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Northern Hemisphere having their moment in the sun

Elisha Pearce Columnist

By Elisha Pearce, Elisha Pearce is a Roar Expert

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83 Have your say

    About 13 months ago, all four Rugby World Cup semi-final spots were taken up by Southern Hemisphere teams. Last weekend, Australia, South Africa and Argentina lost to Home Union sides, and the World Champions beat France by just five points.

    By contrast, New Zealand beat France in the quarter-final of the World Cup 62-13.

    Yes, it’s the end of a long season for the travelling teams, but after four or five weeks of Spring Tour action, we’ve seen the home teams put in enough strong performances to suggest the gulf between the two hemispheres has narrowed or closed.

    Ireland beat New Zealand to break their world record streak of wins. Last year Ireland couldn’t get past Argentina in the quarter-finals, let alone touch the All Blacks. That’s a huge improvement.

    In the return match, Ireland forced New Zealand to completely narrow their focus to win – they reduced the flair, ground it out and relied on a few moments of brilliance. No one has forced the All Blacks into that kind of tight game plan in a long time.

    A week later, the Irish snuffed out the Wallabies.

    A bit of a lull or fall off after two tough Tests against New Zealand, coming off a tough home loss might have been expected, but Ireland were on the ball. From the first minute they made it hard for Australia to find their feet.

    After 14 minutes – around the time you can take the game statistics seriously – Ireland had retained 81 per cent of the possession.

    Watching the Wallabies try to compete and stay in the game, surviving on scraps, was fascinating. It was admirable and some solid defending was the only thing stopping the game from being over by halftime.

    But the Irish were more like an All Blacks opponent, squeezing and suffocating, while the Wallabies couldn’t weaken their hold by flipping field position or running through extended phases.

    Some people have complained about the refereeing in the match. The Irish were allowed to lie around the ruck a lot, but the referee did not lose the Wallabies that match. That is taking too much away from a strong Ireland outfit that didn’t give their opponents any breathing room all night.


    Australia aren’t performing badly, but their win against Scotland was tighter than it should have been given the two sides’ pedigree – but, it turns out not based on the world rankings. Their win in Paris was squeaky as well.

    South Africa have been a wobbly mess all year. And a loss to Wales is another blemish on a poor tour from them.

    They opened to a 37-21 loss against England. That match was enlightening because England were able to win very comfortably, despite not playing well themselves and hardly getting out of second gear.

    It was an early market that England, and perhaps the Northern Hemisphere, have their house in order and the tourists were in for a tough month.

    But following that with a loss to Italy and a dismal, 14-point loss to Wales was poor, if not actually shocking.

    Allister Coetzee’s team has performed so badly that he doesn’t appear to be given any first-year leeway now. The fire under his coaching seat is red-hot, with speculation John Mitchell – ex-All Blacks and Western Force coach – might take his spot.

    In some ways a coaching change is inevitable, but the player performances have been poor as well. Many Springboks matches have lacked the same physicality and intensity (the real key) you would expect. That isn’t just the coaching, that’s players not giving it that extra effort in important moments.

    Argentina don’t usually offer the same cohesion and intensity on the Spring Tour as they do in the focused and intense atmosphere of the Rugby Championship. But their results are still below par compared to what they’d have hoped for.

    Two close losses to Wales and Scotland kicked things off poorly. Then they lost by 13 to England without troubling the scorers for the last 30 or so minutes of the match.

    Yep, you can’t deny that the Northern Hemisphere teams are having their moment in the sun this tour.

    If we ran back the World Cup right now, it’s hard to see any way four Southern Hemisphere teams would make the final four. New Zealand might be the only team that got in.

    England and Ireland would be odds-on to meet them there, and the Wallabies would be clawing for the fourth spot to even up the north-south tally. But it’d be a stressful play-in match against any of Wales, Scotland, France or Italy from what we’ve seen of late.

    The first year after a World Cup is always an odd one in the cycle, but there might be more at play here for the form and performance guides to have so comprehensively flipped in one year.

    Elisha Pearce
    Elisha Pearce

    Long-time Roarer Elisha Pearce joined us as a rugby union expert in 2015. He also works for Fairfax Media and has confused more Roarers with his name than anyone in the history of the site.

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    The Crowd Says (83)

    • Roar Guru

      November 30th 2016 @ 5:01am
      Colin Kennedy said | November 30th 2016 @ 5:01am | ! Report

      The Northern Hemisphere is buying their success. Lure our talented players to Europe with enormous salaries – divide and rule – and let them go soft. Game over. Not claiming a conspiracy. It’s just that things panned out in a way that favours the North.

