R4 review: Springboks upset All Blacks, Pumas edge Wallabies

What an absorbing Round 4 of the Rugby Championship we witnessed at the weekend.

If the Springboks' win over the All Blacks, their first in nine years, wasn't enough, the gripping finale on the Gold Coast certainly capped off a sensational few hours of rugby action.

When three Pumas players scrambled to tackle Israel Folau in the 80th minute, ending 35 long years of Argentine devastation Down Under, Australian rugby slumped further into the abyss.

Read on as we break down some of the big talking points from Round 4.


Peiter-Steph du Toit's tears epitomised Springboks' effort

The Springboks must have woken up feeling a bit tender on Sunday morning, their bodies stiff after making close to 240 tackles on the field against the All Blacks and their heads pounding following more than just a couple of pints afterwards.

Following a rather lacklustre and uninspiring start to their two-game Rugby Championship roadtrip against Argentina and Australia, the Boks put in one of the gutsiest and spirited, but also efficient, displays ever seen on a rugby field.

If you look at the stats from the match, you would be forgiven to think that that All Blacks gave the South Africans a similar hiding to the one they dished out in Albany last year. New Zealand had 75 percent of the possession, 79 percent territory, made 400 more run metres than the Springboks and attempted 61 tackles compared to the visitors' astonishing 235 attempts.

With these sorts of numbers you would expect the ruthless All Blacks to win by about 30 points, but such was the Boks' intensity on defence that they forced the home side into making elementary mistakes, and a few silly ones too.

The Springboks basically tackled themselves into the ground, making hit after hit on the advantage line, where they met the All Blacks with force and aggression. They also scrambled fantastically well, while their scrum didn't move an inch in those frenetic last 10 minutes.

Pieter-Steph du Toit was South Africa's top tackler with 24 tackles. That is more than half of the 41 tackles the home side completed on the night. When the final whistle blew, the Stormers forward cried on his teammates' shoulders. They were tears of relief, joy and a true indication of how much he, as well as his teammates, put in to come out victorious in Wellington.

Boks broke free from attacking shackles

The All Blacks are known for their razzle-dazzle, power and efficiency on attack. But they also pride themselves on their water-tight defence, which is in your face and offers few opportunities. So, if a team enjoys 25 percent possession against them, you would think that they wouldn't have a realistic chance of scoring a try.

But the Boks scored five, and some real gems as well. Not all of the Springboks' tries came from mistakes forced by their abrasive style and line speed on defence. The first try was a wonderfully constructed piece of play which originated from a lineout. In the first two away matches the Boks were predictable, as they attacked quite close to the rucks. But for their first try they varied the point of attack, which eventually created space out wide for the supreme finisher Aphiwe Dyantyi to score.

The second try came from an All Blacks mistake when Jordie Barrett erred in taking a quick lineout, while the third try was a powerful maul after a brave decision by captain Siya Kolisi to have a go at the New Zealanders from a lineout. The fourth try was as a result of the Boks' line speed on defence, as replacement win Cheslin Kolbe gobbled up a loose pass to run in untouched to score.

The Boks' fifth started in their own half when a fabulous Elton Jantjies pass set tighthead prop Frans Malherbe (of all people!) away down the middle. Some slick offloading by the forwards and then another top pass by Jantjies got the ball to Dyantyi, who stepped his way over the line.

In the past, the Boks' top defensive display would be negated by their lack of try-scoring opportunities. This time, though, they basically scored points every time they visited New Zealand's 22.

Barrett's inconsistent goal-kicking finally catches ABs

For all the Springboks' passion, guts and endeavour with just 25 percent of the ball, they would have lost the match had All Blacks fly-half Beauden Barrett not suffered another horrible night from the kicking tee.

The current World Rugby Player of the Year could only convert two of the All Blacks' six tries, as he hit the uprights twice on the night. A couple of those kicks were particularly easy, especially those he stroked against the posts.

It's not the first time that Barrett has had a nightmare off the tee in a Test match, with his kicking performance in Bledisloe II immediately coming to mind. However, in that thrashing of Australia, the All Blacks star scored four fantastic tries and created a few more for his teammates.

It's because of his super-human abilities as a rugby player that his average goal-kicking has been ignored. But the defeat at the Westpac Stadium has got people thinking about what could happen in a knockout match at the World Cup if Barrett can't slot his goals.

Coach Steve Hansen, though, backed his player to come good. "Beauden has these nights. He's had them before and then he comes out and kicks a hundred percent the next time. Young [Handre] Pollard hadn't been kicking well up until last night and he goes out and kicks a hundred percent, so that's the nature of goal-kicking," he said after the match.

"Sometimes that hurts you and you've just got to hope that all the stars don't line up in the one night. Last night they did, but the question of how much importance will we put on goal-kicking? Well, that's not going to change. It's always important."

Barrett is a fantastic player, but his goal-kicking should be a big concern for the All Blacks.


