New Zealand and South Africa both have a chance at glory after the closest tournament since the Tr-Nations became The Rugby Championship.
All four countries had a realistic chance at winning this year’s southern hemisphere title depending on their Rugby Championship Round Five results.
The 2022 Rugby Championship has reached the final round of the tournament and everything hangs in the balance.
Defending champions New Zealand edged Australia 39-37 in a thrilling but controversial Bledisloe Cup Test match in Melbourne last Thursday.
On Saturday, South Africa scored twice late against Argentina to claim a 36-20 bonus-point win to keep their alive tournament hopes.
The All Blacks lead the tournament standings by 14 points. South Africa also has 14 points but they are 13 points behind the Kiwis in points differential.
If both South Africa and New Zealand win their matches, it could come down to whoever grabs a bonus point win.
Moreover, if the teams match each other in earning bonus points, it will come down to the points difference.
South Africa would need to beat Argentina by a greater margin than New Zealand beat Australia.
Australia and Argentina, however, have both delivered some upsets this year, so really anything could happen and anyone could beat anyone.
The Wallabies could still win the tournament. The Aussies would need to beat the All Blacks and claim a bonus point, and Los Pumas would have to thrash the Boks by more than 30 points.
One major advantage South Africa holds is that as they play second, they will know the result of New Zealand and Australia’s match in Auckland.
The Springboks will therefore know exactly what they have to do to win the title unless the All Blacks blow out the Aussies.
New Zealand doesn’t have that luxury, and the defending champions will have to go all out for a big result that will push them far enough ahead of South Africa and into safety.
New Zealand v Australia Rugby Championship Rd.6 Preview
Injuries hamper All Blacks, who will have a new captain when Sam Whitelock takes over from Sam Cane in Bledisloe Cup II at Eden Park, Auckland.
The All Blacks have named Sam Whitelock to lead their team in their Bledisloe Cup clash with the Wallabies.
Injuries have forced changes to the All Blacks team that defeated Australia in Melbourne. Captain Sam Cane, Scott Barrett, David Havili and Quinn Tupaea are unavailable for selection this week.
Whitelock will captain from the boiler room, and the All Blacks have also brought No.8 Ardie Savea back from parental leave. Savea takes Hoskins Sotutu’s place, and Sotutu drops to the bench.
He will take his place in a loose forward trio featuring Dalton Papali’i at the openside flank, and Akira Ioane on the blindside.
With Havili and Tupaea out of the midfield selection frame, the All Blacks have retained a key combination that finished the Bledisloe Cup Test in Melbourne.
Jordie Barrett will play second-five eighths while brother Beauden will stay at fullback for the run-on team.
The front row sees experienced hooker Codie Taylor selected in the run-on side, while Samisoni Taukei’aho will provide cover alongside props Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Nepo Laulala.
Lock Tupou Vaa’i, midfielder Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and outside back Sevu Reece are the other new faces added to the reserves.
“This year’s Rugby Championship is so tightly contested and our group is continuing to make shifts to improve,” said All Blacks head coach Ian Foster.
“We are determined to finish the tournament strongly and we know that Australia will throw everything at us. This is what Test match rugby is all about and we can’t wait.
“Saturday’s sold-out double-header at Eden Park is special for our two national teams. We are right in behind the Black Ferns as they take on Japan and we all wish them well.”
Australia hand a rare start to Harry Wilson as Darcy Swain is banned for six weeks after his horror cleanout of Quinn Tupaea in Bledisloe Cup I in Melbourne.
Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie has recalled back rower Harry Wilson for the second Bledisloe Test at Eden Park in Auckland. Wilson, who last started on the flank against England in Sydney, reverts to his favoured number eight.
This pushes Rob Valetini to blindside flanker, with Rob Leota (Achilles) ruled out for the rest of the season.
Cadeyrn Neville, who has fully recovered from a knee injury, partners Jed Holloway in the second row following a sternum injury to Matt Philip.