      • Roar Guru

        November 30th 2016 @ 5:35am
        The Saint said | November 30th 2016 @ 5:35am | ! Report

        A lot of Southern Hemisphere influence showing up north – coaches and players involved in their international teams, as well as their players playing every week alongside or coached by SH people in their Top12, Heineken Cup competitions etc

      • November 30th 2016 @ 6:51am
        richard said | November 30th 2016 @ 6:51am | ! Report

        That is exactly it,Colin.The gap has closed,but it is due to SH coaching/playing talent bringing up their game.

        • November 30th 2016 @ 8:32am
          mania said | November 30th 2016 @ 8:32am | ! Report

          when ABs lost to Ireland my 9 yr old was happy because even tho it was our first loss ever to them they were coached by a kiwi so he still considered it a victory for NZ.
          welcome to global rugby. we gotta accept the pros with the cons

          • Roar Guru

            November 30th 2016 @ 9:00am
            The Saint said | November 30th 2016 @ 9:00am | ! Report

            Agreed mania. That is the reality of professional sport where SH coaches and players export their expertise to the north.
            Rugby is the winner in the end.
            Our kiwi coach of Ireland has done us proud.
            Your 9-year-old son is a smart lad mania.

            • November 30th 2016 @ 9:27am
              mania said | November 30th 2016 @ 9:27am | ! Report

              frontiers – imo he’s a future AB, but I am biased

          • November 30th 2016 @ 10:24am
            richard said | November 30th 2016 @ 10:24am | ! Report

            Oh,I accept iit,mania.But it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

            • November 30th 2016 @ 12:51pm
              mania said | November 30th 2016 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

              in the long run Richard its better for NZ. we teach the world how to play, they learn those lessons while ABs evolve the next way of playing.
              NeilBack said “Top players need pressure.” ABs can only play as well as they are pushed.

              • November 30th 2016 @ 2:46pm
                richard said | November 30th 2016 @ 2:46pm | ! Report

                Yeah,that’s true.To back up your point,while I enjoy us flogging the aussies and Saffs every year,I don’t want them too weak.For the obvious reason it will impact on us further down the line.

                I want them strong,but not too strong,if you get my drift.

        • December 1st 2016 @ 10:49am
          Dave said | December 1st 2016 @ 10:49am | ! Report

          so what

    • Roar Guru

      November 30th 2016 @ 5:02am
      Harry Jones said | November 30th 2016 @ 5:02am | ! Report

      It’s a very good year for the NH. Rare scalps, rampant optimism, prophecies galore, and much braggadocio.

      Fair play. May they enjoy it now.

      • November 30th 2016 @ 7:09am
        Neil Back said | November 30th 2016 @ 7:09am | ! Report

        Harry, come on buddy. When you start quoting Trump with ‘braggadocio’ you’re on shaky ground.

        Besides, if you want to go looking for ‘rampant optimism, prophecies galore, and much braggadocio’ you really don’t need to leave your hemisphere. After Australia’s squekiest of wins against Scotland and a RWC final you wouldn’t have believed what they were going to do to England on their three game tour …..

        As for the ‘enjoy it now’? Hmmm.

        • Roar Guru

          November 30th 2016 @ 9:17am
          Carlos the Argie said | November 30th 2016 @ 9:17am | ! Report

          Donald did NOT use the word braggadocio, he said braggadocius….

        • Roar Guru

          November 30th 2016 @ 11:44pm
          Harry Jones said | November 30th 2016 @ 11:44pm | ! Report

          We shall see! A year is forever in elite sport.

      • Roar Guru

        November 30th 2016 @ 9:17am
        Carlos the Argie said | November 30th 2016 @ 9:17am | ! Report

        Plus Donald coming to power too…

    • November 30th 2016 @ 5:11am
      What! said | November 30th 2016 @ 5:11am | ! Report

      Oh ffs!

      Go Southern Hemisphere.
      Where can I buy a t-shirt saying “my team is on the south side of the equator”.

      I know I cant get it from any other sport because in every other sport it isnt a thing so Im wondering if there is somewhere I can pick up some SH merch. Then I can really get behind my hemisphere.

      Is there a SH anthem?

      Maybe like this…

      “Oh equator, oh equator how we love theee,
      We are the best just dont include Tonga or Fiji,
      Oh equator, oh equator how we love theee,
      So much better than the north if we add Italy,
      Oh equator, oh equator how we love theee,
      Gods gift to the magnificent sport of rugby.”

      South side is the best baby.

      • November 30th 2016 @ 5:44am
        Goatee said | November 30th 2016 @ 5:44am | ! Report

        A truly magnificent aria, What!

        It demands an appropriate setting… perhaps, Sydney Opera House? and a ‘maestro’ to deliver it.

        Is there a short-list?

      • Roar Guru

        November 30th 2016 @ 6:10am
        moaman said | November 30th 2016 @ 6:10am | ! Report

        Pip pip, What!

