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TRI NATIONS CHAMPIONS 2011: AUSTRALIA
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane - Saturday 27th August 2011
KO: Aus 20:00 | SA 12:00 | NZ 22:00 | BST 11:00
HEAD TO HEAD
SUNCORP STADIUM, Brisbane was packed with All Black and Wallaby fans alike and all were ready for an intense deciding Tri Nations match. The Australians knew they were facing tough game against the Kiwis but took confidence from the All Blacks defeat last week against the Springboks.
Both teams flew in to attack straight away as the deafening noise of 51,858 voices cheered them on, but it was the Wallabies who looked dominant. Ben Alexander charged down an All Black kick just 2 minutes in leaving the Australians within a metre of the try line.
It was not long until the Green and Gold’s were given the opportunity for points, which Quade Cooper happily took making the score 3-0 after just 4 minutes. The Australians continued to pile on the pressure and very nearly touched down a try, but it was ripped away from them at the last moment, confirmed by the TMO . The All Blacks looked unsure and this was not helped by the loss of Kieran Read due to injury. Their luck was not about to change either as Will Genia spotted a gap and leapt for it in order to score successfully. Quade Cooper converted easily and, at 13 minutes in, New Zealand were 10 points down.
The All Blacks did, however, wake up a little after this and finally ventured into Australian territory. But it was to no avail. Instead of keeping the ball in hand, they kicked away possession time after time, playing straight into the hands of the Wallabies. Dan Carter was given a shot at goal with a penalty kick which flew straight over allowing the All Blacks to start their points rolling. The score now at 10-3 did not worry the Wallabies who continued to reign supreme on the pitch.
An unfortunate piece of bad judgement meant Kurtley Beale was not able to capitalise on a good run, as he missed his chance to offload to Digby Ioane. But the Australians continued to pressurise the All Black defence, and they did well to absorb it and not crack until Ma’a Nonu tackled a player off the ball giving away a penalty. The Australians added another effortless 3 points thanks to Cooper and looked hungry for more at 32 minutes.
Just a minute later, out of nowhere Radike Samo made an amazing long run and planted the ball firmly across the whitewash for a second try. The 35-year old Australian may be the oldest player of the Wallaby side but showed he still had plenty of pace, outstripping several New Zealanders. Quade Cooper converted successfully and the score reached 20-3 and remained there as the half time whistle blew.
However, things were to change in the second half and whatever was said in the All Black changing room worked wonders. They started the half like a new team, confident and strong. The Australians began to doubt themselves a little, getting in each other’s way and not showing ambition in their play. Rocky Elsom gave away an soft penalty for coming in at the side and the All Blacks began to reduce their point deficit and increased the score to 20-6. The Kiwis then followed this with a huge 26- phase piece of game play, keeping the ball in hand and forcing a gruelling few minutes which, eventually, led to a try for Conrad Smith in the 52nd minute. Carter converted and the All Black supporters were on their feet as the volume in the stadium soared.
The Wallabies were struggling now, having lost their confidence from the first half . This created the perfect opportunity for Ma’a Nonu to sweep in and take full advantage with a try which Carter converted, pulling the scores level at 58 minutes.
Suddenly, the Australians snapped back to life. The Wallabies came straight back at the Kiwis full throttle and took them off-guard; Will Genia creating an opportunity and offloaded to Digby Ioane before Kurtley Beale was left to finish it. Although the try was not converted - Cooper pulled the kick to the left- the Australians could taste victory.
The final 19 minutes was a hard fought arm wrestle and Cooper missed another 3 points when his goal kick could not find the uprights.
Although the All Blacks put up a valiant fight to the bitter end, they simply could not muster the last surge to win and the Wallabies walked away, deservedly, with the Castrol Edge Tri Nations trophy for the first time in ten years.
"It's obviously a significant result for us as we haven't done that since 2001, that's a biggie," said Wallabies coach, Robbie Deans post-match. "In terms of the World Cup it's irrelevant.
"If anything we've probably just put the bar up. But we'll take some real value out of it.”
"I think they just had more edge than us initially and we suffered because of that," said an unhappy All Blacks coach, Graham Henry after the game in Brisbane.
"We came right in the finish but didn't do the business. Some guys would have been disappointed in how they played, didn't play as well as they normally played and didn't play to the standard that they played to get into the side.”
15 Kurtley Beale 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper 13 Anthony Fainga’a 12 Pat McCabe 11 Digby Ioane 10 Quade Cooper 9 Will Genia 8 Radike Samo 7 David Pocock 6 Rocky Elsom 5 James Horwill (C) 4 Dan Vickerman 3 Ben Alexander 2 Stephen Moore 1 Sekope Kepu BENCH: 16 Saia Fainga’a 17 Salesi Ma’afu 18 Rob Simmons 19 Ben McCalman 20 Scott Higginbotham 21 Luke Burgess 22 Rob Horne
SCORERS T: Genia, Samo, Beale C: Cooper (2) P: Cooper (2)
1 Tony Woodcock 2 Keven Mealamu 3 Owen Franks 4 Brad Thorn 5 Samuel Whitelock 6 Adam Thomson 7 Richie McCaw (C) 8 Kieran Read 9 Piri Weepu 10 Daniel Carter 11 Zac Guildford 12 Ma’a Nonu 13 Conrad Smith 14 Cory Jane 15 Mils Muliaina BENCH: 16 Andrew Hore 17 John Afoa 18 Ali Williams 19 Victor Vito 20 Andy Ellis 21 Colin Slade 22 Isaia Toeava
SCORERS T: Smith, Nonu C: Carter (2) P: Carter (2)
Nelson Mandela Stadium, PE - Saturday 20th August 2011
KO 5.05pm SAST | 3.00am 21/08 NZST | 4.05pm BST
HEAD TO HEAD
PORT ELIZABETH was buzzing as the All Blacks stepped out to face the Springboks, each of whom had had a shake-up of their starting XV. The Bokke crowd was boisterous as they sang and chanted over the Haka leaving the All Blacks all but drowned out. The game kicked off and New Zealand started strongly, but it was not long until they had conceded a penalty due to sloppy discipline, which was their problem throughout the match.
