Like has so often been the case over the last 18 months, the global pandemic has not made life easy for anyone involved with the Rugby Championship. However, for all the off-field difficulty, the on-field action has been electric.
This week’s planned Bledisloe Cup tie has been pushed to September 5, with the All Blacks having won the pair’s tournament opener in Auckland. Meanwhile, South Africa have continued to build their momentum by doing the double over Argentina.
All Blacks Continue Domination of Antipodean Rivals
The tournament opened with that 57-22 win for New Zealand against the Wallabies, a week after the Kiwis had won the pair’s first of three Bledisloe Cup meetings 33-25.
Earlier this week, ABs coach Ian Foster signed a new deal to keep him in place until beyond the 2023 World Cup, a tournament his team are
2/1 to win. Foster will now be aiming to prove the NZRU were right to ignore calls to appoint Scott Robertson, who has led the Crusaders to titles in each of his five seasons in charge and is himself a former international back-rower and keep him on.
With Foster’s side holding an unassailable 2-0 lead, this week’s final Bledisloe Cup match has been postponed due to travel restrictions, and as a result, all of the remaining games will take place in Australia.
After squeezing past the British & Irish Lions, South Africa have twice beaten Argentina and top the table. Just as impressively, they have demonstrated their depth by making wholesale changes between their two contests with the Pumas.
All Set for Aussie Excitement
The focus will be on Perth next Saturday, where Australia host New Zealand to complete round two. The final four rounds then take place over four successive weekends, with double-headers taking place in Gold Coast (twice), Brisbane and Townsville.
It may sound negative, but the tournament is likely to come down to the final two weekends where South Africa and New Zealand finally meet.
The controversy surrounding the delayed third Bledisloe Cup match has seen the Springboks,
11/2 to defend their world title in France in two years, aim a slew of barbs at the All Blacks, accusing the Kiwis of trying to avoid them.
South Africa have failed to win the pair’s last three meetings but won this tournament on the back of their previous series win over the Lions, when it was still the Tri-Nations, in 2009.
On the other side of the equation, Australia need to start putting some form together, and their eternal weaknesses upfront are sure to be targetted by Argentina.
As has often been the case, the South Americans were game opponents against South Africa, only to fall short in both matches. However, they also made plenty of changes between the two matches, and former Wallaby forwards coach Mario Ledesma will have his Pumas ready to roll Down Under.
*All odds correct at time of writing.