RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP: Kurt-Lee Arendse emerges as hat-trick hero after Boks crush woeful Wallabies at Loftus

RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP: Kurt-Lee Arendse emerges as hat-trick hero after Boks crush woeful Wallabies at Loftus

South Africa 43 (17) Australia 12 (5)

The Rugby Championship title is on track for the Boks, and the decision to select an experimental team was justified. Despite many untried combinations, Jacques Nienaber’s men were excellent for the most part.

Every player on the fringe of World Cup selection made a case for his inclusion for the showpiece in France. But even so, it was a performance sprinkled with errors.

“That was not our best performance, but we’re happy with the result,” said captain on the day, Duane Vermeulen, after the match. His comments were realistic enough to perceive that the Boks squandered many opportunities and that there is room for improvement. But what a position to start the 2023 Test season from.

Wing Kurt-Lee Arendse recorded a hat-trick to take his tally to 10 Test tries in only eight Tests to underline what an incredible finisher and competitor he is. It was also the Boks’ eighth win over the Wallabies at Loftus in eight meetings.

Read more in Daily Maverick: The Eddie Jones factor amplifies the Aussie threat at Loftus

While Arendse’s Test credentials have never been in doubt, the likes of lock Marvin Orie, flank Marco van Staden and flyhalf Manie Libbok did their World Cup prospects no harm.

And centre Andre Esterhuizen, who was one of the unlucky few to miss out in Japan four years ago, gave his best performance in green and gold.

Besides his powerful running, which could be expected, Esterhuizen demonstrated pace and guile to beat defenders on the outside, to produce inch-perfect passes that created momentum for others. It was a spectacular display in a match where no one in a Bok jersey let themselves down.

Congratulations all around after the Boks secure a 43-12 win over the Wallabies to open their Rugby Championship account. (Photo: Gordon Arons / Gallo Images)

Woeful Wallabies

But, and there has to be a “but”, Australia were woeful. Rugby Australia fired Dave Rennie and brought back Eddie Jones to take the ailing Wallabies to a new level. They certainly reached a new level at Loftus, just not the one they imagined.

The Boks manhandled the Wallabies in contact, decimated the scrums and won every meaningful battle in contact. Australia were lucky to only lose by 31 points, largely thanks to the Boks’ own errors.

The difference though, was that the Boks’ mistakes were a missed lineout here, a knock-on there. Australia were thrashed in the fundamentals of the game – mostly in contact.

You can’t just rectify a lack of physicality with positive thinking and unrealistic goals such as “we’re in Pretoria to make history”. It has t0 be underpinned by something more tangible, such as a strong domestic structure, which Australian rugby is desperately lacking.

Read more in Daily Maverick:Boks and Wallabies to let solid performances do the talking after frivolous week of verbal scrumming

Quade Cooper’s name was on the teamsheet as flyhalf, but he was anonymous. Giant lock Will Skelton was supposed to be the catalyst for the Wallaby pack to take the fight to the Boks. He may have played, but who could tell?

The Wallaby pack was slaughtered, and behind the front line massacre their backline

…. to be continued
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