Another Rugby Championship, another All Black triumph.
As usual, the Springboks mauled the Pumas, fell asleep against the Wallabies, and fell in the last minute to a Barrett brother. The Wallabies panicked against New Zealand, yet were cool as cucumbers against South Africa, and underwhelmed in the first Argentina Test. The Argies tried to get into the picture, and then the state, but failed. They need more Malbec; less Chocobares.
The All Blacks just kept scoring five tries a Test or so, until they ran into the Boks, but by then, it didn’t matter. All they needed was a boot. And a boot they got.
And so, it was another Kiwi-held trophy to go with their eternal Bledisloe Cup. With fictitious trophies invented to mollify the other three teams, this strange tournament features all three of the top three in the world, yet is pre-ordained due to the spoiler results Nos 2 and 3 tend to come up with, along with the occasional surprise by the Pumas.
This does not mean the competition lacks for other excitements.
First, the age old debate of which Barrett is the best Barrett. Jordie, he of the raccoon hair arrangement, has staked a strong claim to preeminent Barrett. He can catch, he can make goals, he breaks tackles, he’s tall, and he is cool under pressure. He has taken the BBB from Barrett, who is now simply called Beauden Barrett. Scooter is still third. But Beaudy has his chance at the Gold Coast, to break Bok hearts.
1B is who the best Ioane is, but that is pretty much settled.
1C is who will be the best player with a name starting with Mc. Bench players Sean McMahon versus Damian McKenzie square off. Very different players. Odds on Sean.
Next, who will end up beating the most defenders? Samu Kerevi (on 19) or Akira Ioane (18) or Marika Koroibete (16) or Jordie BBBB (16)? Stated otherwise, is Kerevi the most dangerous backline player in the world after the untimely-hurt Cheslin Kolbe? Can he be tackled first time if he is in that mood?
Which team will end up with the least socks pulled up? The favourite at the moment is the Wallabies, who get extra points for shinniness, because of their bareshinned skipper.
Lineouts: a topic unto itself. Lood de Jager, when lifted by Eben Etzebeth and Frans ‘Malbec’ Malherbe, is approximately the height of a giraffe on stilts, and about as graceful. He has claimed three more lineouts than his closest rival. Can he end up with more lineout catches than the All Blacks score tries (about 26-27 likely)?
Pablo Matera, the most active tackler (with 62 so far) went to a spa and couldn’t come back. This gives two other Pumas a crack, including Messrs Bertranou and Montoya, of catching him. Can they do it? And will the winning tackle of the tackle total table be of Kerevi?
Another hot topic is whether the total tries scored by Australia, South Africa, and Argentina, combined, can match or exceed New Zealand’s tries. This puzzle is actually a lot about whether every single Barrett and Ioane score a try, or just one or two.
The All Blacks have now scored 17000 points. Approximately 10000 were in Bledisloes. Give or take a few thousand.
Often they offload. This tournament, the All Blacks and Wallabies have offloaded fixty-six times more than the Pumas and Boks.
Deoxyribonucleic acid is the most commonly reiterated chemical term by Team Bok. Try to find an interview in which DNA goes unmentioned by Jacques Nienaber and the players selected for press conferences. Some of them smile as they slowly speak each letter. “DNA” is the most repeated term by Nienaber and his flyhalf Handre Pollard, followed by the execrable word ‘processes.’
Say “Execute our processes and trust in our DNA” several times. You will automatically box kick.
Nienaber gave the shortest answer in this version of the Championship when asked if the Boks would stop boxing. “I don’t think so.”
Dramatic tension also surrounds whether the Boks, if they are attacking the All Black try line, will attempt the first box kick ever into the in-goal area from 5 metres out.
For the most mixed team in world rugby (seven players of colour start the last match for the Boks in the Championship) the subject of DNA could be considered a strange topic. But this is the theme they align on. It’s a process. A structure.
Retshegofaditswe Noche starts at prop. He is definitely the best Retshegofaditswe ever to have played the game. Is he, however, the longest first-named player in history? He goes by Ox but runs like a stallion, if the stallion was squeezed into the body of a warthog.
Box office would have been Ox and Tupou running full speed into each other, alternately.
For Wallaby fans, the question is will Quade Cooper ever wake up and realise he is 33. Or is that why Greg ‘John’ Holmes is in the team? To make Quade feel young, again?
Also, what was missing in Brisvegas that caused renowned blogger and influencer Pablo Matera to go south and try to find health in New South Wales?
The Great Mustache War continues with Jasper the Unfriendly Ghost Wiese up against Peaky Blinder Nic White. Massive edge to White for fullness, shape, and homage to saloonkeepers in years past.
Can Aussie writers write about the Wallabies without using the word ‘dawn.’ Has it dawned on them that Dave Rennie was not nuts when he said “if we would stop panicking, we could run the All Blacks close?” He was right then, and now, when he says he is grumpy after wins.
All in all, this will be the typically anticlimactic end to the Rugby Championship. The Wallabies will likely ease to a modest win. The All Blacks won’t drop the ball 24 times. The Boks will only win if they start to love space as much as time.
And yet, one cannot help but look forward to these little battles and mysteries.
Will the Ox be gored? Will Scooter read Bongi or will Lood read Codie?
Can Andrew Kellaway continue his dream season and become the Bachelor?
When did Kerevi learn to pass? So well!
Will the lost Pumas find their way back to Brisbane?