The Rugby Championships is upon us and the Southern Hemisphere teams start their final preparations for the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
This year’s Rugby Championships will be a watered down version with each country playing each other once in a round robin format as a result of the Rugby World Cup taking place soon after the completion of the Championships.
Building towards the Rugby World Cup
The first round of fixtures have just taken place with the Springboks beating the Wallabies 35-17 in Joburg and the All Blacks edging past Los Pumas 20-16 in Buenos Aires.
Coaches Rassie Erasmus of the Springboks and Steve Hansen of the All Blacks decided to go with experimental teams for their opening matches. This was an opportunity to try out new combinations, introduce up and coming players and older players who have come back into the international fold. This was a well thought out tactic chosen by both coaches who are looking to build depth in their squads as they look forward to the Rugby World Cup.
For the All Blacks, they decided to go with a team that did not have any Super Rugby winning Crusaders players but rather a handful of players making their debuts in a tense affair. This was good exposure for the new players; however the inexperience of these players showed as they scraped past Argentina. In the Springbok match, Rassie Erasmus decided to go with an experimental side which could have been seen as their ‘B Team’ consisting of a few youngsters on debut and older overseas based players who are fighting for a chance for a place in the Rugby World Cup squad. This experiment paid off as the team beat the Wallabies convincingly with a bonus point.
New players to watch out for in the Rugby Championships
Lizo had a brilliant start to the test match arena putting in a memorable performance off the bench. He went around his business by dominating his opposite number in the scrumming department.
Herschel Jantjies was a surprise package in this year’s Super Rugby competition being a livewire for the Stormers team throughout their campaign. He certainly had a dream debut for the Springboks on Saturday, with his clean service at the rucks, his pinpoint support running and individual brilliance that resulted in his second try.
Reece has been a revelation for the the star studded Crusaders this year scoring 15 tries for the champions and ending up as the top try scorer in the competition. Reece had a solid debut for the All Blacks putting in one good line break and putting in a try saving tackle earlier on.
Another Crusaders player, Braydon had a solid performance as an outside back throughout the Super Rugby season. He was a surprise inclusion in the All Blacks team against the Los Pumas. This was a solid induction into international rugby with a commendable display that resulted in a few good moments.
The Fijian born has been waiting patiently for his debut and looks like a Wallabies player for the future with his strong build and pace.
Once the Rugby Championships has been concluded, we should have a better idea of which Southern Hemisphere teams are well prepared for the Rugby World Cup and which sides will still need to improve if they want to be successful in Japan later this season.0