“It’s great to have Cadeyrn available, and Harry’s been working really hard to earn another opportunity in the gold jersey, so we’re excited for both of them,” Rennie said in a statement.
“The side parked the disappointment of the last Test early in the week and we have plenty to play for in Auckland on Saturday night.
“New Zealand supporters expect that the All Blacks win at Eden Park, and we’re excited to get another crack at them at their spiritual home.”
The starting backline remains unchanged, with Jake Gordon and Bernard Foley once again combining in the halves.
Waratahs prop Angus Bell will make his first appearance of this year’s Rugby Championship off the bench. Nick Frost will offer youthful exuberance and athleticism from the bench.
All Blacks versus Wallabies historical records:
New Zealand and Australia have played 174 Test matches dating back to 1903 in Sydney, New South Wales. The All Blacks have won 121 matches, lost 45 games, and drawn eight times.
The All Blacks’ 121 wins give them a record of winning 70% of their matches against the Wallabies.
This weekend, the match will be played in Auckland, New Zealand, which is a fortress for the All Blacks.
The Kiwis are on a 47-match unbeaten streak at Eden Park since a 1994 defeat to France. The Wallabies have not won at the famous old ground since 1986 (36 years).
The defending champions have an incredible 86% win rate at Eden Park since 1921, losing just nine times in 91 Tests (only five in the last 63 years).
In 80 home Tests versus Australia played on Kiwi soil, the All Blacks have won 62 matches and lost 15.
This gives the All Blacks a record of winning 79% of their matches against the Wallabies at home in The Land of the Long White Cloud.
Last five results:
15 Sep 2022 – Australia 37-39 New Zealand at Marvel Stadium, Melbourne
05 Sep 2021 – Australia 21-38 New Zealand at Optus Stadium, Perth
14 Aug 2021 – New Zealand 57-22 Australia at Eden Park, Auckland
07 Aug 2021 – New Zealand 33-25 Australia at Eden Park, Auckland
07 Nov 2020 – Australia 24-22 New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Match: New Zealand v Australia
Date: Saturday, 24 September
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off Local: 04:05 ARG/09:05 RSA/17:05 AUS [AEST]/19:05 NZ
Referee: Andrew Brace [IRE]
Assistant Ref 1: Matthieu Raynal [FRA]
Assistant Ref 2: Pierre Brousset [FRA]
TMO: Ben Whitehouse [WAL]
15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Dalton Papali’i, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Samuel Whitelock (captain), 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Ethan de Groot
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Hoskins Sotutu, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 23 Sevu Reece
15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Pete Samu, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 David Porecki, 1 James Slipper (captain)
Replacements: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Pone Fa’amausili, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Fraser McReight, 21 Nic White, 22 Reece Hodge, 23 Jordan Petaia
South Africa v Argentina Rugby Championship Rd.6 Preview
South Africa makes two changes to the side that beat Argentina in Buenos Aires, while the evergreen Frans Steyn moves to the cursed flyhalf position for the Springboks’ do-or-die showdown in Durban.
Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber made only two changes to his starting team for Saturday’s final round of the 2022 Rugby Championship Test against Argentina at Kings Park.
Sbu Nkosi and Kurt-Lee Arendse are both recalled to the squad. Nkosi has recovered from an ankle injury and Arendse has served his four-week suspension for a dangerous tackle against the All blacks in Nelspruit.
Nienaber has also opted to name six forwards and two backs on the replacements bench as the Boks revert to their favoured 6:2 split.
Experienced utility back Frans Steyn will start at flyhalf in place of the injured Damian Willemse. Steyn last played flyhalf for the Boks against Italy at Newlands back in 2008.
Pieter Steph du Toit returns to the starting lineup at flank in place of Franco Mostert, who will provide an impact off the bench.
The notable changes amongst the replacements are the return of hooker Bongi Mbonambi, who makes a welcome return from a knee injury, and Arendse, who has completed his suspension.
