It is time for our weekly wrap of who has their name in lights at the moment…and who is making headlines for the wrong reasons.
It is time for our weekly wrap of who has their name in lights right now…and who is making headlines for the wrong reasons.
They're on fire!
Bok debutants: Willie le Roux, Arno Botha and Jano Vermaak all stepped up to the plate in a big way in their first international appearances as South Africa put Italy to the sword. Le Roux's performance in particular was pleasing for Bok fans, who have long craved a creative, exciting addition to the backline. Vermaak's injury will come as bitter-sweet news in the Republic because, coupled with Francois Hougaard's knee issues, it means that another exciting Cheetahs runner, Piet van Zyl, is set to don the green and gold in Nelspruit.
Samoa: A first-ever win over Scotland consolidated seventh place in the IRB World Rankings for Alesana Tuilagi and his team-mates, who must surely be considered favourites to emerge from Pool B alongside South Africa at the 2015 World Cup. Victory over Italy on Saturday will set up a tasty showdown with the Boks at Loftus a week later. We can't wait.
Ben Morgan: The Gloucester number eight sent a message 8000 miles away from Australia with a superb performance against Argentina that saw him score, assist and be a general threat throughout. In many people's eyes, Morgan should have been a Lions tourist and on this evidence, one injury in the back-row would surely see Morgan follow Alex Corbisiero's flight path. Did the Lions miss a trick having overlooked the impressive ball-runner? We think so.
Bryan Habana: Heyneke Meyer summed it up best: “What amazes me about Bryan is that sometimes I watch him play Super Rugby and he looks really ordinary, but then he pulls on the Bok jersey and he's a different player. I thought he was awesome. I was surprised to see his pace at one stage, but when Bryan plays well, the team plays well.”
New Zealand v France: Easily the best game of the weekend. No need to remind you of the history between these sides – especially at Eden Park – and they lived up to the hype by playing positive, attractive rugby from start to finish. France will feel they let a golden opportunity slip from their grasp – quite literally in the case of Louis Picamoles's knock-on with the tryline begging – but will be pleased with the improvement after a disastrous Six Nations. The All Blacks weren't firing on all cylinders in their first game of the year and will expect a significant step up next week.
Japan: It was looking really good for Japan for about an hour but the Brave Blossoms just couldn't find the final push needed to topple Wales. Sure, the travelling Welsh were well below strength but victory for Japan would nevertheless have been a major boost for the game there.
Brrrr….someone turn the heater up
Italy: One well-known South African rugby pundit equated the Azzurri outside of Rome to “pasta without sauce.” That might be a little harsh considering their performance at Twickenham earlier this year, but that first half-hour against the Boks was pretty flavourless.
SARU Ticket prices: It was disappointing to see large empty sections of the stadium in Durban on Saturday but the organisers only have themselves to blame. Considering the current economic climate and the predictability of the result, no should have been surprised to see the 'cheap seat' zones of the stadium unoccupied because the seats weren't cheap at all. For most fans R450 a ticket (and R160 for kids) just isn't reasonable for a game against Italy. Pricing most of South Africa's population out of the equation is not the best way to grow the game.
Kings Park crowd: We can totally understand how fervent rugby fans will cough up for pricey tickets to see their team but we can't wrap our heads around why they wouldn't want to get full value for their money. Most of those who did spend their hard earned ZARs on tickets for SA v Italy failed to cash in on the chance to see two Tests for the price of one, leaving the Shark Tank uncomfortably empty for Samoa v Scotland.
Argentina: Dominated by England, particularly in the first-half in Salta. The Pumas are missing almost their entire starting XV that will take to the field for the Rugby Championship and last Saturday was a sign that the quality of depth we thought they had is clearly not up to scratch, as of yet. There's no doubt that a full-strength Argentina line-up can mix it with the best in the world and their second-string XV will be itching to put things right in Buenos Aires this weekend against the same opposition. However on the recent evidence, it may be another tough 80 minutes against the English.
Quade Cooper: So there we have it. Barring an injury (or it seems more likely an act of God) Cooper is unlikely to play for the Wallabies against the Lions. The right move? Andy Farrell thinks not if you're an Australian but Robbie Deans is the man that counts and he's firm on the matter. Deans will cite the Cooper's defence as the reason why he was overlooked as he instead looks set to go for James O'Connor at 10. Despite his weaknesses without the ball, what Cooper offers with it is at times magical so we feel this absence benefits only the one side, and that is the Lions.
Lions opposition: Remember four years ago and the fixtures against the Free State Cheetahs, Western Province and Emerging Springboks – then four years prior to that a defeat to NZ Maori and a 17-13 close one with Auckland? Midweek matches in Australia unfortunately do not come close to rivaling the opposition in those two countries as despite the Reds clash, the depth Down Under is simply not there. The Force's decision to rest their players for their Super Rugby game against the Waratahs amplified that fact while it's also put the spotlight on the congested nature of the rugby calendar – again.
Compiled by Ross Hastie and Adam Kyriacou