CAPE TOWN - It's all about the Rugby Championship, Province and some schoolboy-rugby as Mark Keohane shares his Rants and Rave from the weekend's action.
1. Eben Etzebeth was simply colossal in Durban on Saturday. The youngest player to get to 50 Tests for the Springboks made fools of those disbelievers who questioned why coach Rassie Erasmus had started him against Argentina This was his first competitive match since the last Bok match of the 2017 season.
He led from the front, added mongrel and physicality to everything he did and showed great skill with ball in hand. He also proved a menace to the visitors at lineout, and his presence certainly added to the scrum potency. In Afrikaans they’d say "Hy’s ‘n Meneer "
2. It was the weekend of locks. Sam Whitelock became the first ever player to graduate from the Under-20 World Championship to 100 Tests. Whitelock celebrated in style. His lock partner Brodie Retallick was as immense in Sydney as Etzebeth was in Durban. Retallick, like Etzebeth hadn’t played Test rugby for the past year.
The All Blacks, like the Boks with Etzebeth, are stronger because of Retallick. His work rate has no equal and his skills as a lock have no equal. He scored one of the more memorable "show and go" individual tries you’ll ever see from a lock.
3. I tweeted on Saturday night that it was job done for the Springboks. They scored six tries, won their opening match and got the bonus point. Saturday was about celebration, yesterday was about rest and today is about reflection. So, on reflection, it was a good victory.
So many in South Africa struggle to just say well done or actually enjoy the moment. Sure, the accuracy wasn’t always there, be it the lineout throw or the goal-kicking, but there was more to savour than sigh about.
1. This hatred of the All Blacks irks me. This is a team that continues to set standards unheard of in international sport. The All Blacks have won 100 of their last 112 Tests, with 50 percent of these matches played away from home.
Their second half display in Sydney was breathtaking. If you love rugby, you have to appreciate the brilliance in their performance. Forget nationality for a moment and just observe without emotional prejudice; no other team in the world can be as good without the ball and then give an attacking masterclass with the ball.
To the haters, you can’t love rugby and not love watching the All Blacks.
2. Western Province flew to France to play a Montpellier team with seven South Africans in its starting XV. The core of the Province team played in Super Rugby. Montpellier haven’t played a Top 14 league game, yet they gave WP a beating.
It’s a trip that was an indulgence for all concerned, but it was also a trip that again highlighted the standard of the Currie Cup. It is a feeder competition; no more. The endless campaigns to rekindle the glory days of the Currie Cup (pre-professionalism) only highlight why the competition should long ago have been consigned to history.
3. Grey College playing Paul Roos was the biggest school derby of 2018 because of the form of both teams. Paul Roos were unbeaten going to Bloemfontein and Grey College’s only setback was a 25-all draw against Glenwood. Yet, seven players from the two schools missed this day to play for SA U18s in an international series that has little relevance, and has no tradition and no permanence.
These seven players should have been in Bloemfontein for the biggest rugby day of their matric year. It robbed the occasion of so much and also the match of its best players.