Mbonambi is in for Deon Fourie and Arendse for André Esterhuizen.
Mbonambi will be joined by strong reinforcements in prop Vincent Koch and No.8 Duane Vermeulen, who join Mostert and Kwagga Smith as the forwards on the bench.
Faf de Klerk and Arendse, meanwhile, will provide cover amongst the backs, with De Klerk earmarked as the back-up scrumhalf and flyhalf cover. Arendse will cover fullback and wing depending on how the match unfolds.
The Springboks are currently level on 14 points with New Zealand on the Rugby Championship log and trail the All Blacks by 13 points on points difference.
The Boks will know exactly what they need to do to clinch the title when they take the field because the All Blacks will have hosted Australia in Auckland earlier in the day.
“We showed in the first half last week what we are capable of and our fighting spirit in the dying minutes was admirable,” said Nienaber.
“That made it easy for us to opt for continuity in selection in the starting lineup. Obviously the one change was injury-enforced as Damian Willemse has been ruled out due to concussion, and we were pleased [with] the calmness Frans Steyn brought at flyhalf when Damian left the field.
“The energy and enthusiasm Pieter-Steph [du Toit] has been showing at training has also been great, and we know what he is capable of in this loose trio, so I am sure he will make an impact among the loose forwards.”
Michael Cheika calls on Durban hat-trick hero Juan Imhoff to inspire lacklustre Los Pumas.
Michael Cheika also makes two changes to the starting XV that lost 20-36 to the Boks in Buenos Aires in Round Five.
Juan Imhoff takes over the No.11 jersey from Lucio Cinti.
Imhoff famously scored three tries in Argentina’s 37-25 famous first-ever win against the Springboks in Durban in 2015.
Matías Moroni, who scored a stunning try from the bench last weekend, gets promoted to the starting line-up in the only other change. Moroni comes in for Matías Orlando in the midfield.
Cheika has also made three changes to his bench, including two new inclusions.
Mayco Vivas takes over the No.17 jersey from Thomás Gallo, while the uncapped lock Pedro Rubiolo comes in for Rodrigo Bruni in the boiler room.
Winger Bautista Delguy takes Moroni’s spot on the bench.
Springboks versus Los Pumas historical record:
South Africa has played Argentina 33 times since 1993, and the Springboks have won 29 matches, lost 3 times, and drawn once.
The Springboks’ 29 wins give them a record of winning 88% of their matches against Los Pumas.
In 14 home matches played on South African soil, the Springboks have won 13 Tests and lost once.
This gives the Springboks a record of winning 93% of their matches against the Pumas at home.
Last five results:
17 Sep 2022 – Argentina 20-36 South Africa at Estadio Libertadores de America, Buenos Aires
21 Aug 2021 – South Africa 29-10 Argentina at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
14 Aug 2021 – South Africa 32-12 Argentina at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
17 Aug 2019 – South Africa 24-18 Argentina at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
10 Aug 2019 – Argentina 13-46 South Africa Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena, Salta
Match: South Africa v Argentina
Date: Saturday, 24 September
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off Local: 12:05 ARG/17:05 RSA/ 02:05 AUS [AEST Sunday 25]/04:05 NZ [Sunday 25]
Referee: Damon Murphy [AUS]
Assistant Ref: Frank Murphy [IRE]
Assistant Ref 2: Andrea Piardi [ITA]
TMO: Chris Hart [NZ]
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Frans Steyn, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 17 Retshegofaditswe Nche, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Duane Vermeulen, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Francois de Klerk, 23 Kurt-Lee Arendse
15 Juan Cruz Mallía, 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Jerónimo De La Fuente, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Pablo Matera, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Juan Martín González, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Matías Alemanno, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Julián Montoya (captain), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Replacements: 16 Agustín Creevy, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Joel Sclavi, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Pedro Rubiolo, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Benjamín Urdapilleta, 23 Bautista Delguy