Rugby Championship R4: All Blacks vs. Springboks, Wallabies vs. Pumas

The Rugby Championship enters its fourth round on Saturday with Wellington and the Gold Coast playing host to back-to-back games on Saturday.

At Westpac Stadium, the seemingly unstoppable All Blacks will take on the Springboks, while the Wallabies will hope to make it two in a row when they play host to the Pumas.

Read on for a complete preview of the weekend's games.

New Zealand vs. South Africa, Westpac Stadium, Wellington, 5.35pm (AEST) Saturday

This used to be one of the great rivals in rugby, a match that got the hearts racing on both sides of the Indian Ocean. For many years this was the unofficial World Cup final in between rugby's showpiece events.

But the two teams have gone on separate paths. The All Blacks are the undisputed force in the game and have taken the sport to new heights, while the Springboks are on this seemingly never-ending and irreversible slide to nowhere.

This once bitter rivalry is no more, because both teams actually have to be competitive. South Africa haven't beaten the All Blacks in New Zealand since 2009 - one of only three wins in the professional era. Last year the Boks were humiliated 57-0 by the All Blacks in Albany when they were given a lesson in all aspects of the game by the men in black.

The Boks are in grave danger of getting another hiding on Saturday in Wellington following two successive defeats against Argentina and Australia in the Rugby Championship. The optimism after the series win over England has turned into angst, and Bok rugby could plummet to another low in Wellington.

The All Blacks, on the other hand, seem to be unbeatable at the moment. Last weekend Los Pumas threw everything at them bar the kitchen sink and still lost by 22 points. And that was against an All Blacks side missing many of their big guns ...

This week, however, the first-team regulars are back to add more misery on the Boks. Sure, the Springboks will be up for the fight when facing the old enemy. They might even still be in the game by halftime. But playing with passion and bleeding for the flag are just not enough to beat the New Zealanders these days. You need to play out of your socks and hope they have an off day.

But, at this stage of the Rassie Erasmus tenure, it's safe to say that the Boks aren't able to do that. At least not yet.

How the All Blacks win it

Basically, they just must show up, don't they? The New Zealanders have got so much attacking threats all over the park, while their bench is amazing. The All Blacks can test the Boks with ball-in-hand, but they also have a marvellous kicking game. Last year in Albany they fed off the Boks' errors and cut them to shreds with some ridiculous counter-attacking rugby. The All Blacks will also Test the fragile South Africans in the wider areas, where they have been exposed defensively in the England series and against Los Pumas and the Wallabies.

How the Springboks win it

The best the Boks can hope for is winning the toss ... and maybe that the All Blacks' players had a few dodgy kebabs on the way to the field. But not even a stomach bug may be enough for the South Africans to pull this one out of the fire. However, what they can do is try and somehow force the All Blacks into making mistakes, try to disrupt and spoil. They must be Stoke, on a cold and rainy night in the English Premiership. Unfortunately, the gulf in class between the two teams in terms of skill execution is too big for the South Africans to try and go toe-to-toe with the All Blacks with ball in hand.


New Zealand: Jordie Barrett, Ben Smith, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ryan Crotty, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (capt), Sam Cane, Liam Squire, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Karl Tu'inukuafe.

Replacements: Liam Coltman, Tim Perry, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Jack Goodhue, Damian McKenzie.

South Africa: Willie le Roux, Jesse Kriel, Lukhanyo Am, Damien de Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk, Warren Whiteley, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (captain), Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff.

Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira, Wilco Louw, RG Snyman, Francois Louw, Ross Cronje, Elton Jantjies, Cheslin Kolbe.

Positional battle to watch

Ben Smith vs Aphiwe Dyantyi

Smith is one of the classiest operators in world rugby, but also one of the most intelligent rugby players on the planet. Over the years he has seamlessly slot in at wing from fullback, as he uses a lot of his score skills in that position. Smith is fantastic under the high ball, while he is also a great kicker. However, it's his running ability and his skill in contact that makes him a danger from broken play and first phase.