Although the Kiwis had a good chance early on, it was South Africa who claimed the first points. Morne Steyn kicked a perfect penalty from near halfway, which brought the score to 3-0. Steyn had a brilliant kicking game, and this was just the first of many excellent penalties. The Springboks did not have to wait long until Steyn stole another 3 points with a second penalty 9 minutes in. But it was not all good news for the Springboks; Heinrich Brussow took a nasty boot to the face and had to be replaced by Ashley Johnson whilst he was patched up.
New Zealand were still looking confident in open play, but their discipline worsened and once again they gave away a penalty, this time for not releasing the ball when tackled. Steyn took the opportunity to punish the All Blacks and kicked the Springboks to 9-0. At 19 minutes in, the Kiwis finally got their chance to put points on the board, but unfortunately Colin Slade’s attempt at goal swerved off and left them scoreless.
Moments later, the Boks had a blow to their ranks as Patrick Lambie was forced off the field due to injury, leaving Francois Hougaard to take over. This did not seem to trouble the Springboks too much though as their defence was excellent and they repelled the Kiwi attacks with relative ease.
Both sides were playing passionately by the 25th minute and possession was changing hands quickly as they battled fiercely. However, eventually yet more sloppy play by the All Blacks led to another well-taken penalty followed by a beautifully calm drop goal from Steyn. So, at 32 minutes in, the Bokke were 15-0 up and the home crowd were rejoicing as they witnessed a team that looked Tri Nations –and World Cup– worthy.
The All Black supporters were miserable by now having ventured so farwith all confidence in an easy win. It was not that long until they were out of their seats, with Richard Kahui running in a try from a well-placed line out. Unfortunately, this was their only opportunity which paid off, and an unsure Slade missed the conversion leaving the score at 15-5.
Steyn was profusely more confident in his kicking ability and attempted another drop goal which missed but it did not shake his belief. He strode into the changing rooms at half time content in having scored all of his team’s points so far. The Springboks had laid down a challenge to the All Blacks, and they had not yet mustered a decent reply.
The second half was much of the same, although the Springbok bench was pretty much emptied over its course. The All Blacks did not capitalise on their opportunities and were left scrabbling around in the scrum at times. 6 minutes into the second half, Jimmy Cowan brought a glint of hope by running to the try line, but the TMO spotted the obvious forward pass which got him there and the score stood unchanged.
It was not until the 59th minute that the score changed again, and unfortunately for Kiwi fans, it was the Springboks who saw the rewards. Morne Steyn kicked his final penalty at goal and took the score to 18-5, which left the Kiwis looking forlorn and deflated. The only other notable moment of the half was the appearance of John Smit, who had been relegated to the bench and his captaincy stripped. However, the politics of his replacement should not overcast the match; the Bokke side played excellent rugby and excelled in their defensive strategy.
Captain Victor Matfield was pleased with their approach to defence commenting,
“Teams like the All Blacks will always make line breaks, but for us it's about how you react to that and we certainly put our bodies on the line. We got back to defend and did it well”.
The All Blacks will not be happy with their performance and angry at themselves for losing so many points due to lack of discipline. New Zealand coach, Graham Henry, certainly was not impressed saying,
"At least half a dozen opportunities were created but it was frustrating they were not taken".
15 Pat Lambie 14 JP Pietersen 13 Jaque Fourie 12 Jean de Villiers 11 Bryan Habana 10 Morné Steyn 9 Fourie du Preez 8 Pierre Spies 7 Willem Alberts 6 Heinrich Brüssow 5 Victor Matfield (C) 4 Bakkies Botha 3 Jannie du Plessis 2 Bismarck du Plessis 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp BENCH: 16 John Smit 17 Tendai Mtawarira 18 CJ van der Linde 19 Danie Rossouw 20 Ashley Johnson 21 Francois Hougaard 22 Butch James
SCORERS P: Steyn (5) DG: Steyn
1 Tony Woodcock 2 Keven Mealamu (C) 3 John Afoa 4 Samuel Whitelock 5 Ali Williams 6 Jerome Kaino 7 Adam Thomson 8 Liam Messam 9 Jimmy Cowan 10 Colin Slade 11 Hosea Gear 12 Sonny Bill Williams 13 Richard Kahui 14 Isaia Toeava 15 Israel Dagg BENCH: 16 Andrew Hore 17 Ben Franks 18 Jarrad Hoeata 19 Victor Vito 20 Andy Ellis 21 Piri Weepu 22 Cory Jane
SCORERS T: Kahui
ABSA Stadium, Durban - Saturday 13th August 2011
KO: SA 17:05 | AUS 01:05 [14/08] | NZ 03:05 [14/08] | UK 16:05
HEAD TO HEAD
A rambunctious crowd descended on Durban as the new and improved Bokke team went head-to-head with Australia. The South Africans started well, much to the pleasure of the home crowd, and within 2 minutes had gained 3 points as Frans Steyn kicked over the first penalty of the match. The Bokke were on the charge, and looked pretty menacing, but Australia kept a grip on the game and held them off the try line.
