The term ‘must-win’ clash is a too often used cliché in sport these days but this game actually deserves the descriptor.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is under mounting pressure after another disastrous Bledisloe Cup campaign and a record of just one win in Australia’s last seven Tests.
And Australia had two major blows to their chances with first David Pocock ruled out on Friday and then Israel Folau on the day of the game. It really is back to the wall time for the Wallabies.
Springboks boss Rassie Erasmus is also feeling the heat after South Africa’s surprise reversal a the hands of the Pumas in Mendoza last time out.
Here are our talking points ahead of the match:
Kurtley Beale in at No10
Desperate times call for desperate measures and Cheika has pulled the trigger on the “Ice man” Bernard Foley, dropping him to the bench in favour of shifting-in Kurtley Beale.
It’s a curious decision as Foley has been among the Wallabies best in recent seasons and Beale last played fly-half for the Wallabies over four years ago. Matt Toomua slots in at No12, where he played for Leicester Tigers last weekend in the 40-6 loss to Exeter.
Cheika obviously wants more involvement from his No10 as Beale was far more involved in the Wallabies loss to the All Blacks in Auckland with six kicks, 25 passes and 10 runs for 59 metres compared to Foley’s sparse 4 kicks, 19 passes and six runs for 43.
Although one of those runs was to set up Reece Hodge’s second half try – one of only two tries Australia scored on the night.
It’s certainly not going to help the Wallabies defensively as Beale missed six and made seven tackles in Auckland to Foley’s four tackles with just two misses.
David Pocock’s late scratching from Saturday’s Test against the Springboks because of a neck injury complaint makes @WorldRugby’s decision not to even cite Owen Franks for a clear as day neck roll in Bledisloe II even more farcical.— Christy Doran (@ChristypDoran) September 7, 2018
David Pocock a late scratching
This is deeply concerning not just for the Wallabies but World Rugby.
Pocock was ruled out of the test on Friday after failing to recover from neck problems caused by the All Blacks consistent use of illegal neck rolls to remove the Wallabies flanker from the ruck during the Bledisloe Cup series.
World Rugby is doing so much at present to try to protect players in the tackle zone but this just as dangerous practice is being neglected.
Perhaps its because the All Blacks are the major culprits.
Two great former Wallabies hit out on Instagram after news broke of Pocock’s late withdrawal, with David Campese leading the charge.
“Why do we have laws in rugby that are not enforced?” wrote Campese.
“The neck roll is illegal and very dangerous. As a parent with kids that play the game and a coach of grassroots rugby, I am appalled at an oversight of this nature. Where is the accountability from the referee or the IRB [World Rugby].”
David Wilson, the Wallabies’ No7 in the Rugby World Cup triumph of 1999, added: “It’s not just David, it’s any player in a ruck situation over the ball.
“If this is the way teams are going to move players off the ball, it’s a worry. It’s something that has to be closely looked at because yes, you protect the head. But you’ve got to protect the neck as well.”
Before Pocock’s late withdrawal the odds were tilting towards a Wallabies victory but with the turnover king now ruled out a Springbok win seems more probable.
Malcolm Marx will start from the bench? 🤔🤔— Zand!le Dubazana (@DubazanaZandile) September 6, 2018
Malcolm Marx benched
The spectre of a quota, where the Springboks have to pick a certain number of non-white players, is a constant sub-text in South African rugby as SARU work towards the stated goal of a 50-50 team at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
To this end Rassie Erasmus has embraced the transformation agenda enthusiastically playing no less than six non-white players in each of his first five Tests, going as high as seven for the Wales Test in Washington DC and the third match against England.
He has wound this back to five for the Rugby Championship, which could be minimum number as the benching of Malcolm Marx makes no sense at all.
The rampaging Lions hooker is without doubt the best No2 in the world and although his replacement Bongi Mbonambi is a very fine player himself, there seems no other explanation for Marx’s demotion.
Then Erasmus made some very odd remarks after the loss in Argentina about no longer being able to rest players against Australia so perhaps this is more of a rotation policy, but this would make even less sense.
The Springboks need to go all out to win this one as they certainly won’t beat the All Blacks next week in Wellington.
