Three Points
Cup spots on offer in Bledisloe decider
Brett McKay
August 13, 2015
Wallabies tight ahead of Eden Park

The Rugby Championship has been claimed for 2015, with the Wallabies' 27-19 win over New Zealand in Sydney earning them their first piece of major silverware since the 2011 Tri Nations title.

But that wasn't the biggest boilover of the tournament - Argentina's completely dominant 37-25 win over South Africa in Durban a few hours later takes that prize for sure and certain. It proves that Argentina still has some giant-killing life in them heading into the Rugby World Cup, and equally, it brought all the dormant fears of Springboks fans bubbling to the surface. How will Heyneke Meyer react, or indeed, over-react?

Here were a few things to stick out over the weekend:

Argentina win rocks the world rankings

In one of the biggest upsets in world rugby this year, Argentina's 37-25 win over South Africa in Durban had some major effect on the international rankings.

Playing in an outstanding jersey commemorating the first Argentinean side to tour South Africa in 1965, and with a large contingent of that team in attendance at Kings Park, the win by the Pumas saw the Springboks plummet from second down to fifth in the world. Argentina stayed at eighth themselves, but will now head into the return clash in Buenos Aires this weekend with confidence sky-high. Los Pumas remain ranked ahead of Tonga and Georgia, and the win in Durban will see them heavily favoured to progress from RWC Pool C behind New Zealand.

The Pumas produced a rousing display to stun the Springboks in Durban © Getty Images

The impact on South Africa may well be much more than just the rankings slump. The manner in which Juan Martin Hernandez tore them apart in his return at fly-half, and particularly with the use of three-try winger Juan Imhoff as an inside runner, will cause all kinds of ructions within the Republic.

And the selection table reaction of the Springboks this week will be interesting, too. Will Heyneke Meyer keep the faith in the younger players that will lead South African rugby in the future, or is this the chance that the aging cavalry are recalled, as so many 'Boks supporters seem to fear.

All good questions. As is the question of who to tip in Buenos Aires this weekend!

Cheika's halves experimentation continues

Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley didn't play themselves out of Wallabies RWC contention with their performances in Sydney on Saturday night, but nor did they do themselves any great favours. Foley, especially, will now have to get a gauge on just where in the playmaking ranks he sits, with Matt Toomua and Matt Giteau well ahead, and Quade Cooper still very much in the reckoning.

With Kurtley Beale earmarked for this 'hybrid' type of finishing role that Michael Cheika is talking about, Foley's stocks may have really dived with his lack of organisation and direction against the All Blacks. Everything that Foley wasn't doing for the Wallabies in attack became clear in the first 90 seconds Matt Toomua was on the field.

No pre-match tricks up Cheika's sleeve

Toomua now has the chance to start at No.12, while Cooper has been given one final opportunity to impress at fly-half. If he does defy recent history and perform, then Foley may find himself on the outer.

Phipps was very good against South Africa, when he came on in Brisbane, and likewise when he started against Argentina in Mendoza. One sub-par game in Sydney doesn't cancel those games out. But Nic White's impressive 17-minute cameo will give Cheika cause to re-think his RWC selections.

White's performance was that good that there would have to be merit in taking three No.9s to England. But then, Giteau's ten-minute stint at the base of the ruck while Phipps sat in the naughty chair might just give Cheika reason to think that he might still be able to get away with 2½ scrum-halves. In fact, how he solves the Foley conundrum could impact the No.9 question.

White has got the start in Auckland, with Giteau providing cover on the bench.

Panic stations in New Zealand?

I don't think I've ever written this sentence before, so please indulge me: the Wallabies outplayed the All Blacks in all facets of the game last Saturday night.

(Yes, that felt as good as I hoped it would...)

Steve Hansen surely did some extensive thinking this week? He joked at the press conference on Saturday night that "we thought we had adjusted" at the selection table to the Wallabies selecting David Pocock and Michael Hooper together, and that "we'll probably have to adjust again."

And that perhaps was one of the big surprises of the night, that the Pocock-Hooper tandem act would be so successful against the widely accepted first choice All Blacks back-row of Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw, and Kieran Read. Of the three, only McCaw came through the game with an unblemished reputation.

It means little now as Cheika has promoted Wycliff Palu to No.8 with Pocock dropping back to the bench.

Out wider, Dan Carter was criticised for his play, but to be fair, he was operating behind a beaten pack. And criticising him for missing two conversions in the face of excellent Wallabies pressure is just ridiculous. Conrad Smith has copped some harsh words, and Sonny Bill Williams, too, though Hansen revealed post match that he had been carrying an injury.

So what should we expect this Saturday night? Hansen has made three changes, bringing in lock Sam Whitelock, back-rower Victor Vito and second five-eighth Ma'a Nonu.

Well, if I've learned anything watching the All Blacks for as long as I have, and even more recently under Hansen, it's that redemption will be their great motivation at Eden Park. I'm genuinely fearful of what awaits the Wallabies, in fact. We all know to beware of the wounded All Blacks, but this is more than a wound; there's been a proper blood-letting over the ditch already this week.

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