Posted 1 years ago

Rugby General

The unpredictability of Test rugby

The unpredictability of Test rugby
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Test rugby is more challenging and unpredictable, than ever before. As the results of the Rugby Championship have shown us, domination by a single team is increasingly unlikely. While the All Blacks of New Zealand have done so for a prolonged period, this monopoly is potentially over. In the 2022 season, Wales have been defeated by Italy for the first time in Cardiff, the All Blacks have been defeated for the first time by Argentina and Ireland in New Zealand, while South Africa have been defeated for the first time at home, by Wales.

 This does not imply that the leading order of rugby has ceased to exist. Considering the resources available to more established teams, the winners of the World Cup next year are still expected to be among the teams from New Zealand, England, France, South Africa, or Ireland. However, the current trends, with competitive performances from many teams, is sure to pique further interest in the sport from fans worldwide.

This is also favourable for organizers – whether of the World Cup or the URC - who are assured of more crowds attending and following matches, when there is a larger probability of the defeat of, say, theStormers at the hands of the Benetton or that of the Bulls defeating Leinster.

 The effects of the unpredictability of this season on the South African team are visible, with pressure building on head coach Jacques Nienaber, who recently revealed the team who will be playing the Australia Test.The changes in the South African squad that has been announced involve the change of eight players. This is due to the injuries of several players including the crucial trio of Pieter Step du Toit, Handre Pollard and Lukhanyo Am.

This provides an opportunity for other team members to leave a mark, including Damien Willemse and Canan Moodie. Furthermore, rugby teams are announced much earlier, unlike football, where the starting eleven is made public right before a match - a practice that rugby could benefit from, given the current dynamic nature of the sport.

 Analysing team performances have also become tricky, as one cannot simply evaluate it based on individual performances. Thus, while Kwagga Smith and Ardie Savea may be playing well, the overall performance of the Springboks or the All Blacks, depends on the entire team, including the interaction between players, coaches, and their administrators.

Hence, in the months leading up to the World Cup, teams need to manage the expectations and training loads they expose their players to, and this must be in line with the changing needs of the game. The fight for the coveted trophy will surely be a well-contested one.

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