South Africa vs. New Zealand – Newlands Stadium: 7 October 2017
The public begged for the Boks to come back after the lopsided last meeting, and boy did they deliver. New Zealand spoke highly of South Africa and stood firm that the 57-0 drubbing in New Zealand three weeks ago was not a true reflection of the match. New Zealand still managed to win, though they were matched pound for pound in the 80 – no, 90-minute match.
It was that type of game where no one would ever want it to end. On the stroke of halftime, neither team stopped play and in the end the match went into halftime with the clock at 49:57, 24 minutes with the ball in play and the score standing at SA 3-8 NZ. The second half continued to be a massive brawl with the Boks scoring first to grasp the lead back to 10-8. At the end of the match, one could say that the New Zealanders kept their composure better and won off of the Boks errors and one piece of brilliance from the smallest player on the pitch in Damian McKenzie.
With the score at 17-15 and 11 minutes to play, McKenzie cut through the Bok defence, leaving Damian de Allende in no man’s land to score arguably the try of the match. The game was all but over at that time, but when the Boks had to chase eight points after de Allende conceded a penalty for a late charge and was subsequently given a red card, the valiant effort was just one point too far.
It was the first time in the Rugby Championship that a team matched the All Blacks with running metres and had the world champs defending more than ever, having to make 299 tackles. Still they managed to somehow scrape the win and show the world of rugby why they are the No. 1 team. South Africa and New Zealand produced arguably the best test match of the 2017 season, which leaves both teams in a very good space for the end-of-year tour.
Argentina vs. Australia – Estadio Malvinas: 7 October 2017
With the Championship already concluded as New Zealand wrapped up the cup the previous week, there was still the slug out for outright second spot on the log. With South Africa losing to New Zealand, Australia only had to secure victory to ensure they finish second overall, and that was exactly what they did.
With halftime approaching, Argentina had the opportunity to take the lead with a penalty on the half-way line. They chose the line-out option but failed to capitalized, and the teams went into the break deadlocked at 13-all. Australia came out firing in the second half and wrestled to take the lead, only to last for all but four minutes as Argentina smashed back to make it 20-all with 30 minutes to play. Australia, however, stepped up the pace and took the next 17 points unanswered to eventually break Los Pumas spirit and take the match, 20-37.
Argentina will reflect on a disappointing campaign in 2017 and will hope to build towards the end-of-year tour to try and turn their season around. Australia, however, will go into the end-of-year tour with a lot more confidence and will surely be a strong competitor in all matches.