The Springboks rallied from 10 points down to claim a 23-23 draw in Perth.
The Perth crowd made themselves heard
The timing here could not have been worse for the Australian Rugby Union as it was announced in the week leading up to the game that the Western Force’s appeal to stay in Super Rugby had been denied. There were some who thought this news would lead to an empty stadium for this Test match in Perth, but those fears didn’t really materialise.
If anything, the stands seemed fuller than normal at the nib Stadium as the arena was awash of Australia and Western Force fans coming out in their droves to watch the game. It was a loud venue and the whole occasion was treated like much more a party than the funeral atmosphere that some officials anticipated.
No one has followed New Zealand
It is interesting that the other three teams in this Rugby Championship, plus the teams in the Northern Hemisphere if we are being inclusive, don’t yet trust their attacking games enough to go for tries when kickable penalties are on offer. The All Blacks will routinely turn down shots at goal, knowing that five to seven points – plus the momentum shift when scoring a try – is a better option than keeping the scoreboard ticking over with three points here and there.
Three minutes into this contest, the Springboks were given a penalty just inside the Wallabies 22. A kick to the corner and a 5-metre line out was on the table, but instead, it was decided to give Elton Jantjies a shot at goal. Jantjies was kicking at 86% during the Test season so from a number standpoint the decision was understandable, but sometimes you wonder if these other nations should be chancing their arm and going for tries.
Australia finally went down this route early in the second half and they rolled over for a try.
South Africa owned the breakdown
Australia could have had a handful of tries in the first 20 minutes if it wasn’t for the immense play of South Africa at the breakdown. On numerous occasions, the Wallabies were moving forward, only for a Springbok back rower to get his hands on the ball in a ruck.
Much of this was due to the tenacity of the South Africans at the ruck, but it was also due to a lack of precision from the Australians. The first player to an attacking ruck has to get his clear out right and all too often the Wallabies were falling off from their clear outs due to a lack of power or technique. You cannot build an attacking game plan when you aren’t securing your own ball and for the first quarter of the game especially, the Wallabies were lacking in this department.
Neither side defended kickoffs well
It was most obvious that South Africa was bad at controlling kickoffs as the Wallabies scored directly after stealing a ball they had kicked. Israel Folau – who was again a one man breakaway machine during the game – could use his absurd aerial ability to bat the ball back to a teammate and the Australians were up and away. Kurtley Beale finished the break with a nice piece of deceptive running across the defence.
This inability to secure the ball from a kickoff has become a real problem around world rugby. Teams have set their forwards in pods of two across the 10-metre line, but all that does is leave massive gaps that have to be scrambled to cover on a well-placed kick. The ability of the chasers to get high and bat the ball back necessitates these pods, but no one has yet found a true solution that allows them to keep the ball anything like 100% of the time.
South Africa should have won it late
The South Africans secured yet another ruck turnover with just over five minutes to play in the game. Following a kick to touch and resulting line out win, the Springboks played essentially the rest of the game in the Wallabies half. They couldn’t quite force the right turnover though to get the ball in a position to score.
It was an impressive display of defence from the Wallabies with the South Africans throwing everything they had at them late. A late penalty gave the Springboks the perfect attacking platform just outside the 22, but the Wallabies were disciplined and structured in their work and managed to keep South Africa at bay to see out the game.
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