Five things learnt from the recently completed Rugby Championship

New Zealand players hold the Bledisloe Cup after beating Australia during their Rugby Championship clash on Saturday. Photo: Martin Keep/AFP

New Zealand players hold the Bledisloe Cup after beating Australia during their Rugby Championship clash on Saturday. Photo: Martin Keep/AFP

Published Jul 30, 2023


The truncated Rugby Championship gave the Springboks the perfect matches to measure where they are before the start of their Rugby World Cup journey.

Some experiments worked for Jacques Nienaber's side, and others did not go according to plan. But South Africa will have a clearer picture of what needs to be fixed before France 2023.

IOL Sport's Leighton Koopman takes a look at five things learnt from the Rugby Championship.

Boks got the tests they needed in Rugby Championship

It's safe to say the three matches the Springboks were involved in provided three good tests that they needed ahead of the World Cup.

That start against Australia in Pretoria showed what the Boks can do when they overpower teams with their forwards, and their backs create space when running with the ball.

In New Zealand, a tough start led to a courageous fightback - though not sufficient – that showed plenty of guts in the side even when they were down for the count.

The Argentina test was a showing of grit despite several costly errors. It proved that South Africa can grind out a win even when they are not playing the best rugby on the day.

Bomb Squad is a national (weapon to) treasure

The Bomb Squad should not be let out that often to diffuse situations for South Africa, and hopefully, they will be used sparingly in the World Cup. They've shown their worth in the big games, especially against more physical sides like New Zealand and England. And against some of the lower-ranked teams, a five-three split can kick in to give fringe Boks much-needed game time.

But the composition of the Bomb Squad is also equally important, and getting that balance right will be the key for the Springboks. Not just any player can slot in as a Bomb Squad member.

The power they supplied to the Bok engine room in Auckland was enough for that fightback in the second half.

Fringe players should get the bulk of minutes in warmup matches

It's good that the Springboks have chosen to keep their starting players in South Africa for the trip to Buenos Aires ahead of this weekend's second test against Argentina.

They've most certainly stamped their place in the World Cup squad, and the focus now should be to give the second-in-line and fringe players minutes to grow more in their roles.

Guys like flyhalf Manie Libbok, and winger Kurt-Lee Arendse or Jean Kleyn and Marvin Orie who are trying to crack a nod.

They need those minutes on the park to prove themselves ready and for confidence ahead of the World Cup. They were in and out of the match-day squad in the Rugby Championship and surely need more time in the saddle.

All Blacks are still the measuring stick in the south

After being in "turmoil" just over a year ago and on the verge of firing their coach, New Zealand showed with three dominating performances that they are still the measuring stick in Southern Hemisphere rugby.

It doesn't matter if they change their team for the various games, they will always be a force to reckon with, and you can't be switched off for the slightest bit in a match against them.

That is what the Springboks found out when they didn't pitch up for the first 20 minutes, and the All Blacks built up a commanding lead that the Bomb Squad had too little time to defuse in the second half in Auckland.

They sent the first warning shots from Down Under to the rest of the teams.

Two clear-cut favourites, but don't cry if Argentina shows up

Being the reigning World Champions, the Springboks, alongside powerhouse New Zealand, will definitely be tipped as favourites going into the World Cup.

The depth they showed by changing their sides and still being competitive while not even fielding their strongest should surely sound a warning to other nations.

But how Los Pumas fought till the end against both these sides, and toppling Australia in their only win, can sound a warning ahead of the World Cup.

The Wallabies, on the other hand, should maybe focus more on doing the talking with their playing and not at press conferences or in chocolate commercials.


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