Who’s hot and who’s not: Southern hemisphere power, new eras begin and costly kicks at goal

Colin Newboult
Split with Springboks v Ireland and England's Marcus Smith.

Split with Springboks v Ireland and England's Marcus Smith.

It’s time for our Monday wrap of who has their name in lights and who is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons after the weekend.

THEY’RE ON FIRE!

Good start for new coaches: Scott Robertson and Joe Schmidt began their stints in charge of the All Blacks and Wallabies respectively, and it ultimately proved to be a positive one as they secured victories on Saturday. New Zealand edged out England, securing a 16-15 in Dunedin, while Australia were too strong for Wales and emerged 25-16 triumphant. Both are very exciting appointments and, on the evidence of their first games, there is clear evidence of what both are trying to do.

Springboks finally beat Ireland: It had not been the case since 2016 but the South Africans eventually got their 27-20 win and it came at the cauldron that is Loftus Versfeld. Everyone in the crowd did everything they could to add value as a fired up Springboks side showed their worth and some with Tony Brown’s influence already showing in the attack. It was a brilliant Test and sets the tone brilliantly for the Durban match-up.

‘We’re trying to develop our attacking game’ – Rassie Erasmus unpacks the Tony Brown influence on the Springboks

Powerful Pacific: Samoa put together a brilliant second half comeback to beat Italy 33-25 at home. It is an amazing step forward for the team and it is also so good to see Italy touring that region. Samoa weren’t the only Pacific side on fire as Fiji picked up where they left off at the World Cup with a hard-fought 21-12 win over Georgia away from home. Another result that shows which way the Pacific teams are trending.

Hoskins Sotutu claims award: The Blues star was named Super Rugby Pacific Player of the Year after a stellar season for the Aucklanders, which saw them claim the title. Sotutu tied the record for tries scored by a forward in a season, alongside hookers Codie Taylor, Folau Fainga’a and Malcolm Marx, thanks to his dynamic carrying, particularly at close quarters. There was uproar when the number eight  was left out of the All Blacks squad and this award was certainly not great timing.

Southern hemisphere sweep: It is the classic battle in rugby union; north v south. This time around the south reigns supreme with three wins from the All Blacks, Wallabies and Springboks against England, Wales and Ireland respectively. It is always hard for the northern sides to travel well after a long season but no excuses will be accepted by fans from the south. It all makes for a fascinating weekend coming up. Will the north respond?

Eddie Jones: It is the time to rebuild and the veteran coach started by blooding several new players for the England Test and now he has found a foothold in the development as a Japan XV beat the Maori All Blacks 26-14 in what is an encouraging result. Now the Brave Blossoms prepare to welcome Georgia this weekend in a clash they will be desperate to win.

COLD AS ICE!

Another defeat for Wales: It is now eight defeats in a row for Warren Gatland’s men, following on from their dreadful Six Nations and the heavy defeat to the Springboks. They were not terrible in Sydney by any means but there are still a number of issues, from selection to execution of the game plan. There were a few positives for Gatland and his team, but the set-piece faltered and there were ultimately just far too many errors from the visitors. They are now 11th in the World Rugby rankings, their worst-ever position.

Scrum and Marcus Smith’s kicking woes: The fly-half had a very good game in general play but his place-kicking let him down as the Red Rose succumbed by a point. It is not a catastrophe for either the team or Smith, who is usually very adept off the tee, looking long-term but it does show the importance of that skill. Those three missed kicks, two of them very simple by his high standards, proved costly in Saturday’s encounter and he will seek to rectify that next weekend.

All Blacks v England: Five takeaways from New Zealand’s ‘unusual display’ as ‘three areas’ prove the difference

Argentina well beaten by second string France: A new-look France side arrived in South America and showed their quality off the bat with a 28-13 win over Los Pumas who were nowhere at the weekend. It is a poor showing for what is meant to be a new era for the side under Felipe Contepomi and alarm bells will be ringing with the Rugby Championship around the corner. They MUST bounce back next week.

Stuart Hogg arrested (again): Only days after signing a two-year deal with Montpellier and coming out of retirement the former Scotland man was arrested again for a breach of bail conditions as he was found at his wife’s house where he was allegedly engaging in the course of conduct which caused fear and alarm.

Canada capitulation: A 73-12 loss to a weakened Scotland side does not make for good reading at all, tier two or not. The result surfaces genuine concern around the standard of coaching in the Canadian set-up with many questions around Kingsley Jones’ ability at the helm. Romania this weekend is a more balanced Test but they will need to find something and fast.

READ MORE: 10 of the weekend’s top performers including a ‘gladiatorial’ Springbok and a ‘classy’ Englishman