This did not stop South Africa from adding to their points though, as Butch James managed to snatch another 3 points at 15 minutes in. The Australians were looking confident as the first half drew to a close but, unfortunately, could not capitalise on any opportunities. James O’Connor had a few penalties to put a boot to but was unable to get into the zone, which left the Australians down at 6-0 when the half time whistle blew. New Zealand Referee, Bryce Lawrence, had a decidedly mixed match with some inconsistent calls in the first half which only went on to get worse in the second. His call to blow for half time just as Kurtley Beale was grounded certainly would not have won him praise amongst the Wallabies’ ranks.
However, the Australians really came back strong in the second half and started to put the Bokke back in their place from the off. O’Connor finally found his feet and kicked over a penalty for their first 3 points after just 3 minutes of the half, although his kicking remained unreliable throughout the match. Just 4 minutes later and the Australians were rejoicing as Quade Copper and James O’Connor set up a try for Pat McCabe, which left Bokke fans momentarily quiet as they realised how strong the Australians had become. The conversion was missed by O’Connor but this did little to lift the mood of the South African crowd.
Luckily for Bokke fans, they were soon cheering again as 10 minutes later Butch James stepped up to take a well-struck penalty and South Africa edged ahead by 9-8. This was a tense game and, for the first time in this year’s tournament, the Springboks were stepping up to the mark. However, this did not deter the strong Australian spirit and the battle for possession and points continued. The Australian scrum looked a key weapon by this point and proved to be tough to handle. The South African open play was good though and they were retaining possession well.
Australia finally won another penalty and O’Connor stepped up to try his luck once more. The home crowd then changed from simply loud to rude as they jeered at him from the stands. However, with his focus purely on his kicking, O’Connor ignored this unsportsmanlike behaviour and happily scored the much needed 3 points. Now at 9-11 with 15 minutes to go, the Wallabies really started to push the Bokke scrum about and take command of the field. The South Africans tried to turn the tide by sending in some fresh legs but substitutions could not help them.
O’Connor punished them further with another successful penalty, and the Bokke scrabbled to find the converted try they needed now they were 9-14 down. They were unsuccessful. Even though this new Bokke side was stronger and better prepared for a Tri Nations match, they simply could not break the tough Australian team and lost the battle. Unfortunately this also meant they lost the war, their Tri Nations hopes left in tatters.
15 Frans Steyn 14 JP Petersen 13 Jaque Fourie 12 Jean de Villiers 11 Bryan Habana 10 Butch James 9 Fourie du Preez 8 Pierre Spies 7 Danie Rossouw 6 Heinrich Brüssow 5 Victor Matfield 4 Bakkies Botha 3 Jannie du Plessis 2 John Smit (C) 1 Tendai Mtawarira BENCH: 16 Bismarck du Plessis 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp 18 Gerhard Mostert 19 Jean Deysel 20 Francois Hougaard 21 Morne Steyn 22 Gio Aplon
SCORERS P: Frans Steyn, James (2)
15 Kurtley Beale 14 James O’Connor 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper 12 Pat McCabe 11 Digby Ioane 10 Quade Cooper 9 Will Genia 8 Scott Higginbotham 7 David Pocock 6 Rocky Elsom (C) 5 James Horwill 4 Nathan Sharpe 3 Ben Alexander 2 Stephen Moore 1 Sekope Kepu BENCH: 16 Saia Fainga’a 17 Salesi Ma’afu 18 Sitaleki Timani 19 Ben McCalman 20 Radike Samo 21 Luke Burgess 22 Anthony Fainga’a
SCORERS T: McCabe P: O'Connor (3)
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (NZRU)
Eden Park, Auckland - Saturday 6th August 2011
HT: 17-0 ATT: 54,500
HEAD TO HEAD
THE All Blacks and Wallabies alike were pumped and raring to go for this grudge match. The venue for the Rugby World Cup Final, Eden Park, was buzzing and the atmosphere became even more hyped after a heart-felt Haka. Both teams began strongly with quick play and shows of strength.
Dan Carter drew first blood for New Zealand when he kicked the first penalty of the match 5 minutes in. His kicking was much improved from the previous week and he continued to kick brilliantly throughout.
Soon after , Ma’a Nonu managed to heave himself over the line and touch the ball down for a try, converted with ease by Carter. This took the score to 10-0 by 8 minutes and Australia were starting to lose confidence. They were caught off guard by a quick line out and long runs from the All Blacks who were showing off their great handling skills and strength.
But, as it neared the end of the first quarter, Australia started to play like they belonged and made a strong comeback . The Wallabies put pressure on the All Blacks with long, deliberate build-ups and good decisions. However, this did not deter New Zealand, with Keven Mealamu scoring and Carter converting which furthered their lead to 17-0. The try was well refereed by South African Craig Joubert, who got right in with the action and needed no assistance from the TMO. In fact, Joubert had a very good match as a referee and made some good calls in some tough situations.
Australia had opportunities at the end of the first half to add points on the board in the form of two penalties. Unfortunately, James O’Connor was not having a good day at the office and missed both , leaving Australia heading for the changing room with nothing to show for their efforts.
The second half started badly for O’Connor too as he missed yet another penalty kick gained from a collapsed scrum caused by New Zealand. The All Blacks seemed to struggle at times with their scrummaging and it was their one weak link in their overly- stunning game play.
Dan Carter decided to show how much his kicking had improved - and his confidence- from last week as he casually kicked a perfect drop goal. The score was now at 20-0 and Australia needed a stroke of genius desperately. Luckily, they did not have to wait for long. At 5 1 minutes, the combination of Kurtley Beale and Digby Ioane created a powerful run that took the All Blacks by surprise, allowing Ioane to finish it off with a much needed try. Quade Cooper stepped up to convert instead of O’Connor and took the score to 20-7.
