The best from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina battle it out for a place in our team of the week
Last Updated: 21/07/15 11:18am
The big three from down south have all started their World Cup preparations as New Zealand beat Argentina 39-18 and Australia sneaked past South Africa with a last-gasp 24-20 win on Saturday.
There were some impressive performances as players desperately try to lock down their places on the plane for the 2015 World Cup in England.
Here are the players who impressed us after the first round of the Rugby Championship.
15. Israel Folau
With an impressive 23 carries and 108 metres made, Folau was a real challenge for the challenging Springbok defence – in fact he managed to beat ten of their defenders and kept the Wallabies on the front foot on attack. He was dependable under the high ball – though would have been disappointed that Bryan Habana beat him in the air which resulted in Eben Etzebeth scoring for the Boks.
14. Waisake Naholo
The World Cup will be poorer for losing one of its potential stars after he broke his leg on his debut for the All Blacks. Showed his power and his pace against the Pumas and we wish him a speedy recovery.
13. Tevita Kuridrani
Jesse Kriel had a wonderful debut for the Boks and Ma’a Nonu was impressive as well but the No 13 jersey has to go to the Wallaby hero. Smashed into the green wall time and time again and scored the match-winning try.
12. Sonny Bill Williams
You know what is coming with his offload game but there is nothing you can do about it! Made some wonderful offloads that should have resulted in more points for the All Blacks. Put in a great effort without the ball too in defence and went looking for work.
11. Charles Piutau
A good day with 76 metres made by the All Black winger – showed plenty of strength in defence and in attack and scored a great try by getting through Pumas prop Ramiro Herrera from short range.
10. Dan Carter
Not a great week for the No 10 jersey with no one really standing out. In the end we went for Carter who along with McCaw made his final appearance in an All Black jersey in front of their home crowd. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen wants even more from the fly-half but he kicked 14 points and made sure Perenara’s ball supply was used well by the backs.
9. TJ Perenara
We would have liked to have seen him sniping away at the Pumas' defence a bit more but he gave his backline with a steady supply of quick and quality ball. His out-of-hand kicking was effective from the base of the ruck.
1. Tony Woodcock
Showed there is plenty of scrummaging left in his 34-year-old body as he was the anchor for New Zealand against the traditionally strong Puma forwards.
2. Agustin Creevy
The pick of the Pumas pack who were a little off the pace against New Zealand. Still, Creevy never stopped rallying his troops and was rewarded with two tries after some text-book lineout drives.
3. Jannie Du Plessis
Du Plessis stepped up tremendously against Australia and produced one of his best performances in recent memory. The Bok scrum’s dominance ended when he went off injured, which will be a huge concern for Heyneke Meyer. Apart from doing his job in the set pieces, Du Plessis also played his part in defence with eight solid efforts.
4. Eben Etzebeth
Etzebeth gets better and better and was not fazed when Victor Matfield went off early on in the game. Carried exceptionally well and was rock-solid in defence. Caused all sorts of problems at the Wallaby lineout and stole four. Was also good value for his try.
5. Brodie Retallick
A huge engine and not afraid to take on anyone – was in top form at the lineout and make some telling runs with the ball in hand that took more than one defender to bring him down.
6. Marcell Coetzee
Always solid for the Boks and his work-rate was once again exceptional – performed admirably on the other side of the scrum. Leaving the field with an injury swung the breakdown momentum back to Australia, especially with the introduction of David Pocock. Bok coach Heyneke Meyer will be desperate to see him back in time for the All Blacks.
7. Richie McCaw
The All Black skipper equalled George Gregan’s record for the most caps for one country with 139 with a polished performance against Argentina. Took his try well, was his usual irritating self at the breakdown and marshalled his troops well against a determined Pumas.
8. Schalk Burger
The experimental back row of Schalk Burger, Marcell Coetzee and Francois Louw was one positive that South Africa can take from that heartbreaking loss. Burger was immense in the No 8 jersey both as a ball carrier and in defence where he led the overall tackle count with 20.