CAPE TOWN – Rugby journalist Mark Keohane's rants and raves following the weekend's rugby action.
1. A salute to the combined and individual efforts of the three foreign-based Springboks in Duane Vermeulen, Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux. Their influence was colossal in South Africa’s win against England. De Klerk and Le Roux produced arguably their best ever Bok performances and Vermeulen towered above every other forward in his all-round contribution.
Bok coach Rassie Erasmus got it spot on with his selection of the trio. De Klerk and Le Roux are more complete players now than when they left SA, and Vermeulen commands presence and respect from his teammates and the opposition. This was a statement that the right foreign-based players strengthen the Boks.
2. The All Blacks’ history-making trio of Barrett brothers combined for New Zealand's first try of the season in a script that could have been written by their mom and dad. The trio did all the work from the first break to the touchdown for the most memorable family try. Lock Scott Barrett made the break, fed to younger brother Jordie, who made another break to set up the try for the most celebrated of the brothers, Beauden, to score.
The Barrett’s are the first three brothers to ever start in the same Test for the All Blacks.
3. David Pocock’s return to Test rugby also meant a return to winning ways for the Wallabies as they ended Ireland’s 12-match unbeaten streak. Pocock took a year sabbatical from rugby and on his return a year ago suffered injury.
The Zimbabwean-born Pocock is one of the best loose forwards of the modern generation and he was massive in Brisbane. It was fitting that Pocock scored the try that secured the win, but his performance over 80 minutes was worth so much more than five points. It’s great to see Pocock back playing Test rugby because the game is healthier when players of his class are on display.
1. England’s deliberate ploy to target De Klerk with late hits was as stupid as it was cowardly. It contributed towards them losing the Test. Each late hit was penalised and the third one resulted in a yellow card. De Klerk, half the size of Maro Itoje and Mako Vunipola, stood firm despite the illegal tackles.
England coach Eddie Jones spoke of the ill-discipline of his team, but that ill-discipline was premeditated and Jones, as coach, is as culpable as the dumbies who were so blatant and obvious in putting in the late hits.
2. Former Wallabies hooker Phil Kearns, commentating on Australia’s win against Ireland, summarised what everyone was thinking when he said the game had become a joke after Israel Folau’s try on 60 minutes was disallowed because the TMO had spotted an off-the-ball incident that had absolutely nothing to do with the build-up to Folau’s try. The incident happened before Australia had even won the ball to set up Folau’s try and Kearns rightly questioned how far back a TMO should be going for an innocuous act that had no impact on play.
3. The officiating circus was at its laughable best in Auckland, but the French certainly weren’t amused when English referee Luke Pearce yellow-carded lock Paul Gabrillagues for a supposed high tackle that was no different to the majority of the tackles that had been made in the preceding 50 minutes.
The scores were 11-all when Gabrillagues was sin-binned and it was a significant factor in transforming the match from a contest to a mismatch. All Black coach Steve Hansen was among the many to agree that Gabrillagues should never have been carded.