Who’s hot and who’s not: All Blacks dig deep, Pumas shine to hit summit and Eddie Jones’ comments cause unwanted furore

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!

Relief for Ian Foster as All Blacks respond: Who saw that coming? Take a bow, New Zealand, as they ended a three-game losing run thanks to a much-improved performance at Ellis Park, seeing off South Africa 35-23 at the famous venue. With their backs against the wall and despite many not giving them a chance of righting the wrongs of the first game in just a week, the All Blacks rolled up their sleeves and played a much more physical and smart game. Has this win given Foster a stay of execution from the top job or was the writing already on the wall? We wait to find out but hope the head coach is given at least until the end of the Rugby Championship to prove his credentials.

Los Pumas power to record victory: Michael Cheika’s Argentina side claimed their biggest ever victory over the Wallabies after triumphing 48-17 against Dave Rennie’s men. The South Americans played outstanding rugby, with form wing Emiliano Boffelli notching a whopping 19 points. Los Pumas scored seven tries in a demolition job, with Cheika brewing something special in Argentina, and the best is still to come. Amazingly, they sit top of the Rugby Championship table after two rounds with two away games against the All Blacks up next.

Gloucester favourites past and present complete 4Ed 350-mile Cycle Challenge: A massive well done to all those that partook in the challenge to raise money for Ed Slater, his family and the research into Motor Neurone Disease. Slater was diagnosed with the condition last month and has since launched the 4Ed Campaign with a three-day, 350-mile cycle the first challenge. A group of former and current Gloucester players, including Slater, started from Kingsholm on Monday before passing through Leicester, Milton Keynes and Twickenham before finishing back in the West Country. It was a remarkable achievement from Slater and co. in what were sweltering conditions as guys like prop Fraser Balmain, who are not built for long distance rides, helped the fundraising page close in on breaking the £200,000 mark.

Nemani Nadolo boost for Waratahs: The Australian franchise announced a big signing last week, both literally and metaphorically, after bringing in the gargantuan Fijian wing on a one-year contract. Following the team’s gradual decline over the past few years, which culminated in a winless 2021, the New South Wales-based side appear to be refinding their feet. They were much-improved in Super Rugby Pacific this year, finishing in sixth position and qualifying for the play-offs, and Nadolo’s addition will only strengthen the squad. Despite being the wrong side of 30, the back is still playing exceptional rugby and will occupy a crucial role next season. He is a fantastic signing.

Current Springboks changing the face of South African rugby: The Springboks has been a political minefield over the years, with debate raging over a lack of black representation in the team to the issue of quotas, but the current group are altering all that. From Siya Kolisi becoming the first person of colour to lead the Boks to the side seeing a significant increase in black players, rugby is no longer just a white person’s sport in the country. A video went viral prior to Saturday’s Test of Kolisi and Joseph Dweba singing with the Gwijo Squad, a fan group looking to improve diversity and inclusivity in South African sport, and it was just so wholesome to see. This Bok outfit is much more culturally diverse and it is just wonderful to witness. Ultimately, it will benefit the sport in the country and potentially around the world as more people from varying backgrounds in South Africa are exposed to the game. Make no mistake, Jacques Nienaber’s men are pioneers.

DMP Durham Sharks raise enough money to survive: There was relief at DMP Durham Sharks and for women’s rugby as a whole on Friday when news broke that the club had rescued their Allianz Premier 15s season just one week after their players launched an emergency crowd-funding campaign. The team, which is based in Darlington, were teetering on the brink of a league exit last week and were required to meet an estimated £50,000 shortfall, but by Tuesday the club had raised £32,679 and were granted an additional 24 hours by club officials to make up the difference. That, thankfully, was achieved on Friday as the funding was met, which is a massive relief for everyone involved.

COLD AS ICE!

Still plenty of work to do for the Springboks: That was a sobering afternoon for South Africa as they were brought back down to earth with a bump in Johannesburg. Selection was questionable with Malcolm Marx not moving to starter after Bongi Mbomanbi’s injury coming back to bite coach Nienaber. Joseph Dweba in particular had a disappointing opening to the fixture while others didn’t seem at the races in the early stages, which led to the Springboks management team calling on their bench even earlier than usual. Were they overconfident as a group or is that doing New Zealand a disservice? All we know is they missed a golden chance to grab the Freedom Cup and go atop the table.

Eddie Jones’ private school comments backfire: The England coach was pretty scathing over the system in the country, stating that private schools don’t produce on-field leaders. He insisted that people who went to them had a “closeted life” and lacked “resolve”, but many were irked at those words. Firstly, he was rebuked by his employers, the Rugby Football Union, before Clive Woodward and Danny Cipriani hit back. It was Cipriani’s column in the Daily Mail which was the most interesting, however, as the fly-half, who featured for the Red Rose under Jones, completely tore into the Australian’s methods. It’s fair to say that Cipriani has never been a big fan of Jones, but it was still an interesting read and rather confirmed what a few people have feared in that his approach is perhaps holding the current England team back.

A nightmare performance for the Wallabies: Of course injuries have played a significant role in Australia’s tour of Argentina, with the withdrawal of powerful hooker Folau Fainga’a just 24 hours before kick-off another setback to their quality on the field. However, there is no getting away from that record defeat to the Pumas and Dave Rennie’s outfit will no doubt take a long hard look in the mirror after this heavy loss. The Wallabies badly need bodies back and a week’s break in the Rugby Championship comes at an ideal time for them before two home games against the Springboks, a side they’ve fared well against Down Under of late. Time to lick wounds as they look to turn things around.

Serious concern over Wasps’ financial state: The Premiership club have teetered on the brink for years and almost folded in 2012. In fact, the relegation decider between them and Newcastle a decade ago, which saw Wasps stay up despite going down 14-10 to the Falcons on the final day of the season, kept them in business. New owners then came in, they moved to Coventry and all seemed to be going relatively well, especially with crowds often upwards of 10,000. But interest has waned in the city, the financial impact of Covid has taken its toll and supporters have started to desert the club. They are in a perilous state and it is a massive concern, obviously to the club itself and the diehard fans who have followed them through thick and thin, but also the sport in England. Wasps have been one of the Premiership’s great teams in the professional era, so if they were to go bankrupt, it would set alarm bells ringing around the country. One hopes they come through this.

READ MORE: Rugby Championship: Five takeaways from South Africa v New Zealand as All Blacks show vast improvement