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The Wallabies played out another dramatic draw against the Springboks in the Rugby Championship and the latest installment was full of talking points.
Izzy’s golden touch continues
It took just 10 minutes for Israel Folau to continue his try-scoring streak. From an attacking scrum, Will Genia shifted to Bernard Foley who, aided by a Tevita Kuridrani dummy run, whipped an inside ball to Folau on the charge. The fullback went over untouched for his 11th try of the season ‒ a Wallaby record for a calendar year.
He might be criticised for drifting in and out of games, but you can’t say Folau doesn’t make the most of his opportunities. A reminder that he’s still got games against Argentina, New Zealand, plus the Spring Tour left to extend the record. Eesh!
Running rugby is alive and well
As frustrating as two draws might be, it was another cracking Rugby Championship contest. If anyone expected a long distance penalty shootout in Bloemfontein, the players had other ideas.
Both sides turned down kickable opportunities in favour of set-piece attacks.
Instead of using the thin high veldt atmosphere for shots at goal, both teams looked to sap the opponent’s energy with ball in hand. It seems an increasingly popular tactic in this competition: start with purpose and try to land the knockout blow early on. You don’t win friends with penalty goals.
Also a quick shoutout to Ross Cronje’s try-saver on Kuridrani at the 65-minute mark. With a certain try and 8-10 point lead on the cards, the Springbok halfback hurled his entire body into contact, the speed bump sufficient to derail the K-train. It kept them in the game.
Rocks and diamonds from Beale
In Kurtley Beale, the Wallabies have a player who provides a crucial spark in transition. It’s the missing link between Foley’s guile and Folau’s finishing. Beale is always sweating on opportunities to turn defence into attack, and it was no surprise to see him heavily involved in unlocking the Springboks defence yet again.
The flipside is that, despite much improvement, his defence is still shaky. By defending as a supplementary fullback, attackers who break the line can take him on at full tilt. Beale was bumped off on a few occasions, including by the rampaging Siya Kolisi to set up Jan Serfontein’s try.
Rob Simmons’ calamitous cameo
It’s never fun to single out a player for criticism, but Rob Simmons may have inadvertently handed in his Wallabies resignation with his second-half horror show. When Michael Cheika opted for a 6-2 split on the bench, you can bet he was hoping for an impact from his forward reserves.
Simmons’ first involvement was to be in front of the kicker at the restart, only to double down by taking out the Springboks catcher in the air. The tackle was high as well somehow. He knocked on the next restart, unopposed and unaware. The cherry on the cake was a lazy hospital pass to Samu Kerevi in the final seconds that threatened to stymie the final attack.
The forward pass that wasn’t
At the 76-minute mark, with scores level, the Springboks shifted the ball wide left. Reece Hodge rushed up on Andries Coetzee, forcing the fullback to fling a wild pass about three metres forward. The nearside assistant ref was perfectly in line as Courtnall Skosan scooped it up, yet somehow play carried on.
The subsequent phases resulted in a Springboks penalty and shot at goal which Jantjies missed. There would have been serious uproar had the kick gone over and proven to be the game’s decisive score. Yet the alternative should have been a Wallabies attacking scrum on the 22. Who’s to say they wouldn’t have come up with points of their own?
All up, it was another enthralling battle between two willing sides. After starting the tournament in disarray, the Wallabies are now in with a strong chance of securing second place behind the All Blacks next week. Third, I suppose, if you count daylight.