Not many would have predicted it at the start of the Rugby Championship, but Argentina sit proudly on top of the table after three rounds of matches. Here’s more on last week’s action, and a look at what’s in store this Saturday…
History-makers Argentina lead the way
The Puma’s 25-18 win over the All Blacks in Christchurch last Saturday was their first on New Zealand soil. Prior to that historic victory, Argentina had lost all 15 of their away matches against the five-time World Cup winners, losing by an average margin of 34 points.
It was a display of pure defensive steel. The All Blacks had 61% possession and made over twice as many carries (129) as Argentina’s 63. But their attack couldn’t make inroads — Puma defenders were beaten just eight times all match. And to put that into context, the last time the All Blacks' attack was stifled to that extent was against France in 2016.
The hosts managed to score two tries through Samisoni Taukei'aho and Caleb Clarke. But Argentine winger Emiliano Boffelli was in top form with the boot, kicking five penalties and converting Juan Martin Gonzalez's opportunist second-half try.
The teams travel to Hamilton for this weekend's showdown, and the tourists’ head coach Michael Cheika will be hoping his side can win three Rugby Championship matches on the spin for the first time. But under-pressure New Zealand supremo Ian Foster has been in this situation before. Earlier in the summer, his side suffered consecutive defeats to Ireland and South Africa but produced an outstanding display to earn a 35-23 win over the Springboks in Johannesburg in round 2.
Win or bust for South Africa
Meanwhile, having been beaten 25-17 by Australia last weekend, South Africa have rung the changes for the sides' clash in Sydney.
Injuries have forced Jacques Nienaber's hand to some extent (Handre Pollard, Lukhanyo Am and Pieter-Steph du Toit are among those ruled out). But the Springboks' head coach was frustrated at his side's inability to capitalise on plenty of attacking pressure last week. Wallabies' winger Marika Koroibete pulled off an incredible try-saving tackle on his opposite number Makazole Mapimpi, while Pollard missed two penalties.
Saturday's match is now a must-win for the World Champions, who sit bottom of the table on four points — five short of second-place Australia, who trail Argentina on points difference thanks to their impressive win.