Wallabies' loss at least means problems laid bare

Michael Cheika is right when he says that had Israel Folau decided to pass to an unmarked Bernard Foley and Australia had escaped with a win, it wouldn't have changed the previous 79 minutes of inept play.

Sure, the fallout might not have been so severe - including the ugly scenes that followed on the sidelines after fulltime - but it would have merely painted over the cracks of a team that is confused in its approach and continues to struggle executing the game's core skills.

Argentina were deserved winners on the Gold Coast. Put simply, they just wanted it more.

Australia may have scored three tries to two, but they also coughed off 20 turnovers. The lineout, meanwhile, continues to be a problem as they shipped three balls on their own throw while after showing some defensive mettle last week in Brisbane, the Wallabies again slipped off far too many one-on-one tackles on the Gold Coast.

Cheika suggested a different Folau decision would have only continued the "illusion" that the Wallabies are heading in the right direction; as the coach says, it is clear they have a number of "other issues".

So how does the coach set about correcting those problems? After beginning the season with a grinding win over Ireland in Brisbane, a performance that was as much about defensive pressure and a desire to win as anything else, Australia's following six Tests, for which they have just one win, have not been anywhere near the standard required for prolonged international success.

What was clear from Saturday night's result however was how much the Wallabies missed Michael Hooper's enthusiasm, energy and general work-rate. It may not be a traditional back-row setup or one that can genuinely deliver against the best, as a unit, at Test level. But it is clearly the best option the Wallabies have for now, at least until Sean McMahon returns and Isi Naisarani becomes eligible next year.

Just how Cheika picks this team up for the closing weeks of this year's Rugby Championship will be keenly observed. Losses in both Port Elizabeth and Salta would leave surely position untenable; Cheika has a fortnight to turn this misfiring, down-on-confidence group of players around.

Beale No.10 experiment must end immediately

At the top of Cheika's list should be the restoration of Bernard Foley to the Wallabies starting line-up for it is clear that Kurtley Beale is not a Test rugby No.10.

The veteran Wallabies back had a forgettable night on the Gold Coast, spilling a number of simple passes, two of which crashed into his head, and playing so deep behind the advantage line that the Pumas outside defenders could rush up easily and shut down their Australian opposites.

In fairness, the try Will Genia scored to open the Wallabies' account was generated by the depth of Australia's attack. But it should have easily been shut down by winger Ramiro Moyano who was sucked in by Dane Haylett-Petty just as the Wallabies fullback unloaded a superb flick pass.

Beale seems to be confused at No.10. When he is not playing deep, he is running across field. On multiple occasions on Saturday night Beale ran his ball-runner into trouble by drifting too far across the paddock, either missing the chance to offload or being forced in behind the available carrier himself.

Cheika's decision to give Foley a wake-up call certainly had merit, but he clearly has more ability to play flat at the line. It may well be time to trial a Foley-Toomua combination, and shift Beale elsewhere in the backline.

Beale has long done his best work when he has the time and space to create. He is not getting that at fly-half and should be restored to either No.12 or given a crack at fullback. It's often forgotten Beale was nominated for World Rugby Player of the Year playing at the back in 2010.

It was easily the New South Welshman's best season of Test rugby. The reason? Because he had time and space to operate in.

Ledesma exactly where Cheika was in 2015

Mario Ledesma's coaching stocks are rising by the week. It is clear this free-running Pumas outfit are loving the style the former Test front-rower has them playing.

As uneasy as he seemed in securing the victory - Ledesma noted his close ties with Cheika and the Wallabies post game - the Pumas coach will be extremely proud of his side's efforts; the last-ditch tackle on Folau summing up the determination they are playing with at the moment.

The fact that three Pumas players were there to smash Folau as he stepped back inside reflects their desire to perform under their new coach. Ledesma has also freed up their approach, ensuring the devastating back three of Ramiro Moyano, Emiliano Boffelli and Bautista Delguy are in the game as much as possible.

They were asked to make an extra 30 more tackles than the Wallabies on the Gold Coast and still finished with a higher tackling percentage. That tells a story for the Wallabies itself, but the Pumas must also be commended for their commitment; in previous years, they almost certainly lose Saturday night's Test.

But they are now poised to record their best ever finish in the tournament. The All Blacks will head to Buenos Aires stung by their loss to the Springboks, but that fixture should hold no fear for the Argentines given what they've shown over the previous fortnight. For the return clash with the Wallabies, they will be supremely confident.

What is clearly evident in the Pumas' play at the moment is that they are occupying the same sweet spot Cheika himself enjoyed when taking over the Wallabies fulltime in 2015. During that Rugby Championship, the Wallabies reacted to Cheika's methods with vigour and went on to reach the Rugby World Cup final.

Under previous coach Daniel Hourcade, the Pumas had grown weary. Losses to Scotland and Wales (twice) at home in June proved the final straw in Hourcade's tenure, creating the opportunity for Ledesma to take over. That move is already paying dividends, the Pumas are clearly headed in the right direction.