However, New Zealand barely gave the Wallabies time to congratulate themselves before they hit back. The All Blacks instantly got back on top of the Wallabies by scoring a controversial try thanks to Sitiveni Sivivatu 3 minutes later. The Wallabies were sure that the referee had missed a crucial knock-on but the replays showed that actually the decision was correct. So the All Blacks regained their 20 point lead as Carter converted to increase the score to 27-7.
Australia started to show more cracks in their play as they had another dip in confidence, and this led to Carter scoring another 3 points as the Wallabies gave away another penalty. But eventually, the Australians decided to finish with a flourish and mustered another try by captain Rocky Elsom at the 75th minute. Cooper converted and put the Wallabies on a reasonable score of 30-14. Although they finished on this score, Australia fought until the bitter end in hope to gain a few more points. The Wallabies made a good game of it and finally we saw a match worthy of the Tri Nations ; unfortunately they were just out played by a slick All Blacks side.
1 Wyatt Crockett 2 Keven Mealamu 3 Owen Franks 4 Brad Thorn 5 Ali Williams 6 Jerome Kaino 7 Richie McCaw (C) 8 Kieran Read 9 Piri Weepu 10 Daniel Carter 11 Hosea Gear 12 Ma’a Nonu 13 Conrad Smith 14 Sitiveni Sivivatu 15 Mils Muliaina BENCH: 16 Andrew Hore 17 Ben Franks 18 Samuel Whitelock 19 Adam Thomson 20 Andy Ellis 21 Colin Slade 22 Sonny Bill Williams
SCORERS T: Nonu, Mealamu C: Carter (2) P: Carter (2)
15 Kurtley Beale 14 James O’Connor 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper 12 Pat McCabe 11 Digby Ioane 10 Quade Cooper 9 Will Genia 8 Ben McCalman 7 David Pocock 6 Rocky Elsom (C) 5 James Horwill 4 Rob Simmons 3 Ben Alexander 2 Stephen Moore 1 Sekope Kepu BENCH: 16 Saia Fainga’a 17 Pekahou Cowan 18 Dan Vickerman 19 Scott Higginbotham 20 Luke Burgess 21 Anthony Fainga’a 22 Lachie Turner
SCORERS T: Ioane, Elsom C: Cooper (2)
Referee: Craig Joubert
Westpac Stadium, Wellington - Saturday 30th July 2011
KO: Aus 17:35 | SA 09:35 | NZ 19:35 | BST 08:35
HEAD TO HEAD
THE Bokke fans who made the journey to Westpac Stadium, Wellington were left disappointed once again as an inexperienced South African team took on an easily superior All Blacks side. Within four minutes the Bokke had given away 3 points to New Zealand as Dan Carter scored a penalty goal. This made Carter the highest point scorer once again over-taking Jonny Wilkinson for the top spot. South Africa had a chance to equalise soon after but Morne Steyn missed the kick - his first miss in 36 kicks.
The All Blacks seemed to coast their way through most of the first half and showed little flair. However, the South Africans still could not keep up with the pace and, after 14 minutes, New Zealand scored their first try, thanks to the combination of Jimmy Cowan and Wyatt Crockett, which took the score to 8-0. Unfortunately, Dan Carter did not manage to convert and this poor kicking was continued throughout the match mising 4 of 6 conversions. Carter was great in open play but did not seem to have his kicking boots on.
The All Blacks soon started to show their strength but were penalised a few times in the scrum. The Irish referee, Alain Rolland, was very vigilant and was keen to keep both sides in check for being off their feet at a ruck and high tackling too. The South African team showed the most problems with discipline and were penalised for it often.
Finally after 30 minutes of dull play by both sides, John Smit decided to take some positive action and received 7 points for his efforts. He decided to kick to the line instead of taking the points from a penalty and, from that line-out, the Bokke managed to put together a run with Smit finishing it off and Steyn converting. The Bokke captain has had much pressure this week after the poor result against Australia -even though he can hardly be blamed for having a rookie team- and so it was nice to see him show that he still has what it takes.
The first half drew to a close with All Black Cory Jane making a brilliant run and scoring, which brought the final score for the half up to 18-7. The half had been pretty mundane for the All Blacks, whilst the Springboks looked better than last week and were still in the game, but seemed pretty shaky.
The second half was where the All Blacks turned it up a gear and started to show their true colours. They made several substitutions throughout the half including an unlucky John Afoa who came on for Ben Franks. Afoa lasted only a few minutes before taking a knee to the head and had to be replaced by Ben Franks again.
The All Blacks currently have a squad of 40 which is going to be cut to 30 for the World Cup so every player is fighting for a place. This led to players in the second half starting to really show off their game play.
In the 44th minute, Carter had a great run and Ma'a Nonu was given the ball to put over the line but was held up by Juan de Jongh, as confirmed by the TMO. A minute later, however, Cory Jane secured his second try which was converted by Carter, and the score rose to 25-7. Carter followed this with a successful penalty kick, which added another 3 points.
Chiliboy Ralepelle, a substitution for Werner Kruger, had a superb run with surprising pace, but bad support left the ball to be turned over by All Blacks. The South Africans then had a few moments of opportunity with the All Black line out being poorly executed. But it was not long until New Zealand were back on the attack and the Bokke scrum was feeling the pressure, stuck in a corner and constantly collapsing. This was when the referee made a sneaky decision to give a penalty to the South Africans at the scrum, when clearly it was an All Black penalty, just so the stalemate could be stopped and the game would start moving again.
But the buckling Bokke were to be humiliated further when Guildford and Slade scored tries and Carter managed one of the two conversions. The Bokke side were left hung out to dry with an embarrassing score of 40-7. There is no doubt that the All Blacks are a very strong side but they were certainly helped to victory by the truly second-rate Bokke team. Seemingly, Springbok captain John Smit agreed commenting, “Even though we played good rugby at stages during the game, you’re always going to pay if you turn over possession at this level, and we certainly paid for that against these blokes”.
