Rugby Championship: Springboks and Wallabies keen to make amends
Last Updated: 03/09/14 3:09pm
Michael Hooper scores a consolation try for Australia against New Zealand
The Rugby Championship returns to Sky Sports this weekend with a pair of exciting clashes to rival the opening two rounds of fixtures.
In the first of our two fxtures on Sky Sports this weekend, the All Blacks host Argentina in Napier, with both teams out to prove that their performances from the first two rounds were a sign of good form rather than just good fortune.
The Pumas pushed the Springboks all the way in both of their encounters and completely dominated Heyneke Meyer’s men at scrum time.
Though the first game was marred by horrendous weather conditions in Pretoria, the Boks were left with no excuses in the return match when they were forced to rely on Morne Steyn’s boot to get them out of jail with just three minutes remaining when they edged their hosts 33-31.
The Pumas' backs were once again fortunate enough to play behind a pack of forwards who were in absolute control of the physical exchanges with their counterparts, but this year they have shown the kind of slick handling and accurate kicking out of hand that has betrayed their historical inconsistency in this tournament.
Ably spearheaded by the increasingly confident Sanchez in the fly-half berth, the Argentine outfit will head to New Zealand with a determined resolve to prove that they were unfortunate to lose to the Springboks both times, rather than fortunate to lose by seemingly less than expected.
The New Zealanders opened up their Championship campaign with a lacklustre draw against an Australian team that promised plenty in the build up to Round One.
Both teams rightly felt aggrieved to have to settle for a draw but it was the All Blacks who were better at proving why in the following round when they demolished the ordinary-looking Wallabies 51-20.
Steve Hansen’s team will be eager to sound a warning to the rest of the world and prove that brushing aside the third-best team in the world was not a one off.
The Australians will have been left reeling after conceding a record score to their Trans-Tasman rivals in Round Two and now face the tough procedure of getting their campaign back on track against a wounded Springbok squad who have yet to fire.
A Springbok team in poor form is still a physical team, and with key injuries to players such as Stephen Moore the remaining Wallabies have a real test ahead of them on Saturday.
Both these packs of forwards were second best in their respective opening fixtures, so expect the battle of the breakdown to be even more hotly contested as bruised egos doubtlessly give way to bruised bodies by the end of a crucial 80 minutes in Perth.
The Springboks will now be feeling the pressure after taking just eight log points from their opening two rounds.
They will have targeted bonus point-tries in both fixtures but now have left themselves with precious little breathing room and will realise that in order to win this tournament they certainly can’t afford to lose this weekend.
Both games are set to define the respective Championship ambitions off all four teams, so expect the intensity and level of skill to define that.
New Zealand v Argentina, live on Sky Sports 3 on Saturday from 8am
Australia v South Africa, live on Sky Sports 3 on Saturday from 10.30am