New Zealand vs. Australia – Forsyth Barr Stadium, 26 August 2017
Arguably the best test match in a while, New Zealand retained the Bledisloe Cup for another year after a nail-biting second round in The Rugby Championship. With Australia scoring their fifth try and leading 28-29 with two minutes to play, all seemed lost for the reigning world champions only to see them score in a matter of 60 seconds and snatch a dramatic victory.
It was an error-filled first half, yet the quality of the rugby could never be doubted as both teams defended valiantly and attacked brilliantly. It was the Wallabies who set the tone for the match by scoring three tries in the first 15 odd minutes with the first try going to an intercept by Israel Folau.
The heartbreak was clear to see, especially on Bernard Foley’s face after what may be seen as a shocking display in front of the posts. Usually one of the most accurate goal kickers, Foley left nine points on the field, missing three conversions and a penalty shot. Could the result have been different or would the All Blacks have found another way to complete their remarkable run over the Wallabies?
For now, it is Los Pumas next in line for the mighty All Blacks and the Springboks taking on Australia in two weeks’ time.
Argentina vs. South Africa – Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena, 26 August 2017
South Africa finally got their first away victory under the coaching of Allister Coetzee by beating Los Pumas in one of the more intimidating stadiums around the world of rugby. The match lived up to the physical expectation with the Argentine team punished for their ill-discipline and losing players at crucial times in the match.
The Springboks controlled most of the match and managed to get the bonus point in the end by beating 14-man Los Pumas 23-41 and outscoring them by five tries to two. Argentina had to play with 14 men for over 40 minutes in total and never looked threatening as the Springboks’ defence kept strong, barring one lapse in communication which had Argentina take the restart and reclaim the ball to score without being touched by the opposition. Had it not been for the one man disadvantage it might have been a different game, but the Springboks kept building from round one by once again dominating at the scrum set piece.
Defence and enterprising play sums up the Boks performance, whereas with Los Pumas discipline will be the key aspect for the next two weeks. With Australia showing signs of improvement and South Africa still unbeaten for 2017, the clash between these two proud nations could be epic.
Argentina will have to put the first two rounds behind them and focus on the game changers. They cannot afford playing with 14 men again, especially against the mighty All Blacks.