Meanwhile, a far happier All Blacks captain, Richie McCaw, was pleased with how the team had developed since their Fiji game saying, “We took a step up from last week and the physicality also went up a notch. Our set piece was good and we managed to give our backs a good platform to play from.”
by Emily Ruscoe
15 Mils Muliaina 14 Cory Jane 13 Conrad Smith 12 Ma'a Nonu 11 Zac Guildford 10 Dan Carter 9 Jimmy Cowan 1 Wyatt Crockett 2 Andrew Hore 3 Ben Franks 4 Sam Whitelock 5 Ali Williams 6 Jerome Kaino 7 Richie McCaw [C] 8 Adam Thomson BENCH: 16 Corey Flynn 17 John Afoa 18 Jarrad Hoeata 19 Liam Messam 20 Piri Weepu 21 Colin Slade 22 Sonny Bill Williams
SCORERS T: Crockett, Guildford (2), Jane (2), Slade C: Carter (2) P: Carter (2)
15 Patrick Lambie 14 Bjorn Basson 13 Adrian Jacobs 12 Juan de Jongh 11 Lwazi Mvovo 10 Morne Steyn 9 Ruan Pienaar 1 Dean Greyling 2 John Smit [C] 3 Werner Kruger 4 Gerhard Mostert 5 Alistair Hargreaves 6 Deon Stegmann 7 Jean Deysel 8 Danie Rossouw BENCH: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle 17 CJ van der Linde 18 Ryan Kankowski 19 Ashley Johnson 20 Charl McLeod 21 Wynand Olivier 22 Odwa Ndungane
SCORERS T: Smit C: Steyn
Referee: Alain Rolland
ANZ Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park - Saturday 23 July 2011
HT: 15-6 Att: 52,788
HEAD TO HEAD
THE ANZ Stadium at Sydney Olympic Park was buzzing as a nervous Wallaby side stepped out onto the field alongside a rather more confident Bokke. The Australians had much to prove after their disaster against Samoa and the atmosphere was ostensibly tense. The Australians started shakily; in the first minute, Adam Ashley-Cooper was left clutching his already heavily strapped hand. Luckily, he recovered quickly and this stutter did not worry the Wallabies too much who launched straight into playing some fast, free-flowing rugby.
The Bokke started well with a few good runs but soon fell back into their old kicking-game style. This fell straight into the hands of the Wallabies who were all too happy to catch and run. The Wallabies showed off an inspired piece of play where Quade Cooper side-stepped the Springboks, offloaded to captain Rocky Elsom and Ben Alexander finished with a try. James O'Connor then made his first of several conversions, taking the score 7-0 to the Wallabies 10 minutes in.
Seconds later, Digby Ioane made an excellent run from the halfway line and scored, making it 12-0. The South African defence was poor with several missed tackles and the visitors looked out-performed. The Wallabies played a fast game with quick hands and long breaks; it was unfortunate that sloppy passing and fumbles mired the Australian play and left them unable to capitalise on some of their quality performance.
It appeared the Bokke has an ideas deficit and after 20 minutes, despite 80% possession, they created no real chances to gain some points. At 30 minutes South Africa capitalised on a break from slow ball and lack of support securing a penalty which Morne Steyn converted into 3 points. Unfortunately, they could not muster further inspiration and so reverted to some mediocre kicking. To add insult to injury, Werner Kruger then gave away a penalty at the scrum and O’Connor added another 3 points taking the homeside up to 15-3.
By now, Springbok players and fans alike were desperate. South Africa showed a flash of hope from a Bjorn Bassan break but again squandered it with a forward pass leaving fans infuriated. Frustrations were showing on the pitch too with high tackles in abundance which the Kiwi referee, Chris Pollock, chose to ignore; seemingly he preferred the game to flow instead of having players pulled up for dangerous play.
South Africa finally added 3 points from Steyn just before half time leaving them down 15-6. The game appeared to be much faster than the Springboks could deal with, and even in the first half it showed they had difficulty keeping up.
The start of the second half was much of the same. The Australians showed great improvement on last week's game with both flair and cohesion as a team. O'Connor opened the Wallabies scoring with a brilliant pick up from a Cooper pass which he then ran over the line and then converted from a wide angle to bring them up to 22-6. From this point on, the Wallabies really dominated with two more tries, the first scored by hooker Stephen Moore that the ref deferred to the TMO for confirmation, and another from Ashley-Cooper. O’Connor converted both and added a second penalty leaving the Bokke humiliated as Australia’s score rose to 39-6.
As soon as the substitutions came on, instantly they made an impact - finally the Bokke found the inspiration they lacked. Chilliboy Ralepelle scored a much needed try and some dignity was restored. Replacement fly half Patrick Lambie converted and the score increased to 39-13.
South Africa made a final push for the last 10 minutes of the match and began to show some promise though it was little too late. Despite the Wallabies snuffling out two try scoring opportunities in quick succession, Springbok captain John Smit crossed the whitewash with just 5 minutes on the clock. Lambie converted but they still finished the match significantly short at 39-20.
The Wallabies were justifiably pleased with their victory.
“Set piece was good, the scrummaging was good and importantly we got our shoulders down and we can start building some momentum, which these guys will be happy with” commented Coach Robbie Deans. But they are under no illusions that they can still do more with Captain Rocky Elsom adding,
“We were sharp at times but we were sloppy at times so we’ve got a few things we need to work on but we can be reasonably happy.”
