The Springboks should probably be sitting on top of the Rugby Championship ladder at the moment.
Not that they’ve got anyone other than themselves to blame though. After going off the boil in the second half against Australia the week before they outplayed the World Champions in Dunedin on Saturday night, only to make errors at crucial times, and miss a wealth of penalty goals that their phenomenal kickers normally eat for breakfast.
The All Blacks stayed in the game, and indeed ran away with it at the death, because of their x-factor. It’s no fluke that the All Blacks win these tight encounters – they stay in contention then rely on superior fitness and flair to take the few opportunities that test match football throws up.
But the Springboks provided the toughest of challenges to date for the New Zealanders, and led by an inspirational performance from Richie McCaw they will have breathed a sigh of relief when the final whistle sounded and they’d prevailed, 21-11.
The Pumas maintained the exceptional form they have displayed throughout their debut year in the Championship on the Gold Coast, but yet again fell agonizingly short of their first win.
Their ferocious trademark defence kept them in touch with a Wallabies side that looked dangerous in the first half, but a red-hot spell ten minutes in to the second stanza saw the visitors score twice in three minutes and take an unlikely lead, 19-6.
The Australians remained composed however, and with significantly more fire-power in their backline than their opponents were eventually able to collate the points they needed to win, 23-19. But the last fortnight has shown that both the All Blacks, and the Wallabies, will face stern challenges in Argentina in their final rounds of the competition, and Los Pumas’ first victory may well be just around the corner.