The 2022 Rugby Championship hits the halfway mark this weekend, as the four Southern Hemisphere nations collide once again on Saturday.
Australia return to home comforts when they go up against reigning world champions South Africa.
Attention then turns across the Tasman Sea for the clash between New Zealand’s under-pressure All Blacks and Argentina, who meet at the Orangetheory Stadium.
Australia vs South Africa
It’s all to play for as Australia host South Africa in the Rugby Championship in Adelaide on Saturday.
Both come into the contest at the Adelaide Oval with a win and a loss from their opening fixtures, as the Wallabies slumped to defeat in their second match in South America against Argentina following the loss of several key players including captain Michael Hooper after victory in the opening round.
The Springboks couldn’t capitalize on their crackling opening night win over New Zealand in Mbombela either, as the All Blacks hit back to sneak a crucial win at Johannesburg’s Emirates Airline Park two weeks ago.
Warrick Gelant is a wildcard call up on the wing, with coach Jacques Nienaber not inclined to add to his squad despite being increasingly depleted in the backs.
A return is also on the cards for scrum-half Faf de Klerk, with Jaden Hendrikse warming the bench alongside Elton Jantjies and Frans Steyn, as the Boks finally return to a five / three split among the replacements.
Reece Hodge is one of six changes made by Aussie coach Dave Rennie for their return to home soil.
The full-back joins Noah Lolesio and Hunter Paisami in the backline against the Boks, while Allan Alaalatoa is a welcome returnee to the Wallabies front row.
Australia Starting XV: 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Jed Holloway, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper (captain).
Replacements: 16 David Porecki, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Darcy Swain, 20 Rob Leota, 21 Pete Samu, 22 Tate McDermott, 23 Andrew Kellaway.
South Africa Starting XV: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Warrick Gelant, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Albertus Smith, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Francois Steyn.
New Zealand vs Argentina
New Zealand face Argentina in Christchurch in the third round of the Rugby Championship on Saturday, with the heat still very much on beleaguered coach Ian Foster.
The man at the top received a vote of confidence from the bigwigs after his All Blacks scrapped their way to victory over world champions South Africa in Johannesburg a fortnight ago.
Nothing less would have done either, following defeat in the tournament in Mbombela seven days earlier, which ratcheted up the pressure on the under-fire boss.
Argentina have also recorded a win and a loss, as they keep pace in a congested table where all four nations are within a single point of each other.
Los Pumas took advantage of a weakened Australia to snaffle a handsome, 48-17 success, having been on the wrong end of a similar score line a week before.
A fixture that once would have provided opportunity for mass rotation is no such thing with Foster’s job on the line, with the All Blacks run-on side unchanged from Johannesburg.
Injury to Beauden Barrett sees him drop off the replacements bench, paving the way for a potential debut for Stephen Perofeta.
Australian coach Michael Cheika returns to familiar enemy territory with three starting changes up his sleeve for the tourists.
Matias Moroni and rookie Lucio Cinti come into the backs while Joel Sclavi is included in the front row, as the South Americans make do without the likes of Juan Imhoff, Jeronimo de la Fuente and the legendary Augustin Creevy.
New Zealand Starting XV: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 David Havili, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Ethan de Groot.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 George Bower, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Stephen Perofeta, 23 Quinn Tupaea.
Argentina Starting XV: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia, 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Matias Orlando, 11 Lucio Cinti, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Pablo Matera, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez Samso, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Joel Sclavi, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Santiago Grondona, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Tomas Albornoz, 23 Santiago Cordero.
|Chance of winning (%)||Points margin|
|Chance of winning (%)||Points margin|