Springbok captain, John Smit said of his newly-blooded squad combination in their opening match, "They'll pull a couple of positives out of this for sure but it's not a great result for us. We'll have to learn from this, let those guys take the experience and then be pretty harsh on Monday."
A final word must be saved for the truly astounding Quade Cooper who truly held it together for the Wallabies. Cooper kept cool and showed real imagination in his play, giving Australia the edge that was missing in the previous week's loss to Samoa.
by Emily Ruscoe
15 Kurtley Beale 14 James O’Connor 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper 12 Pat McCabe 11 Digby Ioane 10 Quade Cooper 9 Will Genia 8 Ben McCalman 7 David Pocock 6 Rocky Elsom [C] 5 James Horwill 4 Rob Simmons 3 Ben Alexander 2 Stephen Moore 1 Sekope Kepu BENCH: 16 Saia Faingaa 17 Pek Cowan 18 Nathan Sharpe 19 Matt Hodgson 20 Scott Higginbotham 21 Nick Phipps 22 Anthony Faingaa
SCORERS T: Alexander, Ioane, O'Connor, Moore, Ashley-Cooper C: O'Connor (4) P: O'Connor (2)
15 Gio Aplon 14 Bjorn Basson 13 Juan de Jongh 12 Wynand Olivier 11 Lwazi Mvovo 10 Morne Steyn 9 Ruan Pienaar 1 Dean Greyling 2 John Smit [C] 3 Werner Kruger 4 Flip van der Merwe 5 Alistair Hargreaves 6 Deon Stegmann 7 Danie Rossouw 8 Ashley Johnson BENCH: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle 17 CJ van der Linde 18 Ryan Kankowski 19 Jean Deysel 20 Charl McLeod 21 Adrian Jacobs 22 Patrick Lambie
SCORERS T: Ralepelle, Smit C: Lambie (2) P: Steyn (2)
Referee: Chris Pollock (NZ) Asst Referees: Keith Brown, Vinny Munro TMO: Matt Goddard
by Emily Ruscoe
16th July 2011
SO the Squads have been announced and there are some new comers and some shocks amongst the ranks. There has been a lot of shake-ups and, as expected, the politics of squad selection has been a big talking point. Due to the large amount of injuries sustained to members of all the squads there is a large amount of injury cover seen in all the sides, but one team seem to have taken it to extremes - South Africa.
The Australians have already pronounced their indignation at the Boks Squad named for the away leg of the tournament which is seemingly missing several key players due to a rather substantial injury list; 21 players were named in total. This has outraged many as it seems that, after all the strong talk from Peter de Villiers, the Boks have fallen back to the old method of keeping their more experienced team for home games, letting a more inexperienced group step up for the jetlag-inducing stint. In the injury list are the names of Schalk Burger, Victor Matfield, Jean de Villiers and Bakkies Botha who are all over the 60 caps mark. Joining them are JP Pietersen and Jaque Fourie who have both had strong Super Rugby seasons, scoring 6 tries a piece. This leaves the Tri Nations Squad with a number of holes that needed to be filled.
This leads us to a rather large number of uncapped players, 7 in total, who are mainly forwards. These players have some rather large boots to fill and will be interesting to watch as they try to take up the slack. That's not to say, however, that these new members aren't up to scratch. Ashley Johnson, Elton Jantjies and Gerhard Mostert have all had very strong seasons so far. Johnson and Jantjies are both stacking up points regularly for their Super Rugby sides and Mostert has been adding real strength to the forwards of his team, The Sharks. The other four: Charl McLeod, Dean Greyling, Werner Kruger and Coenie Oosthuizen, have all had good seasons with the last three making great developments in their scrummaging and McLeod showing promise as a scrumhalf. We also see the fresh faces Patrick Lambie and Bjorn Basson, who have seen only 1 and 4 caps respectively, but have had amazing seasons with Lambie almost hitting the 200 points mark, and Basson scoring 9 tries.
It is not all newcomers to the fold, however; we also see the return of CJ Van der Linde who has recently recovered from a groin injury. With his 69 caps, he brings some much needed wisdom to the team as he steps up as an injury cover prop. He is not alone either, joined by Captain John Smit to help lead the youthful squad on this away stint.
The Australian side also sees several uncapped appearances but for different reasons. As previously expressed by their coach Robbie Deans, the Australians are looking to find new talent and broaden their choices in play, and consequently there has been a new blood added in the forwards and backs. Two to watch closely at the warm-up match against Samoa on 17th July are James Hanson and Nick Phipps. Hanson plays for the Queensland Reds, the team whose dominant play in this year’s Super Rugby season has had the media buzzing about the comeback of Australian rugby. Meanwhile, Nick Phipps is the up-and-coming star of the Melbourne Rebels. The Rebels had their first year in Super Rugby this season and he is showing huge amounts of talent as a scrumhalf with great handling skills and game judgement.
There are also some well-known faces amongst the selection with Quade Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Matt Giteau and James O'Connor, all of whom having had stunning Super Rugby seasons having reached the top ten players for most points scored. Adam Ashley-Cooper also makes it on the list and will be using his great versatility to the advantage of the Wallabies. Deemed the 'Mr-Fix-It' of the backs, Ashley-Cooper will surely be seeing play in a wide variety of positions throughout the tournament. These talented players are also joined by Rocky Elsom who is back from an ankle injury, and who will captain the team in the Samoa game even though it will only be his second appearance so far this year. He has had a tough season so far, plagued with injury problems, and so it can only be hoped that he can remain fully functional for the rest of the year. The Wallabies will need a strong leader if they intend to form a cohesive and working side and Rocky Elsom may well deliver it.