It’s the third round of the Rugby Championship as the high flying All Blacks take on the improving Argentina in Nelson’s first ever Test match, while in Brisbane the desperate Wallabies (without David Pocock) face the just as desperate Springboks, who lost to the Pumas last time out.
We picked out four players to keep your eyes on:
With Beauden Barrett rested for the Pumas clash, the Crusaders No10 gets his first start for the All Blacks. Mo’unga’s form in Super Rugby, where he guided the Saders to their second straight title, was so impressive that there were calls for him to replace Barrett in the starting line-up. But BB’s four tries against the Wallabies put an end to that. In other team news Hurricanes wing Nehe Milner-Skudder returns for his first Test since October last year and scrumhalf Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi is set to make his Test debut off the bench.
In what was a break-through year for the Jaguares in Super Rugby, Boffelli led the way in the thrilling style that took the Argentinian side all the way to the playoffs for the first time in their history. The Rosario-born 23-year-old built on an impressive second season in 2017 to firmly establish himself as one of the most exciting runners in the southern hemisphere scoring 10 tries, making 28 clean breaks and beating no less than 65 defenders. He knows the way to the try-line in Tests as well scoring in his first three appearances for the Pumas.
WATCH | This exclusive video with Bongi Mbonambi as he reveals how a life threatening experience helped propel him forward as a #Springbok— South African Rugby (@Springboks) September 7, 2018
HERE > https://t.co/ydMnbLBtyl#LoveRugby pic.twitter.com/DPqqRP3G3j
In Malcolm Marx’s absence in the June series against England, Mbonambi delivered two magnificent performances. “In the two Tests we won in June, Bongi really showed his quality,” Bok forwards coach Matt Proudfoot said. “We really want to get to that level of competition in our squad. I like the competition that’s building between Malcolm and Bongi, and it’s exciting to now also work with a player like Akker [van der Merwe], who is a bit different to the two of them and can add a different spice.” The Stormers No2 gets his chance against the Wallabies.
The Leicester midfielder is certainly clocking up the air miles. After coming off the bench in both Bledisloe Cup losses, the former Brumbies star flew back to the UK where he played 66 minutes of the Tigers 40-6 thrashing by Exeter in the opening game of the Premiership season. He then jumped back on another plane to head to Brisbane to prepare for Saturday’s clash with South Africa, where he finds himself in the starting line-up. Toomua has also been given the kicking duties as he tries to build a combination with new No10 Kurtley Beale. This is only the third time these two have started a Test at 10-12 – the other two coming way back in August 2014 when the Wallabies drew with the All Blacks in Sydney then lost to them in Auckland.
In what was a breakthrough year for the Jaguares in Super Rugby, one man led the way in a thrilling style that took the Argentinian side all the way to the playoffs for the first time in their history – Emiliano Boffelli.
The Rosario-born 23-year-old built on an impressive second season in 2017 to firmly establish himself as one of the most exciting runners in the southern hemisphere, scoring 10 tries, making 28 clean breaks and beating no fewer than 65 defenders.
And Boffelli has been just as impressive at international level.
He made his Test debut in June last year against England, and although the Pumas lost the first nine matches he played, Boffelli stamped himself as a player of true class, crossing for tries in his first three Tests.
Indeed his performances were so good in a misfiring national team that he was nominated for the World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year last year along with Frenchman Damian Penaud and the winner, All Blacks flyer Rieko Ioane.
#RugbyChampionship🏉 | #LosPumas🇦🇷 tienen equipo confirmado para jugar contra los All Blacks en Nueva Zelanda🇳🇿 este sábado desde las 4.35 am (ARG)— Sports Angle (@SportsAngleBlog) September 7, 2018
Boffelli;Delguy,Moroni,De la Fuente, Moyano;Sánchez, Landajo;Kremer, O.Desio, Lezana;Petti, Lavanini;T.Chaparro,Creevy y G.Botta pic.twitter.com/YATvfOIkH8
He has continued that form and more this season.
Comfortable on the wing, at full-back and even outside centre, Boffelli has all the skills.
Searing pace, superb in possession and he can even give the great Izzy Folau a run for his money when it comes to taking a high ball.
