10 Questions for the Others
1 PACKED IN
The Wallabies clearly have a number of problems across the squad – across their game. But top of the list come the Rugby Championship is their pack.
Can it find some kind of steel and ability to hang in for longer than it has been? The Wallabies were too easily destroyed at the set piece last year, lacked ball carriers and didn’t have a bench impact to dig them out in the final quarter.
2 BACK TO TRADITION
The Pumas, on the advice of Graham Henry, ditched their adherence to kick and chase, grinding rugby in 2012.
It has been a fascinating process watching them embrace pass and catch and become great entertainers in a short space of time.
But have they overdone it perhaps? Do they try to run too much? Are they guilty of playing too much rugby in the wrong places?
Can they marry a little pragmatism into the mix without completely losing their desire to attack?
3 GOING LOCAL
The Boks still have a number of good players based offshore. Heaps of them. Is it time, though, that they cut them off? Left them over there and just picked local players who will be fresher, more attuned to the pace of Southern Hemisphere games and not expected to dash back to their clubs and play between tests?
4 TARGET GAME
The Pumas will fancy they can beat the Wallabies twice this year. They will have looked at the Wallabies’ set piece and licked their lips.
But they have to be careful that they don’t focus too hard on just those contests and give not much else of themselves.
Can they target the Wallabies and yet still give a full-noise performance against the Boks and All Blacks?
That’s the hardest thing about the Rugby Championship, there is no opportunity to switch off and it is the key to doing well.
5 NEW BROOM
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is a big admirer of Stephen Moore and likes the way the Reds hooker captains the Wallabies.
But Moore never plays more than 60 minutes and isn’t even guaranteed of his starting place any more. Is it time for a change of leadership?
Time for a new captain to try to establish a new era of Wallabies dominance? An era where they believe in themselves more and find a greater sense of identity?
6 ALL BLACKS SCALP
South African rugby measures itself against New Zealand as the best gauge of how it is really tracking.
The Boks have beaten the All Blacks just once since 2012 and even that was by the narrowest margin. They need another win to restore pride and confidence.
No matter what else what happens in the Championship can the Boks finally secure a coveted victory against the All Blacks? Can they use the inevitable masses of ‘local’ support they will have in Albany to their advantage?
7 GHOST TOWN
Excuse the French here but everyone can see that the arse is falling out of Australian rugby.
Their Super Rugby teams are a shambles, their administration has lost the plot and the nation is fast losing interest in the game.
Losing in June to Scotland has only darkened the gathering clouds and if the Wallabies start their campaign with a loss to the All Blacks in Sydney, the biggest feature of the Rugby Championship could be the thousands of empty seats.
The Wallabies need to find a way, even if they are losing, to at least engage the Australian rugby public and make them want to be there.
Can they persuade thousands of Australians to front with money and buy match tickets? If they can’t it is going to be like playing in a ghost town, whoa, woah...playing in a ghost town. [Only people in their 40s and older will get that...but it is quite funny].
8 CAPE TOWN CURSE
The All Blacks haven’t been to Cape Town since 2008 – when they beat the Boks 19-0. And they haven’t been there because the South Africans know it suits New Zealand to be, firstly, at sea level and, secondly, in an area where they tend to garner more home support than the Boks do.
As the Boks try to transition their team to reflect modern South Africa, can they bury their past in Cape Town and, firstly, win and, secondly, persuade locals to turn up wearing green jerseys and not black?
9 FINDING BELIEF
The Pumas, after an encouraging start in the Rugby Championship and a really strong World Cup campaign in 2015, have started to stagnate. Maybe they have even gone backwards and with many of them playing for the Jaguares, and being beaten each week by the players they will face in New Zealand, South African and Australian jerseys, they look like they are losing confidence and belief.
Can they find it? Can they remember they are good players, an emerging force as a team and more than capable of winning big tests?
10 LIONS ROAR
Last year new South African coach Allister Coetzee tried to play what would be best described as a traditional Springboks game. But he did so with the majority of his players picked from the Lions, who prefer to open things up and use their speed and skill out wide.
It was a total mess. This year, can he marry the style to the personnel a bit better? The evidence in June was promising with the Boks beating France and scoring plenty of tries in the process.
The Pumas need pragmatism back in their mix TONED DOWN
The Wallabies are losing fans in their droves. HEARTS AND MINDS
The Boks are adapting the open gameplan of the Lions. RUNNING GAME