However, it's not all going well for the Wallabies. A disastrous training session for Benn Robinson left him with a torn ligament in his knee causing him to not only be out for Tri Nations but probably the rest of the season. This setback has added to the injury list which includes; Drew Mitchell, Berrick Barnes, Ben Daley and Salesi Ma'afu. There are a few on the team sheet who are currently injured but will probably be seen towards the end of the tournament, such as Luke Burgess and James Slipper, but this is dependent on their recovery time.
For those in the Wallabies squad, it is time to show that they have what it takes. The Tri Nations (and the Samoa Test) is their chance to show they should stay around for the World Cup. There are 40 members of the current squad and it is intended to be cut down to 30 for the World Cup selection. This means that every member will have to really prove their worth and, for the newcomers, it is a chance to explode on to the international stage or recede back into the shadows as others recover from injuries.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand Squad holds much fewer surprises. The All Blacks have 4 high profile players injured: Tony Woodcock, Israel Dagg, Isaia Toeava and Hosea Gear, but we may see some of them later in the tournament. They have three that have recently recovered from injury too, the one to really note being that of Ali Williams, who returns after two years out from Achilles and shoulder problems. Williams is an experienced head at 61 caps, and the 30-year-old has shown he's still got what it takes to be a great lock with strength and dedication in all areas of the role throughout the Super Rugby season.
The only new addition to the squad was the 27-year-old prop, Jarrad Hoeata. His season with the Highlanders has been very strong, although the team themselves have not fared so well. He has consistently shown commitment and flare during the year and should be a very useful addition to the side with his strong defensive skills. Hoeata's strong tackles and forceful play has had him compared with the likes of Ben Thorn and will certainly be being watched intently by the All Blacks on this build-up to the World Cup. Although the starting team for the warm-up match against Fiji on 22nd July has not been announced it would not be surprising if Hoeata makes the starting line-up.
The only real loss to the All Blacks came in the form of Anthony Boric who was not considered due to an ongoing foot injury. The 27-year-old lock had been playing well up until the injury, which he picked up during the Super Rugby season. Although this is a blow to the New Zealand side, there are still plenty of talented players and a host of experienced heads leaving New Zealand looking dominant once again and ready to show their potential to destroy the competition. However, the recent defeat of the Crusaders by the Queensland Reds has left some wondering if Australia may prove a tough competition. With 14 Reds finding places in Wallabies and 11 Crusaders taking position in All Blacks some fear a repeat performance and a confidence blow for the All Blacks at this crucial stage in the season.
So for now it seems likely that South Africa are playing it safe and we won't see their true colours until they have a home match. However, Australia may well prove a lot more interesting to watch than previously expected. They have new talent and new confidence which is scaring the competition and, although they have had some last minute problems, they are definitely the ones to watch this tournament. The All Blacks are looking strong statistically but their confidence doesn't seem at its all time high. They do, however, have the most experienced team and it seems unlikely that they'll let their nerves get the better of them. All in all, the tournament is looking good in terms of competition, even if South Africa aren't really entering into the spirit of it just yet.
Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Luke Burgess, Quade Cooper, Ben Daley, Rod Davies*, Dave Dennis*, Rocky Elsom [C,] Anthony Faingaa, Saia Faingaa, Will Genia, Mark Gerrard, Matt Giteau, James Hanson*, Scott Higginbotham, Matt Hodgson, James Horwill, Digby Ioane, Sekope Kepu, Salesi Ma’afu, Pat McCabe, Ben McCalman, Stephen Moore, Luke Morahan*, Dean Mumm, James O’Connor, Wycliff Palu, Nick Phipps*, David Pocock, Tatafu Polatu-Nau, Beau Robinson*, Benn Robinson, Radike Samo, Nathan Sharpe, Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Sitaleki Timani*, Lachie Turner, Dan Vickerman
John Afoa, Dan Carter, Jimmy Cowan, Israel Dagg, Andy Ellis, Corey Flynn, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Zac Guildford, Jarrad Hoeata*, Andrew Hore, Richard Kahui, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw [C], Keven Mealamu, Mils Muliaina, Ma’a Nonu, Kieran Read, Colin Slade, Conrad Smith, Adam Thomson, Brad Thorn, Isaia Toeava, Piri Weepu, Sam Whitelock, Ali Williams, Sonny Bill Williams, Tony Woodcock
Gio Aplon, Bjorn Basson, Heinrich Brüssow, Juan de Jongh, Jean Deysel, Dean Greyling*, Alistair Hargreaves, Adrian Jacobs, Elton Jantjies*, Ashley Johnson*, Ryan Kankowski, Werner Kruger*, Patrick Lambie, Charl McLeod*, Gerhard Mostert*, Johann Muller, Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane, Wynand Olivier, Coenie Oosthuizen*, Ruan Pienaar, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Danie Rossouw, John Smit (C), Deon Stegmann, Morne Steyn, Adriaan Strauss, CJ van der Linde, Flip van der Merwe
THE TRI NATIONS 2011...A LOOK AHEAD
by Emily Ruscoe
10th July 2011
THE TRI NATIONS tournament is looming, it is only a few weeks before the southern hemisphere sees the clash of the Titans, starting on 23rd July. After a tough year so far, with natural disasters running amok, and with the new extended Super Rugby season, the schedule for this year’s internationals has been left not just tight but condensed by three matches. There is barely 2 weeks between the end of Super Rugby season and the start of the Tri Nations, plus only 2 weeks between the end of Tri Nations and the beginning of the World Cup! This means the management tactics for this years' competition are crucial, with every team worrying about injuries and rest time for their key players on this important final approach to the World Cup. But will we be left with a lacklustre tournament due to World Cup nerves? I have a feeling that, this year as much as any, these three big teams of the rugby world won't leave their fans disappointed. So how is the build-up playing out so far?
