Out with the Rugby Championship, in with the Tri Nations. SANZAAR even unearthed the original Tri Nations logo, gave it a spit and polish, and substituted the old South African green for Argentinean blue, and voilà.
Of course, it’s all out of necessity. We’ve well and truly covered South Africa’s sudden withdrawal in recent weeks, and frankly, the site’s servers could do with a bit of a spell. But with another Bledisloe Cup Test this weekend, that rest will have to wait.
But just how well will this old-is-new-again Tri Nations go? Is it a bit of a hiding to nothing?
SANZAAR are doing their best to sell the revamp and relaunch of the old Tri Nations format as something that’s going to be as great as it always was. But what needs to happen for the tournament to go down as one of the genuinely great moments in southern hemisphere rugby history?
The tournament can be interesting if Los Pumas can be competitive and the games entertaining.
The public must also respond in the best way and several players will need to stand out. All that seems a long way off since Los Pumas come from a long period without playing and they make their debut against none other than the All Blacks.
On the other hand, the issue of the public in the stadiums will be highly conditioned by possible outbreaks of COVID.
Without the sheer volume of Tests we were initially expecting – or at least hoping for – we’re going to need some juicy upsets to lift this tournament into the “great” category.
Argentina getting a win over Australia or New Zealand would be big news any year, but in 2020, with the hurdles they’ve overcome to even participate, it’d be massive.
Also acceptable would be for a pair of Wallabies wins against the All Blacks. I daresay the Bledisloe Cup changing hands would make for a rather memorable tournament.
To be completely honest, I am struggling to get really excited about this edition as it is difficult to imagine anything other than a two-horse race. Hopefully this will prove to not be the case.
What will help make this a memorable tournament is full stadiums. Heaving crowds add plenty to the overall experience, both live and on television, and this will go a long way to helping make this tournament into a special one after the troubles of this year.
Upsets, pure and simple. If Argentina won a game or two and Australia regained the Bledisloe Cup, then the 2020 Tri Nations will be celebrated for eternity.
And no doubt, early upsets in the tournament will only help interest levels, ticket sales, and viewing numbers as the series goes on.
SANZAAR is hoping above all hope they can keep flogging this year’s event as a premium product, so the last thing they need as marketers of the game is six weeks of predictability.
The Bledisloe Ad Infinitum with a bit of Cheika Argie on the side is just a massive rugby relief for the union world.
There’s only so much stodgy Euro-rugby (stocked with Saffa packs, Georgian props, Kiwi backs, and Argies galore) one can take.
A good tourney? Nope. But bring it on and on and on.
On one hand, hosting the Rugby Championship in a single country should make it feel like a genuine tournament. But unfortunately, there’s an overwhelming sense instead that this is less a tournament and more of a completion of the Bledisloe Cup with a charity shag for the Pumas tacked on.
There’s no escaping South Africa’s absence – 25 per cent of the tournament right there, who just happen to be World Cup champions. But with such low expectation comes the opportunity for something great to happen. Will it be Australia knocking off the All Blacks this week in Sydney? The undernourished Pumas knocking off either of their well-fed partners? Or Caleb Clarke running amok for ten tries?
Or perhaps it is great enough that we have a tournament at all. After the year we’ve had, that in itself is something to celebrate.
As we head into the first weekend of the Tri-Nations, what’s the one thing or who is the one player you’re most looking forward to seeing in action over the next six weeks?
I would like to see Los Pumas with a good set-piece and a great improvement in the scrum that has seen a significant deficit in recent years. Mario Ledesma has had enough time to fix this issue since they haven’t had a lack of time to practice recently.
I would also like to see an experiment with Domingo Miotti as a flyhalf and Nicolas Sanchez at centre doing a double pivot. Experiments like this against the All Blacks and Wallabies are dangerous, but they don’t have much to lose.
Seeing Harry Wilson take to Test rugby so well has only heightened anticipation about how his fellow generation-next Wallabies will perform when handed a first cap.
There are lots to choose from – Noah Lolesio, Will Harrison, Fraser McReight all come to mind – but if forced to choose one, I’ll go with Trevor Hosea.
Lock is not an area of depth, so there’s a real chance for the Rebel to lock down a spot in the side if, as expected, he’s given a debut in the next few weeks.
For me, and I am completely biased but two of the Wellington lads, Asafo Aumua and Peter Umaga-Jensen.
I’ve really enjoyed watching these two progress and am keen to see how they go at this level.
Without Matt To’omua for the foreseeable future, what I want to see above all else is the next generation of Wallabies game managers in midfield. James O’Connor has never had a shortage of talent, but it’s fair to say managing a game and playing pragmatic rugby hasn’t necessarily been a strong point.
Exactly who stands up is the big question. We’ll find out today whether Dave Rennie agrees with me or not.
It certainly feels like it’s the right time for Noah Lolesio, and he’s obviously been close, remaining unused on the bench through the Bledisloe Test in Wellington. But he also had the benefit in 2020 of playing behind a good Brumbies pack who provided a solid platform from which to attack.
So I’m looking forward to seeing how the ridiculous talents of young kid I first saw graduate to First Grade club rugby in 2018 transfer the international stage. Experience tells me he’ll go alright.
Harry ‘Tight Pants’ Wilson.
The Charge of the Pants Brigade.
The Hunt for Pants October.
The pink pantser.
That’s an easy one; Cheslin Kolbe. Oh, hang on…
If I’m allowed one from each squad, I’m keen to see Noah Lolesio get an opportunity at flyhalf for the Wallabies, hard man Dalton Papalii on the side for the All Blacks, and the return of flying winger Juan Imhoff for the Pumas is a blessing.