Wales were able to overcome South Africa in both teams’ final autumn game, mounting more misery on the Springboks after an awful European tour, and more pressure on coach Allister Coetzee.
In a game which sadly underlined a series of wins amid disappointing performances, Wales again produced little flair were it not for the box-office contribution of the excellent Justin Tipuric. The Ospreys flanker has surely done enough to usurp Wales’ Regular Captain Sam Warburton of the number 7 jersey in the opinions of many, including myself. going into this game, I felt Tipuric’s stature meant the home team would miss Warburton’s physical presence. Any absence felt, however, was outweighed by the ambition and vision of Tipuric, who capped a fine day at the office with the game’s most entertaining score: a neat pop-up pass from the returning Taulupe Faletau released Tipuric to sidestep the Springbok defence and score beneath the posts.
I really hope Tipuric remains injury free for the Six Nations, and of course continues his excellent form for Wales. If he does, I think he has an excellent chance of representing the British and Irish Lions next summer.
I must admit, having seen some enormous performances from Ireland and – in particular – England throughout the autumn, as well as some much improved displays from an exciting-looking, rejuvenated Scotland, there could be a small few representatives from Wales on the next Lions tour. England have been magnificent in my eyes. They are playing with a ruthlessness and belief I haven’t seen for some time. In their final Autumn game, against Australia, they showed resilience to put a three-point half-time deficit behind them, emerging 37-21 winners. Their variety of play has been superb, with Owen Farrell and Ben Youngs being key performers.
The Six Nations will be trialling a bonus-point scoring system in the spring, and I can’t wait to see how it affects the quality and nature of the games. Teams will now be awarded for scoring four tries, and even losing sides will be awarded a point if they lose by 7 or less. I really hope this puts a really positive spin on proceedings, as some of last year’s fixtures looked positively drab compared to the Southern Hemisphere’s Super Rugby matches (which kicked off during the Six Nations). This could really bring the best out of players like Tipuric, and will of course be the last chance to impress the Lions selectors in national colours.