It is time for our weekly wrap of who has their name in lights right now…and who is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
It is time for our wrap of who has their name in lights…and who is making headlines for the wrong reasons.
They're on fire!
British and Irish Lions: It was touch and go but, as coach Warren Gatland said in the aftermath, only the result counts. The Lions secured victory in what was an absorbing first Test in Brisbane. Now comes the part the class of 2001 could not manage, winning the all-important second match that would seal a first series win since 1997.
Fiji: Pacific Nations Cup champions for the first time. Congratulations Fiji for triumphing in one of the toughest tournament schedules in rugby.
All Blacks: 3-0 over France, holding Les Bleus try-less in the last two Tests and scoring some scorchers from their own half. The fact they have three world-class fly-halves is such a plus point for head coach Steve Hansen. Speaking of which, it was utility back Beauden Barrett's day last Saturday as he came on to score in successive games – but what made this try more special was that it was in front of his New Plymouth supporters.
George North and Israel Folau: They made our XV of the Week after superb showings for the Lions and Australia respectively. They were that good however that they get in here too.
Springboks: The breakdown seems sorted out with Francois Louw in the mix and the backs are starting to gel too. Willie le Roux has been a breath of fresh air and JJ Engelbrecht has done a lot to silence his critics too. The real test comes in the Rugby Championship but from what we have seen, if they can keep Louw, Le Roux and Eben Etzebeth fit – with Adriaan Strauss and Bismarck du Plessis being rotated – they will be tough to beat.
England U20: Once again the Junior World Championship was a credit to rugby. The stars of tomorrow – some from today – played superbly throughout but it was England who lifted the crown, beating Wales 23-15 in the final. Led by the strong Jack Clifford, Nick Walshe's men fought back from 3-15 down to sink their northern hemisphere rivals. Hats off to Wales too though as the pair played out the first NH final in Junior World Championship history.
Bryan Habana and Jean de Villiers: The first Bok to reach 50 Test tries, Habana adds another accolade to his honours list. In the words of his skipper, “to score 50 tries in a career at any level is great, but to score 50 for your country is outstanding.” Habana is now fifth on the all-time list. A shout out too for JDV, who put his body on the line (again) and never let his good humour fail him, even when Alesana Tuilagi tried to decapitate him. The Bok skipper also came up with the quote of the week: “Adriaan Strauss played his balls off.”
Scott Johnson: You can always count on Scotland's new boss to tell it like it is. His honest assessment after their narrow win over Italy was to suggest the Scots are on the right path: “We're happy with the result, but need to be honest and acknowledge we didn't play well.”
RÃ©mi TalÃ¨s: Of the three French fly-halves used on tour, the Castres pivot looked the sharpest. The question now is, will he be allowed more time in the jersey to prove his worth? We feel it's time France stopped tinkering and settled on a XV moving forward.
Samoa coach Stephen Betham: Fair play to Betham for condemning some of the dodgy stuff that marred Samoa's performance at Loftus as the islanders vented their “frustration”. Betham's influence has gone a long way to cleaning up the reckless nature of past teams but apparently there's still work to be done to change the culture, which is Betham's responsibility. Good reputations are hard to gain, bad reps are even harder to shake.
Vacation Lions call-ups: A delicate subject but one that has surfaced once again. Back in 2001, Scotland scrum-half Andy Nichol was in Australia on holiday when he received a Lions call-up that saw him make the bench for the third Test. Fast forward 12 years and Tom Court was Down Under when the Lions came calling. We are not questioning Nichol or Court's capabilities but rather if in 2017 we are set to see a few British and Irish players wandering around Auckland with their phones on loud. It's probably worth the trip.
Brrrr….someone turn the heater up
Baby Blacks: Whatever the format you expect great success from New Zealand teams, so to see the 2013 crop of Baby Blacks fail to reach the IRB Junior World Championship Final for the first time was an oddity. Instead of aiming to lift the trophy again on Sunday, they lost the third-placed play-off to the Baby Boks.
Kurtley Beale: Had two chances to win the game for Wallabies. Missed both. Not. Hot.Â
Digby Ioane: Off-field issues continue to plague Wallabies. Even if it hadn't been for an untimely injury, it seems likely that the Reds flyer would have missed the second Lions Test anyway after failing to pitch up for a court appearance. Being a professional sportsman does not mean you are no longer required to adhere to the rules of society. Grow up.
Samoa: After all that hype and a promising start to their June tour, Samoa's display in Pretoria was disappointing to say the least. Far too indisciplined as their frustration grew at the breakdown, thanks to the work of Francois Louw, the distasteful incident involving James So'oialo and Alesana Tuilagi's red card left a sour taste after two strong wins over Italy and Scotland.
Italy: Winless in June, Azzurri coach Jacques Brunel admitted they took a step back after doing well in Six Nations. They spent all three weeks in Durban, and sometimes it really did appear like they were on holiday.
Bulls: The mass exodus out of Loftus continuesÂ – Steyn, Vermaak, Chiliboy, Olivier, Kirchner, Steenkamp, J.Kruger, Pogieter x 2 …all gone.