Monday, August 27, 2012

Ends don’t justify the Deans

All Black fan Tim Cronin from rugbyshirts.net reckons the battle to avoid the Rugby Championship wooden spoon could be more fierce than that for first place.

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The All Blacks cruised to a comfortable win over an increasingly hapless looking Wallabies side while the Argentinians came desperately close to securing a famous victory over the ‘Boks as Round Two of the Rugby Championship took place over the weekend.

Eden Park has never been a happy hunting ground for the Wallabies, but the beleaguered side must have truly been dreading this visit, with media, fans, and former players becoming increasingly impatient with their poor form, and calls for coach Robbie Deans to fall on his sword becoming louder and louder.

If there was one positive Deans’ and his men can take away from their 22-nil loss on Saturday it was their scrambling defence, which kept the scoreline from getting completely out of hand. While it was the first time in over 50 years the Australian’s had been kept scoreless against their Trans-Tasman neighbours, the score could have been considerably worse, as the world champions poured on the pressure late in the game. However, desperate work on their own line managed to deny the black machine and save the visitors the embarrassment of what could easily have been a 50 point loss.

But the signs really do look bad for the Wallabies. It’s obvious that there is discontent in the shed, and it shows on the field, with inaccuracy at set pieces and a disjointed backline that never really looks like constructing anything meaningful or threatening. Unless things change drastically they will not only struggle to keep things respectable when they meet the Springboks, but look odds on to provide the Argentinians with their first ever win in the Championship, a milestone that they were oh-so-close to achieving on the weekend.

Los Pumas hosted the South Africans at Mendoza in their first home game of the Rugby Championship, and were only denied an historic win thanks to an intercept try from Springbok midfielder Franz Steyn.

In front of a hostile crowd the hosts managed to make the game in to the kind of encounter they thrive in – a brutally fierce physical encounter. You could almost feel the intensity at the collision zone every time the Argentinians catapulted themselves at a ruck, and their approach obviously got under the skin of the Springboks, who were ill-disciplined and lacked accuracy.

But the Pumas have got plenty to work on, much of which will develop as they gain experience at this level. There was an obvious lack of self-belief and confidence at stages, and this affected their ability to execute when the opportunity to score arose. They must have been bitterly disappointed when Steyn crossed with 15 minutes to go to level the scores at 16-all, and it was a sound effort to hold on for the draw in the face of that disappointment.

Even though the Springboks were below-par there was enough to suggest that a trip to Argentina is going to be an arduous journey for any of the other Championship sides, and, once they genuinely believe in their ability, a win will be inevitable. At this early stage though it already looks like the title will be decided between New Zealand and South Africa, with Australia battling desperately with Argentina to avoid the wooden spoon.

Tim Cronin is a Rugby fan and full time writer based in the rubble of the Canterbury Crusaders’ home town, Christchurch. Tim is a part of the Pukeko Sports team, where his role is watching, writing, and complaining about all things rugby.

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