The Rugby Championship is over, but what can we take out of?
1. The All Blacks are the best team in the world by a long way
The closest any team made it to the All Blacks through the Rugby Championship was Argentina’s 36-17 loss in Buenos Aires, just shading Australia’s 29-9 loss in Wellington. Their depth is beyond enviable, with every new face stepping up with ease. Little seems to distract them, despite some bizarre headlines following them around the tournament. They have their eyes on Auckland now, on the verge of the best consecutive run of Test wins for a tier one nation after 17 wins in a row.
2. Springboks at square one
If the Wallabies are in transition, they’re arguably one step ahead of the Springboks, who battled their way through the Rugby Championship. Coach, Allister Coetzee spoke after their June series about needing to find different ways to win apart from their traditional territory-heavy style, but that is what they fell into when the pressure came. Lions halves Elton Jantjies and Faf De Klerk couldn’t fire in the way they had in Super Rugby and Morne Steyn was more than happy to return to a kicking spree when he started at 10. Fair play to the Stade Francais playmaker, it worked against Australia, but this South African team has plenty of work to do.
3. Wallabies’ young guns can find a way forward
Possibly one of the silver linings of a mixed Rugby Championship was the next step taken by Australia’s next generation. Samu Kerevi was a standout among the debutants in the latter stages of the championship, but Dane Haylett-Petty was one who did himself no harm either. Young props Tom Robertson and Allan Alaalatoa have overtaken James Slipper through the series and showed more of their potential in London, teaming up in the final 20 minutes of the game. Adam Coleman seems a genuine threat in the second row, with some aggression added to the lock department with his inclusion. Eleven debutants in one season seems like a lot, but they’ve made some critical strides ahead of a crucial Bledisloe Cup.
4. The Pumas need to find a happy medium
They’ve got an offloading game to be envied and some smart attacking players but Argentina needs to find a balance between a desperation to keep the ball alive and their traditional set piece strengths. Their scrum handed them ascendancy against the Wallabies and the All Blacks through the competition, but some basic errors cost them. They burst out of the blocks in the competition, with an ominously competitive effort against the All Blacks and a win over South Africa in their opening three matches. Their tournament stamina will be better in the years to come, with players more used to Super Rugby travel and the Test demands.
5. Wallabies’ discipline could do with improving
Some have been unlucky or open to interpretation, but one look at the Wallabies’ penalty count says there might be cause for concern. Australia was the most penalised team through the Rugby Championship, with 70 infringements, nine more than the next-most penalised team in Argentina. Yellow cards are a worry as well, with the Wallabies handed six sin binnings through the tournament - though two came in the final game after repeated high tackle infringements.