Following the heart breaking results from the World Cup last weekend, for the first time ever no northern hemisphere side will feature in the semi-final line up. The southern hemisphere are really showing their dominance more than ever. First, we need to take a look at the quality of play and players that they have to offer. In George North, Wales have one of the biggest and most feared wingers in world rugby. However, when Wales exited the tournament he hadn’t scored a single try. Compare that to New Zealand’s Julian Savea who, after being told to work on his fitness or risk losing his place in the squad, has already scored eight tries in the tournament and it’s clear to see that Wales’ backs are significantly behind the All Blacks in their ability to score tries.
Johnny Wilkinson was the star of Martin Johnson’s World Cup winning squad in 2003, but they haven’t been able to replicate his talent. Australia have developed centurions like Matt Giteau and Stephen Moore who follow in the footsteps of Aussie greats David Campese, John Eales and Michael Lynagh of world cups gone by.
The mental attitude of the players also separates the northern and southern hemisphere teams and was visible in two, if not three, of the quarter finals over the weekend. First up was South Africa v Wales, for large parts of that match Wales held a narrow lead and never looked like conceding a try. Despite this, South Africa were never up against it or the clock. The moment Fourie du Preez crossed the try line for what would turn out to be the match winning score, Wales were instantly up against the clock and weren’t able to keep their cool to get into a position to regain the lead and stay in the tournament.
24 hours later Scottish hearts were broken as Bernard Foley kicked a penalty in the last minute that would send the Aussies through to the last four. Despite trailing in the first half, Australia never stopped playing and by making the decision to go to the corner following a penalty instead of taking the three points on offer, they were rewarded with a Michael Hooper try to reduce the deficit to a point.
This perseverance is why the southern hemisphere sides dominate. They play until the final whistle and never give up, whilst the top European sides try and kill time, which more often than not results in conceding points that cost them the game.
Although we are used to the domination of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, few predicted that Argentina would run riot over the Irish last Sunday, securing their place in the semi-finals with a performance that shows how much the South American side has benefited from joining The Rugby Championships. The way Nicolas Sanchez has developed into one of the best outside halves in the world with his vision and goal kicking ability shows that defeating the big three southern hemisphere nations has made them improve dramatically and become another major force in world rugby.
As we look ahead to an exciting weekend of semi-finals, the northern hemisphere captains can only dream of lifting the Webb Ellis trophy, considering it’s only four years until the next chance and if they use that time wisely, and learn from their mistakes of this world cup, they can develop players who can play expansive rugby and who are mentally tough enough to compete on a par with the best teams on the other side of the world.
Image (Evening Standard; Fox Sport)