Dyantyi's rise to the top of the sport has been phenomenal, as he only seriously started playing rugby a few years ago. Lots of people are already comparing him to the great Bryan Habana, as he has the pace and the eye for the tryline. The Lions speedster scored some unbelievable tries in Super Rugby and showed his vast array of skills. If the Boks can give him some space on Saturday, he could be a handful for the All Blacks.


Hopefully there isn't a repeat from Albany and the Boks will be competitive. But it's just impossible to see how they will be able to beat the All Blacks on current form and class. New Zealand by 21.

Australia vs. Argentina, Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast, 8.05pm (AEST) Saturday

It's been decades since the Pumas last defeated the Wallabies on the road. In fact not a single Australian player set to take the field on Saturday night was even born the last time Argentina saw success on Australian soil. But after their performance against the All Blacks last weekend, many rugby heads won't be too surprised if they end their 35-year drought on the Gold Coast.

Looking at the score at the end of their tough Test match in Nelson last week, it would be easy to assume the All Blacks produced another masterful performance that completely blew the Argentinians out of the water. Instead, the Pumas produced some of the best moments of the tournament so far -- especially Ramiro Mayono's opening try of the match, which was just a moment of pure brilliance - while they threw absolutely everything at the New Zealanders and unfortunately, came out with nothing.

While for the Wallabies, they may have finally got a win on the board, it came with one ugly performance. Missing some of their biggest names, and trying out a new midfield combination in Kurtley Beale and Matt Toomua, the Wallabies struggled to find any continuity and flow, while basic ball skills continued to dog their game.

How the Wallabies win it

The Wallabies' focus should be on shutting down the Pumas backline, especially Nicolas Sanchez, Moyano and Emiliano Boffelli who were especially impressive against the All Blacks last weekend. The trio managed to find several cracks last Saturday, but once shut down the Pumas were unable to produce any further attacking weapons.

How the Pumas win it

The Pumas need to focus on the Wallabies' wobbly set-piece while also targeting their shaky backline pairing in Kurtley Beale and Matt Toomua. The Wallabies saw some improvement at the scrum against the Springboks, but they've struggled in the area previously and a strong push from a big Pumas pack could see the Wallabies' scrum disintegrate early. While their backline showed plenty of cracks last week when they tried out Beale and Toomua in the middle. If the Pumas apply pressure in the middle in defence they're sure to see the cracks again, while their backline stars Boffelli, Moyano and Sanzhez showed their threat in broken play against the All Blacks last weekend.


Australia: Dane Haylett-Petty, Israel Folau, Reece Hodge, Matt Toomua, Marika Koroibete, Kurtley Beale, Will Genia; Pete Samu, David Pocock, Lukhain Tui, Izack Rodda, Rory Arnold, Allan Alaalatoa, Scott Sio.

Replacements: Folau Faingaa, Sekope Kepu, Taniela Tupou, Adam Coleman, Pete Samu, Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley, Jack Maddocks.

Argentina: Emiliano Boffelli, Bautista Delguy, Matias Moroni, Jeronimo De La Fuente, Ramiro Moyano, Nicolas Sanchez, Gonzalo Bertranou, Javier Ortega Desio, Marcos Kremer, Pablo Matera, Tomas Lavanini, Guido Petti, Santiago Medrano, Agustin Creevy (captain), Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.

Replacements: Julian Montoya, Santiago Garcia Botta, Juan Pablo Zeiss, Matias Alemanno, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Martin Landajo, Bautista Ezcurra, Juan Cruz Mallia.

Positional battle to watch

Kurley Beale vs. Nicolas Sanchez

A few cracks appeared early against the Springboks, however, there were several moments of brilliance from Beale that exemplified the ability the Wallabies' playmaker has to break the game open. With more time alongside new inside centre partner Matt Toomua, there's no doubt Beale will be able to produce more attacking opportunities for his backline.

Sanchez meanwhile has proven himself in the fly-half role repeatedly, and last weekend contributed to several moments of magic that really put it to the All Blacks. With great vision and a strong running game, Sanchez is one of the Pumas' biggest threats on the field and is an essential cog for Argentina.


The Pumas will come out firing on Saturday smelling a victory on Aussie soil, but if the Wallabies can shut down the Pumas attacking threats in Boffelli, Mayona and Sanchez they'll make it a 36 year unbeaten run. Wallabies by 7.