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South Africa and Australia with points to prove in Rugby Championship round three

South Africa and Australia with points to prove in Rugby Championship round three

South Africa and Australia with points to prove in Rugby Championship round three

Australia and South Africa both have points to prove when they lock horns in round three of the Rugby Championship on Saturday.

With just a point separating the four southern hemisphere teams, the competition really couldn’t be much tighter.

Argentina are the shock early leaders and might fancy themselves to take another massive scalp when they travel to New Zealand.

And the Wallabies and Springboks will still be smarting from their respective defeats last time out as they go head-to-head in Adelaide.

It truly is all still to play for, and anyone’s guess who will top the pile by the end of September.

South Africa to defy history? 

The world champions had punished the All-Blacks in Mbombela and were expected to extend New Zealand’s poor run of form to six defeats in seven matches.

But at Ellis Park, an under-pressure Ian Foster engineered a much-improved performance that saw two converted tries from David Havili and Scott Barrett in the final six minutes to overturn a narrow two-point lead.

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They became only the third team, after Wales and Australia, to better the Boks on their own turf since their World Cup triumph in 2019.

South Africa now travel Down Under with history against them; a seven-match winless streak against the Wallabies in Australia stretching back to 2013.

But Dave Rennie’s injury-hit side looked far from fluid in their shock 48-17 defeat in San Juan – Argentina’s record victory over the Wallabies.

They struggled to cope with the Pumas’ aerial bombardment, and in preparation for South Africa’s strong kicking game, the experienced Reece Hodge has been drafted in at full-back as part of six changes.

All eyes will be on young Noah Lolesio too; the fly-half is seen as the Wallabies’ long-term successor to the stricken Quade Cooper who steered his team to back-to-back wins over the Springboks last year.

Noah Lolesio kicks 13/7/2021

But an Achilles injury to Cooper in Australia’s 41-26 round one victory over Argentina has given the 22-year-old an opportunity to prove himself after he was dropped following the series-deciding defeat to England in July.

Meanwhile, Faf de Klerk returns at scrum-half for the Springboks after his concussion in the second All-Blacks Test.

The only other change to Jacques Nienaber’s XV sees DHL Stormers’ Warrick Gelant replace the injured Jesse Kriel on the wing.

Pumas to pounce or All Blacks to get back on track? 

Argentina have never beaten New Zealand in their own backyard.

But coach Michael Cheika has presided over a period of sustained improvement that culminated in a storming display against his native Australia.

And with questions still lingering over a bruised All-Blacks side, despite a much-needed win in Johannesburg, now could be the Puma’s best chance yet to make history.

However, Argentina will still need their top stars to step up if they are to beat the three-time world champions.

Gallo

Winger Emiliano Boffelli, number eight Pablo Matera, and captain Julian Montoya will all look to keep up their sparkling form.

Cheika has made three changes to the starting line-up that emerged victorious in San Juan, Lucio Cinti starting on the wing in place of Juan Imhoff who was left out of the squad entirely. Matias Orlando also starts at inside centre to replace the injured Jeronimo de la Fuente.

Ian Foster, on the other hand, decided to name an unchanged XV with star fly-half Richie Mo’unga hoping to find consistency after impressing against South Africa.

His opposite number Santiago Carreras is more often found in the back three, and will surely be put through his paces against a wounded and hungry New Zealand team.

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