Sun. Sep 15th, 2019

The Rugby Championship: Five things we learned in round one

The Springboks comfortably saw off the Wallabies at Ellis Park in the opening round of Rugby Championship but New Zealand’s All Blacks were less convincing in their triumph in Argentina.

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The Springboks sit atop the Rugby Championship after a well-executed bonus-point win over the Wallabies at Ellis Park on Saturday.

In Buenos Aires, the All Blacks survived a scare that was largely their own making, crucially doing enough to earn a win but not a bonus point.

Here are five things we have learned during the course of a little over 160 minutes of Rugby Championship action.

Herschel Jantjies lived up to the hype

After a Super Rugby season with little for SA rugby fans to cheer about it was a tremendous fill-up for Bok fans to see the talent of Heschel Jantjies, unearthed during this season, make the step up to international rugby with aplomb.

Jantjies scored two tries that were straight out of the halfback’s textbook. The first was a simple run-in but required Jantjies to turn on the gas to keep up with a flying Sbu Nkosi. The Boks backline had largely taken themselves out of play in shovelling it out wide to the wing who used a few yards of space to get the break, Jantjies ran the perfect line to beat the retreating Wallaby defence. Jantjies second score was a classic scrumhalf snipe, spotting an Aussie defender with his back turned he ran in easily.

In general play Jantjies was superb and provided Elton Jantjies with excellent service.

It is hard enough to make the step up to Test rugby, it is even harder when your coaches label you as a potential Bok great in the week before you make your debut. Superb effort young man.

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Herschel Jantjies scores a try during the 2019 Rugby Championship. Photo: EPA/KIM LUDBROOK

TM oh…

The Television Match Officials were called into action several times over the course of the weekend and got all the decisions spot on. That being said they are still unlikely to be offered much in the way of praise. Australia wouldn’t blame their loss on the try that was disallowed. The closest call of the weekend looked to be the right one with the ball travelling forward out of Samu Kerevi’s hand. Andre Esterhuizen fully deserved his yellow card and Argentina were rightfully denied a late try.

Even when they get things right it seems the TMOs set tongues wagging.

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Samu Kerevi of Australia with possession during The Rugby Championship match between South Africa and Australia at Emirates Airline Park on July 20, 2019, in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Wallabies Rugby Championship wobbles

Australia were off the pace against a weakened Springbok team and failed to make the most of the South Africans defensive lapses. They will look back on Dane Haylett-Petty’s squandering of a golden opportunity and that final pass that was ruled forward by the TMO.

For all the talk of the Wallabies seeing the match against the Springboks as an opportunity Michael Cheika’s team found themselves unable to take the chances afforded them.

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Dane Haylett-Petty of Australia can’t score the try during the The Rugby Championship match between South Africa and Australia at Emirates Airline Park on July 20, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

Are these All Blacks?

The All Blacks team that took the field against Argentina was missing a number of star players but their strength in depth has always been immense and they were still expected to beat Argentina.

Considering the circumstances the All Blacks would be satisfied with the result but concerned with some of the performances.

It is the star player’s form that will might give Steve Hansen some sleepless nights with Ben Smith, Beauden Barrett and Aaron Smith particularly lacked the kind of sharpness expected from an All Black backline player, let alone senior pros.

Up front, they were better but the lack of a word-class blindside flanker was apparent. Vaea Fifita put in a decent shift but infringed a little too often and didn’t cause Argentina enough problems at the breakdown and didn’t offer much in other areas of play.

The substitutes didn’t offer as much as Hansen might have hoped and Argentina might be kicking themselves for their failure to knock off this weakened team.

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Beauden Barrett of New Zealand avoids a tackle of Nicolas Sanchez of Argentina during a match between Argentina and New Zealand as part of The Rugby Championship 2019 at Jose Amalfitani Stadium on July 20, 2019 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo by Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images)

Boks blindside

Back to the Springboks and the troublesome number six jersey. The loss of Siya Kolisi left the Boks with few options in the position and in the end, it was Rynhardt Elstadt who took on the job ahead of the Bulls Marco van Staden. Both players are known for being hard-working, but neither has really done enough to suggest they can fill Kolisi’s boots.

Elstadt is unfortunately not as mobile as an international number 6 needs to be, luckily for the Boks Francois Louw and Pieter-Steph Du Toit covered up his sins of omission.

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