Who’s hot and who’s not: Springboks show world champion credentials as pressure increases on England and Wales

Colin Newboult

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!

Doddie Weir’s legacy: It was announced on Saturday that the Scotland legend and former British and Irish Lions tourist had lost his battle with motor neurone disease at the age of 52. Weir was an outstanding player but it was what he did when he was diagnosed with MND that has shown both his resilience and kindness as a human being. The My Name’5 Doddie Foundation was set up, helping those suffering from the horrific disease while also funding research and potential treatments. Doddie’s work has helped so many people and his warmth, generosity and spirit has been evident, despite the awful hand he was dealt. Rugby has lost a true great but his legacy will live on forever.

Springboks put in world champion performance: Much of the South African public have been frustrated by their team’s year and we could certainly understand their disappointment after a Rugby Championship title slipped through their fingers. However, although results didn’t go their way in the early part of the Autumn Nations Series, the performances have improved significantly. The Boks were especially unfortunate against France, but Jacques Nienaber’s men put it all together in the match at Twickenham. The fundamentals were superb while their attack was much more clinical. In fact, the Springboks looked ominously good ahead of their World Cup defence next year.

Wallabies fightback in Cardiff: It looked like Australia would end the year in disappointing fashion, putting further pressure on Dave Rennie, but the head coach got a reprieve when his side came from 34-13 down to claim an important victory at the Principality Stadium. Considering the injuries they had, it was a remarkable effort as they played some outstanding rugby to get themselves back into the contest. Young wing Mark Nawaqanitawase was particularly outstanding in Cardiff as the Wallabies took some much-needed momentum into 2023.

Springbok and World Rugby relations take a step forward: After Rassie Erasmus’ latest ban for social media posts which appeared to criticise the officiating, all parties came together to discuss matters going forward. It is certainly a step in the right direction following the unacceptable behaviour of SA Rugby’s director of rugby and hopefully it will stop him from airing his grievances so publicly in the future. On this occasion, World Rugby have acted very sensibly by punishing Erasmus but also opening a line of communication, giving him and the Bok governing body a chance to put their opinion across. Everyone seems to want to move on so let’s hope the director of rugby, quite frankly, refrains from posting anything in the future.

Cardiff: In more positive news for Welsh rugby, Dai Young’s men produced their best performance of the season so far with a magnificent 35-0 victory over the Sharks. As all British, Irish and Italian teams have found out, winning in South Africa is remarkably difficult but Cardiff did it with ease on Sunday, becoming the first Welsh side to claim a URC victory in the southern hemisphere. Their pack, led by the brilliant Thomas Young, was superb as they utterly dominated the hosts. Flanker Young touched down twice and had a key role in the penalty try, while Ben Thomas completed the scoring in the second period. Well played, Cardiff.

COLD AS ICE!

England end disappointing autumn with new low: The Red Rose fans aren’t happy and you can understand why. They were utterly hopeless once again as they succumbed to a dreadful 27-13 defeat to the Springboks at Twickenham. South Africa dominated every part of the game in what was a concerning performance from England. Eddie Jones keeps on stating that the World Cup is their only priority but, ultimately, there needs to be an improvement. Are other teams really holding more back ahead of the next global tournament? We doubt it.

Latest Wales loss heaps pressure on Wayne Pivac: Is that the end of the New Zealander’s tenure? Reports in the Welsh media certainly seems to suggest so. The irony is that Wales probably produced their best performance under Pivac for 55 minutes in Saturday’s game against Australia, but ultimately results dictate a head coach’s fate. Apart from a brief period in early 2021, which saw them claim the Six Nations title, they have been poor under the former Scarlets boss. They look so far off the world’s best – even more so than England – and we can’t see how they can challenge next year if Pivac remains.

Exeter Chiefs: Rob Baxter’s men enjoyed a positive start to the campaign but their form has dropped off a cliff. They are not far away in some aspects of their game but the results are just not forthcoming. After a disappointing 2021/22, the Devonians looked to have improved, but it is fair to say they have plenty of work to do if they are to be realistic title challengers this season. Four losses in five means that they have a losing record in 2022/23 and are currently outside the play-off places. They are not far behind the top-four, with Northampton Saints and Harlequins also inconsistent, but their current run is concerning.

Wallabies’ attrition rate: Australia’s current injury issues are pretty much unprecedented and once again played a big part in the lead up to their game with Wales. Following a brutal clash against Ireland, a staggering seven players were forced out of their final Autumn Nations Series encounter. Head coach Rennie has seen his team decimated throughout the year. In fact, from the team that took to the field against England in their first Test of the year in July, only three players – Len Ikitau, Cadeyrn Neville and Allan Alaalatoa – started on Saturday. Rennie and the Wallabies will hope they have a bit more luck next year.

Ronan O’Gara’s disciplinary problems: The former Ireland fly-half, like Erasmus, clearly has an issue with respecting the match officials after receiving yet another ban from the Top 14 authorities, Ligue Nationale de Rugby. It is the fourth time in 12 months that O’Gara has been suspended for his actions and language towards the referees. This time, La Rochelle will be without their head coach on the sidelines for 10 weeks with LNR saying in a statement that he is “harming the best interests of rugby”.

READ MORE: Doddie Weir: Tributes pour in as Scotland legend loses battle with motor neurone disease