The Rugby Championship: The Breakdown – Springboks preparing to pounce on struggling All Blacks

Peter Thompson
Stats Perform
New Zealand head coach Ian Foster is under pressure
New Zealand head coach Ian Foster is under pressure

South Africa are favourites to inflict a third consecutive defeat on New Zealand for the first time since 1998 when they meet in a huge Rugby Championship battle on Saturday.

All Blacks head coach Ian Foster is under pressure after New Zealand lost a home series to Ireland for the first time last month.

A trip to face the world champions twice at the start of the Rugby Championship would appear to be make or break for Foster, who needs his side to step up in the first game of the tournament at Mbombela Stadium.

New Zealand won the title last year, but have lost their way just 13 months before the Rugby World Cup starts in France.

Meanwhile, Argentina do battle with Australia at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas on the opening day, with the Wallabies having been so short of success away from home as Michael Cheika looks to mastermind a victory over his former team.

Stats Perform preview the Tests in Nelspruit and Mendoza with the use of Opta facts.

SOUTH AFRICA V NEW ZEALAND

FORM

South Africa start the Rugby Championship on the back of a 2-1 series win over Wales and have been victorious in six of their past seven Tests on home soil, conceding 20 points or more in just one of those matches.

It is just one win in five Tests for the out-of-sorts All Blacks, who last lost three in a row 24 years ago. They were beaten in five consecutive matches from July to August 1998, with the Springboks winning two of those contests.

New Zealand have a strong record in South Africa, though, having won their past four away Tests against the Springboks

ONES TO WATCH

Damian Willemse caught the eye against Wales, ranking in the top five for both metres gained (190m – third) and line breaks (three – joint-fourth) among players from Tier One nations in the July Tests. The All Blacks will have to prevent the in-form full-back from doing further damage.

Number eight Ardie Savea is among the senior figures who Foster will be counting on to have a big influence. Savea was the only player to score three tries versus a Tier One nation last month, striving in vain to prevent Ireland from making history.

​ARGENTINA V AUSTRALIA

FORM

Argentina have a spring in their step after a 2-1 series victory over Scotland and have their sights on back-to-back wins for the first time since November 2020 as Cheika finds himself in the strange position of plotting Australia's downfall.

The Wallabies are smarting from a series loss to England on home soil and have won only one of their past nine Tests outside of Australia – versus Japan last October.

Australia have become accustomed to getting the better of the Pumas, though, winning four and drawing two of the previous six encounters. Six of the past seven Tests between the two nations in Argentina have gone the way of the touring side.

ONES TO WATCH

Argentina's dramatic series win over Scotland came courtesy of a last-gasp try from Emiliano Boffelli, who also scored 14 points with the boot and provided an assist.

Quade Cooper returns from injury to start at fly-half for Australia. Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie will expect the number 10 and scrum-half Nic White to dictate the tempo.

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