not going well – and so it proved, the Irish having the better of it, looking the more polished of the two teams.

No doubt new coach, Allister Coetzee, will be in for a torrid week of criticism as he prepares his team for the second Test at Jo’burg’s Ellis Park.

It was a match full of drama, overflowing with tension – and full marks to the Irish for a well-deserved win. For the Irish it was a match the players involved will remember for a lifetime.

This despite Ireland playing with only 14 men for most of the game when South African born CJ Stander was red-carded for a dangerous tackle on Pat Lambie in the 23rd minute as the flyhalf executed a neat kick ahead.

More drama was to follow when Ireland were reduced to just 13 men when outside centre Robbie Henshaw was yellow-carded for a late tackle on – irony of ironies – the Boks replacement flyhalf, Elton Jantjies.

Not many of the Springboks produced their best performances. Indeed the home team was guilty of many mistakes and coach Coetzee will be faced with a trying week to set the many errors of Newlands to rights.

It was a match of continuous drama. No sooner had one error been set to rights than another would pop up. It was that sort of match.

What does Coetzee do next? He surely faces a busy week. Can the Boks bounce back? Why not? What they need more than anything is belief in themselves.

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