Past form has seen New Zealand walk away triumphant the lion's share of the time, winning 10 championships so far and 48 out of their 60 games played in the history of Tri Nations. On top of this they managed to seal their 10th title last year by winning all six of their games leaving the Boks and Wallabies for dust and scrapping it out for second place.
Although South Africa trail with only 3 championships under their belt, it must be remembered that they are returning to protect their World Cup title this year and so should be fielding a strong team if they intend to grab some good game time to warm up their squad.
Australia are seemingly the underdogs looking at the stats, although they came second last year, and have had a hard blow loosing Drew Mitchell from selection due to a dislocated ankle and broken leg that he picked up during his Super Rugby season. However, as previously mentioned, tactics will be key and if any of the teams get nervy about the World Cup they may well opt to sacrifice their chance at the title to save their best team. As Springbok player John Smit has recently pointed out, no team has ever managed to win the Tri Nations and the World Cup in the same year, and heis not the only one to have recently voiced fears about the task facing the players.
This does not seem to have flustered the South African coach, Peter de Villiers. He has denied claims that he will follow previously used tactics, only fielding his first team for home games to save their strength. These tactics would have dampened the spirit of the tournament a bit but, luckily, it seems likely that we will be getting a strong contesting side. Instead, he has insisted he will be playing the best squad possible and will rest players as and when it is necessary. This is a brave plan if he sticks to his guns, as their retention of the World Title will be put on a knife-edge and fans will be holding their breath at every tackle praying their players remain unscathed. Take heed Bok fans, it is doubtful any of you will have unbitten nails and a full head of hair by the end of each match. However, with a few players recovering from injuries, this bold move may be exactly what's need to get the squad match-fit for the battle to keep hold of the Webb Ellis Cup.
Getting in important game time to pump up the players and getting the team in-sync was always going to be appealing, and if the Springboks do it well it will stand them in good stead to keep hold of their crown. However, even by putting out a fully-fledged first team the Springboks may find games tricky, not only in terms of jet-lag -their first games are in Sydney and Wellington- but also with their use of a kicking game which tends to play right into the hands of their rivals. Both of the other teams love to run the ball, and kicking it into their hands in the hope that the Wallabies and All Blacks fumble it seems far too risky. Who knows...maybe this may be a clever tactic to avoid tackle-induced injuries? Somehow I doubt it. Unless some strategising is done, it all may become too much for the Boks, denting their confidence and their chances for, not only Tri Nations but World Cup glory.
Another team sheet to keep an eye on is that of New Zealand. The All Blacks are strong as always but they are trying to rectify their current over-reliance on game-makers Carter and McCaw. Coach Graham Henry has realised that if either of these crucial players picks up an injury, there is not a viable Plan B. Clever? I think not! Henry has stated that the New Zealand team will be using the Tri Nations to give as much experience as possible to everyone in the squad, rotating the starting line up regularly. This may prove to be very advantageous; it not only allows the less internationally experienced members of the team to get in some good practice, but also saves Carter and McCaw from being overworked before the World Cup thus lessening injury risk. But are there any players who can step up to fill the gap left when these two strong leaders and talented players are not on the pitch? This may be the hurdle too far where the Tri Nations trophy may slip through the All Blacks fingers. It may well be that, without the direction and calming influence of these experienced heads, the team may crumple and tactics may have to return to reliance and risk. We will have to see if Henry sticks it out and gives the younger members a chance to take the bull by the horns, or if he will buckle in the face of defeat and send in the big guns.
Australia as a team have recently had trouble with pulling up a consistently talented and motivated team and this will not be helped by losing Mitchell. The casualty toll of the extended Super Rugby season may well hit Australia hardest due to their currently reduced selection pool, and serious injuries in Tri Nations may totally obliterate their World Cup bid. However, they have a huge advantage when it comes to their game tactics, with a great style which really moves and flows, and a coach who really knows how to get the best from a situation. Robbie Deans is bound to put out a team which has some great set play and inspired free-movement, along with a much improved scrum than that seen in recent years. It will be interesting to see what happens in terms of squad as Deans has been less vocal than the other coaches about his strategy (shrewd as ever) but it seems that he would be mostly likely to put out his top picks if he really wants the win. Saying that, it may be that if his eyes are firmly fixed on the Webb Ellis then he may take the hit and only field his seconds to avoid any more costly loss of players. The choice is really Australian pride versus damage limitation.
Aside from the team tactics and strategies, the Tri Nations is going to be pretty competitive as it is a great opportunity to crush as much confidence as possible out of the opposition. New Zealand will be hoping that they can use their impressive former prowess to shake the nerves of the other teams before finishing them off on the field. Australia, on the other hand, will be hoping that beating their two closest rivals will give them a boost for the World Cup, whilst showing the world they are not to be messed with, and with the superior performance of the St George Reds of Queensland over the predominantly All Black-staffed Crusaders in the Super Rugby Final, the Wallabies are starting on the front foot. Meanwhile, South Africa will be pulling out all the stops to show they are still on top form. They have the most to lose in terms of dented confidence as no World Champions want to enter retention battle on the back on a failure. If every nation fields its most competitive team we should see some pretty hard and demanding play, each team in hope that the loser comes away beaten and broken.
If anything, the politics of World Cup vs Tri Nations game play will be interesting, and I'm sure this year's tournament is certainly going to hot up. It will be exhilarating -and possibly painful- for fans to watch as the games hit the intensity expected and the players may start to fall. Needless-to-say that squads, coaches and fans alike will be hoping that this will be the first year that both the Tri Nations and Webb Ellis trophies will be in their possession. Teams, it is time to step up or get stepped on.