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The Wallabies remain winless in the Rugby Championship but continue to churn out the breathtaking thrillers, hanging onto a tense 23-all draw against the Springboks in Perth.
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Two tries and three penalty goals for both sides kept the scoreboard ticking over in a pretty scrappy affair of rugby.
Australia not winning, but two thrillers on the trot is doing wonders for interest
The Wallabies are zero wins from three games in the Rugby Championship, building off a pretty steady and nervy June International window.
Despite the dire state of results, those same results, in the last three weeks in particular, have been about as good as a win anyway.
The die-hard rugby heads will continue to watch anyway, begrudgingly at times, but casual fans will only tune in if they know it’s going to be entertaining, something worth setting their time aside for.
There’s no way you can sit there and tell me the last two games haven’t produced thrilling finishes, tense dying moments that have you on the edge of your seat.
That’s the kind of thing Australian rugby needs right now, great games for fans to sink their teeth into and bring interest back into the sport after a very trying year.
The wins will come, the Wallabies will taste success before heading to Europe for the Spring Tour but these are solid building blocks for getting the sport back into the attention of sports fans.
The sea of blue was out, but what now for rugby in Western Australia?
There is just way too much to write about in regards to the Western Force, Super Rugby, the ARU and the ongoing saga that has been dropping a team this year.
Despite the odds being wildly stacked against them this late in the game, the faithful fans of WA continue to fight, and for good reason, flooding nib Stadium in a sea of blue jerseys, hats, scarves… anything that could show the ARU they still hold strong.
There was rarely a bit of yellow to be seen among the green of South Africa and the myriad of Force support.
So we can see the love for the Force is still there and the fans and players will continue to battle for their existence, but where to now?
It’s hard to imagine the ARU back-flipping on their decision to axe the franchise after seeing fans wear a blue shirt instead of a gold one.
They’ve shot down Twiggy Forrest a handful of times already despite him throwing millions and millions of dollars at them, so it’s difficult to see what WA can do to turn things around against a stubborn ARU who have clearly made their decision and will not move from their post.
Where does that leave not just the Force, but the state of rugby in the west?
This was only the fifth Test in Perth in seven years, and without any Super Rugby being played there anymore by the way things are going, the entire state is being shoved aside.
They’re being starved of rugby.
You’d hope the ARU bring more international games to the west in the future to keep the sport relevant but there is a major disconnect on the horizon and that’s only going to be bad for the sport.
Rugby in the west is a breeding ground, one that’s being neglected for nicer looking financial propositions in Victoria, a state dominated by AFL with very little fan base of rugby.
I’m not saying Victoria doesn’t need rugby or doesn’t like the game, I am saying that Western Australia needs it more.
Love him or hate him, Michael Hooper is one of the best on the planet
Onto a brighter topic of conversation, Michael Hooper is a machine. An unnatural rugby machine.
He has his fair share of detractors, especially after the Waratahs disastrous Super season this year, but the 25-year-old is by far one of the best players in the world right now and building a career to be one of the greats of all time.
His strength, tenacity, mind for the game and a very deceptive turn of speed were all on show against the Boks, driving the Wallabies into the lead and being the blockade that kept the South Africans from taking it away from them.
In the second half with the game in the balance, Hooper somehow pulled down a runaway Jan Serfontein while running past his own winger Henry Speight in pursuit to save a certain try.
His counter rucking is a broken record of praise but he’s just too good in there, digging around like a terrier with no energy limits.
He made more runs than anyone else on the park, more metres than any South African player, forward or back and was only bested in that category by his own winger and fullback.
Most tackles for the Wallabies as well and a host of turnovers. Just try and slow him down.
Australia’s lineout an absolute mess
This just became painful to watch at times as the Australian lineout continued to fall over itself and gift the Boks possession time and time again.
Australia won just 63 per cent of their own lineout throws, a ridiculously poor number for a top flight rugby side.
It wasn’t even under that much pressure from the South African jump either, giving away three scrums in the one game for not throwing straight, something that was hampering both veteran Tatafu Polota-Nau and debutant Jordan Uelese.
They gave away penalties for talking the opposition jumper in the air, they gave away scrums for knocking on the ball when bringing it down for the halfback.
They straight up had their throws stolen as well. The lineout was such a mess and it ultimately may have cost them the game, throwing away attacking opportunities time and time again inside the enemy half.
How real are the Springboks’ chances at the Rugby Championship?
There is no way South Africa would have thought they’d be undefeated from six games in 2017 after their worst year in rugby history just one year earlier.
Just three wins from 13 games last year, including historic first defeats at the hands of Italy and Ireland to name a couple, as well as a record loss to New Zealand, had South African rugby in a state of despair.
But boy have they bounced back this year.
A dominant clean sweep of France in June in a three-Test series gave them a boost leading into back to back wins over Argentina at home and on the road.
Now they didn’t win against the Wallabies, but they didn’t lose either.
South Africa have only won one game in Australia in the last eight years, so not losing is a huge result for them and continues their rebuild and upwards trend away from the disaster of last year.
Taking on New Zealand will be a whole different kettle of fish, we know that, but they sit just three points behind the All Blacks in the Championship standings and are the only team that can take them down from here.
The Boks have never won the Rugby Championship since making the jump from the Tri-Nations and this is the best they’ve looked towards taking a shot at it in a long time.