By Rhodri Jeremiah | Twitter: @RhodriJeremiah
Last Updated: 11/09/18 12:50pm
Sky Sports Rugby’s resident stats guru, Rhodri Jeremiah, takes a closer look at who and what stood out from Saturday’s third weekend of Rugby Championship action…
Another round done, and another bonus-point win for New Zealand, this time over a spirited Pumas side in Nelson. It was a historic fixture as Trafalgar Park was hosting an All Blacks Test match for the very first time.
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen made seven personnel changes to his run-on side with Scott Barrett, Shannon Frizell, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Richie Mo’unga, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Karl Tu’inukuafe all starting.
The World Cup is now just over a year away with the first fixture between Japan and Russia kicking off on Friday September 20. Strength in depth is of central importance in a World Cup campaign and New Zealand once again put out a warning to the rugby community with their dominant performance in Fortress Trafalgar on Saturday.
Frizell, in particular, had a standout game. He made his Test debut v France in June and despite this only being his second appearance in the All Blacks shirt, he played like a veteran.
The 24-year-old made 15 carries for 63 metres, put in 18 tackles, beat five defenders and scored a try in a comprehensive 80-minute performance.
Post-match Hansen said: “He can be really satisfied on reflection of how well he’s gone and I think he’s got a big future.”
Some are even saying he has got better hands than All Black great Michael Jones. That may be a touch premature, but it is exciting times nonetheless for New Zealand, especially with the World Cup on the horizon.
Role reversal in NZ
Despite this defeat for Argentina, head coach Mario Ledesma can take a number of positives from Saturday’s encounter.
His side scored three tries in Trafalgar Park. Prior to Saturday, the last time New Zealand’s defence leaked three tries was against Australia last October – it does not happen very often.
The Pumas are famous for their set-piece, but it struggled on Saturday. They had two lineouts stolen on their own throw-in and were pinged twice on their own put-in at scrum-time.
Surprisingly, the top two carriers were Argentine and the top three tacklers were All Blacks. Normally, it’s roles reversed in those categories. If Argentina’s set-piece had been functioning, would the result have been different? Probably not, but the scoreline would have been far tighter.
Pumas flyer Ramiro Moyano had a game to remember. He made 10 carries for 106 metres, beat six defenders and crossed over the try-line. While, his team-mate Nicolas Sanchez entered the history books.
The fly-half’s 14 points on Saturday was enough to see him pass Felipe Contepomi’s points record of 651 as Argentina’s all-time top point scorer.
The Stade-Francais bound playmaker also became the first Argentine in history to register 100 points against New Zealand – he now has 111 from 11 Tests v the AB’s.
Argentina are in the same World Cup pool as England, France, USA and Tonga. Eddie Jones and co will be keeping a close eye on the Pumas, with their ever-improving form in this year’s Rugby Championship no doubt giving them some cause for concern.
Australia vs Argentina
September 15, 2018, 10:30am
The battle in Brisbane was between Michael Cheika and Rassie Erasmus. Both head coaches have been under considerable heat of late and the 23-18 victory for Australia on Saturday has already put doubts on Erasmus’ long-term future.
There were no real stand-out performances on the pitch, which really, is not that surprising considering all the talk off the field. The most telling stat to come out of Suncorp was that South Africa did not score any points in the second half despite leading 18-17 at half-time.
The Springboks are going through a tough time currently and the clock already seems to be ticking on Erasmus’ tenure. And who are they facing this Saturday? Yes, you guessed it, New Zealand at the Cake Tin.
New Zealand vs South Africa
September 15, 2018, 8:00am
If they do manage to overturn the All Blacks in Wellington, however, Erasmus for one will be having his cake and eating it too.