Boffelli uses speed and guile to outfox defenders rather than power. He is tall and rangy at 1.91m and just 93kgs. Compare that to Folau who is 1.94m and 103kgs.
A product of the Argentina youth system, Boffelli represented his country at U18, U19 and U20 level before a knee injury threatened to sideline him indefinitely.
But he came back stronger and quicker than ever as his performances this year attest.
The former Duendes club star puts a lot of his success down to his growing relationship with new Pumas boss, and former Wallabies forward coach, Mario Ledesma.
He also credits Ledesma’s assistants, former Pumas scrum-half Nicolás Fernández Miranda and centre Martín Gaitán.
“We are getting to know each other more and more,” Boffelli told La Nacion recently.
“The coaches try to force us to maintain the identity, with madness and laburo (hard work). It’s about running up to drink water and to get together. I know of their histories: they were tremendous players. And as coaches they are very successful.
“You can see they know a lot about rugby. I’m sure they’re going to do the team very well. So I’m really looking forward to this new stage, to learn and get the most out of Mario [Ledesma] and Nico [Fernández Miranda].
“I hope they teach me and I learn from them as much as possible.”
The toughest decision for Ledesma currently is where to play Boffelli. The versatile Puma has switched seamlessly between wing, centre and full-back for the Jaguares.
But now with No1 Argentina full-back Joaquín Tuculet out for the year after rupturing the anterior ligament of his knee against the Chiefs in May, Ledesma has mainly used Boffelli in the No15 jersey.
It was a position Boffelli excelled in as the Pumas upset the Boks in Mendoza 32-19, running for 63 metres, making two clean breaks, beating four defenders as well making two offloads.
A lot of the good things the Pumas did that day started and ended with Boffelli, as he won his first Rugby Championship match at eight attempts – and just his second Test win in 16, the other coming against Italy in Firenze in November last year.
There has clearly been a marked improvement since Ledesma took over the national coaching reigns back in June after long term coach Daniel Hourcade stepped down. Boffelli though deflects criticism away from his former mentor.
“If there is something that should not be reproached is the relationship (with Hourcade),” he says.
“The group is very close; the players, very close together, and the relationship of the coaches with the players is very good, there is a lot moving forward.
“We hope to continue having in 2018 that mystique that is in the team to get the best way to 2019.”
Despite the losing-streak breaking win against the Boks, Boffelli says the team must improve more against the All Blacks on Saturday.
“Without doubts, we have to improve in many things,” he says.
“It was shown that many times it does not reach what we do. But the team knows what it practices, knows what it points to, and that’s the most important thing.
“Luckily, we have time until the World Cup to reverse some things, and I think the team is very motivated and eager to learn. That has been showing the Pumas in recent years.”
Surprisingly for a team once known for its physical strength, Boffelli now feels that is one area the Pumas need to work on.
“There are teams that make a lot of difference in the physical,” he explains.
“We are faced with very tough opponents, but the team felt very good physically last year. The tiredness was noticed at the end of the year, because the same team plays many games.”
Boffelli says there is now more focus on the Pumas kicking game.
“In the tactical part, the foot was used more to get better out of our (part of the) field and not to wear out,” he says. “Before we tried a lot more to play in our field and we wore a lot.
“We tried looking for spaces in (the defensive line), where they really were not.
“Using the foot we left better out of our field and, without complicating us, we put ourselves in a situation of pressure to the rival.”
Boffelli began his Test career with a try scoring rush – three tries in three games. But since then he has failed to score in the next 13 Tests. He would like nothing more than a try on Saturday.
“I had my debut in 2017 in the Pumas and in the match in which I debuted I made a try, and in the next one, too,” he recalls.
“Then, I made another at the beginning of the Championship. I found that in three Test matches I had three tries. I could not believe it.
“For a wing to do tries is always very nice. Hopefully more will come (in this year’s Rugby Championship).”
Boffelli finished 2017 by being awarded a sliver Premios Olimpia (Olimpia Award), Argentina’s top sporting awards given annually by the Círculo de Periodistas Deportivos (Association of Sports Journalists) since 1954.
It will no doubt be the first of many awards in this talented young player’s career.