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Storming South Africa look to compound All Blacks’ misery in Rugby Championship round two

Storming South Africa look to compound All Blacks’ misery in Rugby Championship round two

Storming South Africa look to compound All Blacks’ misery in Rugby Championship round two

After a commanding victory in round one of The Rugby Championship, a second consecutive win for South Africa over New Zealand could go some way to cementing their status as the southern hemisphere’s dominant force.

It was a typically assured performance from the Springboks in Nelspruit, as the All Blacks struggled to combat their hosts’ dominance at the set piece and in contact.

Injury-ravaged Australia enjoyed less control against Argentina, but victory came courtesy of a spirited second-half showing, one which tasted particularly sweet after a season of gains that have not been reflected with results.

As the teams prepare to lock horns once more, we take a look at all you need to know ahead of round two.

Super Springboks and awesome Australia star in Rugby Championship

South Africa at their brilliant best

Wales’ surprise win over South Africa in the summer internationals is now a distant memory for Jacques Nienaber’s reinvigorated side.

They were back to their best in Mbombela, casting New Zealand aside with ease and the manner of victory would have made ominous viewing in the northern hemisphere.

Such is the depth available to Nienaber he can afford to rest last week’s star of the show, Malcolm Marx, with Bongi Mbonambi coming in at hooker.

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Marx was an unstoppable force on his 50th Test cap, winning five breakdown penalties during the emphatic 26-10 triumph.

Another milestone comes in the front row this week, with prop Frans Malherbe bringing up his half century.

The world champions are going from strength to strength, and another win this weekend would put them well on course for only their second Rugby Championship title since the tournament’s expansion in 2012.

Pressure on for Foster and New Zealand

Since being crowned world champions in 2019, South Africa have lost just twice on home soil.

Based on the evidence of last week, it would be a surprise if New Zealand were to join Australia and Wales in that exclusive Bok-beating club on Saturday.

Ian Foster has made four changes ahead of his side’s trip to Ellis Park, the most eye-catching of which comes at fly-half, with Richie Mo’unga replacing Beauden Barrett.

 

Mo’Unga will be tasked with unlocking a South Africa defence which was breached on just one occasion last weekend, a late consolation for replacement flanker Shannon Frizell, who is rewarded with a start this time round.

Foster will also hope that Mo’unga can restore balance in the kick contest too, another facet of the game in which New Zealand were thoroughly outclassed.

They have now lost three consecutive games for the first time since 1998, and Foster will be eager for an end to the unwanted streak.

Can depleted Australia build on comeback win?

It would be fair to say that Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie is due a bit of luck. On the eve of their first test in Mendoza, captain Michael Hooper opted to return home to Australia, suggesting he was not in the right frame of mind to play the game.

Then, trailing 19-10 just after half-time, fly-half Quade Cooper limped off after rupturing his achilles tendon.

Quade Cooper

But the replacements for those talismanic figures more than held their own, each playing a key role in the 41-26 victory.

Flankers Fraser McReight and Jed Holloway boast just four international appearances between them but played with a maturity and composure far beyond their years in the second period after a tricky opening 40, while Reece Hodge kicked nine crucial points to help steer Australia to victory.

Debutant Holloway was reduced to tears post-match having feared his rugby career was over after being cut by the Waratahs in 2020.

More of that fighting spirit will be needed this weekend, with as many as 14 possible starters sidelined.

Cheika adamant that Argentina will resolve set-piece woe

Three of Australia’s five tries came from mauls, leaving Argentina head coach Michael Cheika in little doubt as to where the game was lost.

Lock Matias Alemanno was yellow carded for an illegal attempt to thwart a driving maul midway through the second half, and so cutting out individual mistakes will be high on Cheika’s agenda too.

He will be keen to get one over his fellow countrymen and former employers, and a win in just his fifth match in charge of the Pumas would be his first big scalp.

Their fast start last weekend offers cause for encouragement, but they will need to be more clinical if they are to see out victory in San Juan.

Argentina certainly had the run of the first half and forced a disjointed Wallabies team to concede nine first-half penalties. But they could not capitalise on those chances, failing to build a lead which their dominance deserved.

Cheika will hope that three changes in the back line – at scrum-half, centre and wing – add a clinical edge to a side growing in confidence by the week as they continue their transition towards a more front-footed style of rugby.

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