      • November 30th 2016 @ 6:35am
        Bob said | November 30th 2016 @ 6:35am | ! Report

        Best. Post. Ever.

      • Roar Guru

        November 30th 2016 @ 9:09am
        Poth Ale said | November 30th 2016 @ 9:09am | ! Report


        Must remember that for future discussions.

        Well done What!

    • Roar Guru

      November 30th 2016 @ 6:14am
      moaman said | November 30th 2016 @ 6:14am | ! Report

      I am wondering if the addition of Argentina in TRC and the significant extra travel has just left TRC teams frazzled at this late stage of the year?
      The ABs were a shadow of their June-August selves and players like Kaino, Read and Coles nowhere near the form and energy levels we have come to expect.
      We may have a better idea by Ausgust of ’17 and I think it is premature to reprise the “gap is closing” talk we hear regularly.

      • November 30th 2016 @ 6:52am
        woodart said | November 30th 2016 @ 6:52am | ! Report

        correct moaman, we can use the same excuse the northern teams use when they come south and get beaten,, long hard year,too much rugby, too much travel, players worn out ,blah blah blah.

        • November 30th 2016 @ 10:29am
          Crusty said | November 30th 2016 @ 10:29am | ! Report

          Peaking. Between. World. Cup. Years. Just thought I’d throw that out there so AB fans can have dig when England perform badly in Japan, and we pull out the dreaded choke allegation.

          I’m pleased to see some competition for the AB’s.

          • November 30th 2016 @ 10:51am
            Old Bugger said | November 30th 2016 @ 10:51am | ! Report

            Its ok Crusty…..

            The ABs have won 3 from 8 and choked at 5; the WBs and SBs have won 2 from 8 and choked at 6 while the Rosies, have won 1 from 8 and choked at 7. The rest, are running for their health trying to clear their airways, at the mo’…..

            Its all swings and roundabouts and nuthin’s for sure, until the final whistle, on game-day…..and, which team gets added, to the chokers list.

          • Roar Rookie

            November 30th 2016 @ 8:46pm
            Phantom said | November 30th 2016 @ 8:46pm | ! Report

            England have choked 7 times in the RWC. Ireland wales and France 8 times.
            The gap in a made up phenomenon simply to have a topic to write about.
            A global season will put all teams on a level keel.

    • November 30th 2016 @ 7:42am
      Highlander said | November 30th 2016 @ 7:42am | ! Report

      Northern Hemisphere are certainly enjoying their moment, just not sure it’s in the sun.

      • November 30th 2016 @ 8:25am
        bruce bridges said | November 30th 2016 @ 8:25am | ! Report

        Say In the North of England watch frost form on my lawn I thoughly agree we are enjoying our rugby but it is definitely not in the sun.

        • Roar Guru

          November 30th 2016 @ 11:15am
          moaman said | November 30th 2016 @ 11:15am | ! Report

          What i would like to see ( apart from ‘sun’) is a Global Season; Then all this ‘tired’ talk can finally be put to rest and we can put our creative minds into thinking up some other excuses…..

          • November 30th 2016 @ 1:22pm
            AndyS said | November 30th 2016 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

            …and we could culminate every fourth season with a NHvSH All-stars match and trot out What!’s song above…

    • November 30th 2016 @ 8:25am
      mania said | November 30th 2016 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      awesome as always Elisha. I have but one minor point . the first year after a WC is a throw away year. results this year really don’t mean much in the overall scheme of winning webEllis. so a few wins next year for any team will mean all is forgiven for this years results.
      the north will soon realise, as the ABs have in the past that being this far ahead of the pack at this stage of the WC cycle is kind of detrimental.
      so whilst the NH are ahead the SH are gonna start pegging them back, working out counter game plans and generally getting better to beat the leaders. all this if timed correctly could be the best lead into the WC.
      as ABs have found out theres no point to being the best 4 years away from the next WC. ABs are in a perfect position imo and are developing nicely

      • November 30th 2016 @ 9:07am
        Neil Back said | November 30th 2016 @ 9:07am | ! Report

        Those sneaky South Africans ……all part of a cunning plan ….

        • November 30th 2016 @ 12:57pm
          mania said | November 30th 2016 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

          of course Neil, I never thought that the saffa’s are playing possum. someone tell harry, biltong and vanZyl

      • November 30th 2016 @ 7:26pm
        Wardad said | November 30th 2016 @ 7:26pm | ! Report

        I wonder if the ABs are holding a bit back for the Lions tour ? Leading up to the RWC and the finals it seemed the ABs were just doing enough to win so I hope Hansens hatching a cunning plan my [David ?] Lord . full of tricks and traps for the unwary northerners .
        The Super teams will soften the Lions up one hopes for the ABs to deliver the coup de grace !

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