Ahead of the start of The Rugby Championship – which starts August 18, live & exclusive on OSN Sports 4 HD
– we look at the four teams vying for glory and share our predictions for the tournament.
Spoiler alert: The All Blacks will more than likely win it…
New Zealand's All Blacks
New Zealand are simply a powerhouse with no sign of slowing. In the six years since The Rugby Championship was revamped to include Argentina, the fearsome All Blacks have amassed 30 wins from 33 matches, with a faintly ludicrous positive points difference of almost 600. A June whitewash of France afforded an opportunity to fine tune their side and there is little to suggest they will walk away with anything other than another Rugby Championship crown when the dust of this year’s tournament settles in October.
Last year’s competition saw the All Blacks finish undefeated for the second year in a row and included an imperious 54-34 victory in Sydney against the Wallabies and a 57-0 rout of the Springboks. Their six wins underlined their dominance of Southern Hemisphere rugby union, giving them their fifth outright title since the tournament was expanded to included Argentina in 2012.
A spirited defeat to Ireland in June’s Test series did little to change the idea that the Wallabies remain a work in progress. Currently ranked fifth, there is little expectation beyond partisan hope that Australia will end New Zealand’s dominance of The Rugby Championship. Round three’s match with the Springboks will be pivotal for deciding who finishes behind New Zealand and could be the standout fixture in this year’s Championship. Last year, both games between the sides ended in draws and something has got to give this time around.
The green and gold will cling to the memory of 2015’s 27-19 win over their arch rivals, the last time a Southern Hemisphere side bloodied the All Blacks’ noses. The less said about the 179 points conceded last year the better, however. Defensive improvement will be key to turning 2017 draws into victories, but a resurgent South Africa will offer a stern test home and away.
South African Springboks
A series win over the higher-ranked England in June gives the Springboks every reason to be optimistic about their chances in this year’s Rugby Championship. They won’t have enough to break New Zealand’s stranglehold on the title but should offer plenty in the Tests against Australia.
Balancing the attacking verve they offered in the first Test against England with the brutal defensive game they played in the second Test will be key but if they combine to positive effect, expect the Springboks to finish Rugby Championship runners-up for the first time since 2014.
The phrase slim-to-none springs to mind when considering the chances of the hard-hitting Pumas, who have only avoided the Rugby Championship’s wooden spoon on one occasion in the six editions in which they have participated. From 33 matches they have a paltry three wins, so progress for them will be turning valiant efforts such as in the 39-22 defeat in New Plymouth last year into meaningful results. Even one win could be considered a successful campaign, given they lost every TRC Test in 2017.
Hopes will be pinned on the home games against the Springboks and Wallabies, while the Tests against the All Blacks will be exercises in damage limitation.
The Wooden Spoon
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