In a convincing manner across two Rugby Championship matches, the Wallabies dominated the Springboks as Argentina’s first win on New Zealand soil saw jubilation on the faces of the South American team.
Shocked looks crossed the All Blacks player’s faces, with more despair in the coaching box. Ian Foster has added more unwanted records to his short tenure; with a second ‘first’ that no supporter will have contemplated before the International season in the Southern hemisphere began. Losing to Argentina in Christchurch this weekend.
The unhappy feelings were felt in South Africa’s box too, as Jacques Nienaber was at a loss for words after the 25-17 loss. Humble, the head coach lamented “We will have a good review of the game”. Nienaber then added, “We will take the lessons learned and ensure that we are up for next week’s clash in Sydney.”
The Springboks produced possibly their worst attacking performance under coach Jacques Nienaber as they slumped to a 25-17 loss at the hands of the Wallabies in their Castle Lager Rugby Championship test pic.twitter.com/8IRuWnJRLR
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His words echoed those of New Zealand (NZ) head coach Ian Foster. Chastened, with the implications of Argentina’s first win over the All Blacks showing that the Ellis Park result may have only ‘papered over’ cracks in the NZ side’s once impregnable armour. No team [or coach] had succumbed to the emotive play of Los Pumas – who were still celebrating in the changing rooms, as their coach smiled widely having added more history to the proud Latin American nation.
Argentina’s first win adds to NZ team ‘pressure pot’
If the ‘pressure pot’ of media attention had not been at a high degree before this weekend, then now it will reach boiling point for the All Blacks. Some fans leaving the ground had already made their feelings clear, so over the next six days, the side will relocate to Hamilton to lick their wounds.
Scratched and tormented by Los Pumas from the beginning of the game, repeated penalties incurred the accumulation of points from Argentine winger Emiliano Boffelli. He helped his side to a halftime lead, even while the All Blacks might have scored the try of the match, it was not any definition of which team would dominate.
Half-time messages imprinted on the Los Pumas players, while the All Blacks seemed lost for answers. Foster reacted by saying, “It was frustrating how many opportunities we created but didn’t convert into points.” That was best illustrated by multiple failures at set piece to capitalize on territorial positioning that was a gift horse that past All Blacks sides would have nailed. In 2022, the NZ group cannot ‘win a trick’ and spoiled the misguided decision by Argentina to not take a late penalty place kick.
They fortunately survived, and their supporters in the sold-out Christchurch stadium became louder and louder as the game neared its conclusion. It was an accomplishment that in over 15 prior attempts, they had faulted at. On this night, captain Julián Montoya would lead his men to complete a huge shift and; much more importantly, lead The Rugby Championship points table.
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Head coach Michael Cheika praised his group. “I don’t want to sound corny but if that’s not what footy is about (I don’t know),” Cheika told Sky Sport. “You’re with your mates, enjoying the game, the ups, and the downs, those times, especially for some of these Argentinian boys, that’s historic for them. I want them to enjoy being in the team and getting around playing against teams like this.”
Yet now, the challenge is to follow up on Argentina’s first win – and to drive the dagger even deeper into the All Blacks’ wounded carcass. Not to take any sympathy, even if Cheika and his players probably all know better than others, how it feels to be down and to have the weight of the global media spotlight on them (for the wrong reasons).
“What’s going to be big now is getting ready for next week because I imagine they’re going to come back with every piece of artillery they have, and we’ve got to be able to work out a way to handle that and give something back.”
Wallabies ‘turnover’ Springboks and continue proud home record
From the outset, the Wallabies were in the game to ‘turnover’ the Springboks’ strengths. And it worked, as their head coach said postgame. “They played really well from the get-go, and the game is about small margins – every opportunity they got they took it.”
Leading on the scoreboard, supporters in Australia might not contemplate how over the statistics, the visitors could not control the game’s outcome. Winning territory, possession, South Africa won Aussie lineout ball, had more runs and more clean breaks. Yet even a higher percentage of tackles completed meant nothing when the likes of Man of the Match Marika Koroibete could make try-saving tackles and then scored one of his own.
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Aside from that commitment, his teammates all made contributions of their own. That included 23-year-old Fraser McReight. In place of the still absent Michael Hooper, two tries would prove that the ‘next generation’ of flankers in Australian rugby can still provide the right stuff.
Rob Valentini again was a menace, so the South African team spent most parts of the game chasing the lead and only gained some respectability through a late try. Yet that did not distract from the praise that Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie placed on his men. “We had an honest and brutal type of review and we got the response we expected,” Rennie said.
“We’re rapt with the result but we’re well aware of the challenge of next week and backing that up, which we haven’t done this year”.
He concluded, “If we genuinely want people to get behind us we have to front every week.”
That positive message does not mirror the sentiment of the current World Champions. Playing such negative rugby, 17 points was actually a better-than-expected reward for a poor display in Adelaide. But in saying that, the Wallabies showed desperation. “I thought Marika’s tackle showed the desperation of not just him but there was a couple of desperation tackles on their tryline,” Nienaber said. “A lot of credit has to go to Wallabies, they really put their bodies on the line.”
If his men can take away some of the few positives from this weekend, work on some creativity and attack, then the second match will be just as thrilling. Both follow-up test matches, in fact, could go the opposite way from this weekend. New Zealand will be rattled but will use that as a tool to add more metal to their output. So too should the Springboks.
It all adds to a championship-defining round. If the Pumas can do the unthinkable – repeat the imperious play of Ireland then, they too can leave the country with a newfound character that most world rugby fans will have believed Los Pumas were always capable of.
“Main photo credit courtesy of Twitter“