Prepare for yet more twists and turns in the 2022 Rugby Championship this Saturday, as the four competing Southern Hemisphere nations collide once again.
The competition couldn’t be much tighter going into the second half of the schedule, with giantkillers Argentina out to replicate their famous win over New Zealand when they meet in Waikato.
South Africa’s Springboks heave revenge on their minds in Sydney, meanwhile, as they eye a return to winning ways over Australia.
New Zealand vs Argentina
Strap in for high drama in the Rugby Championship on Saturday, as fans of New Zealand try not to think about the unthinkable when their All Blacks line up against Argentina for the second time.
Los Pumas stunned not just their hosts but the rugby world when they pocketed a 25-18 victory at the Orangetheory Stadium a week ago, making it two wins from three for Michael Cheika and his men for the campaign so far.
Not bad going with the stuttering Springboks awaiting on the horizon for a back-to-back finale.
But first another date with Ian Foster’s sorry side, who have spent the week licking yet more wounds before plotting their backlash.
They will do so with an unchanged side, who will be kicked out of the dressing room to make amends.
Beauden Barrett and lock Brodie Retallick are welcome returnees from injury to the replacements bench, while Codie Taylor is left out of the squad entirely.
Santiago Grondona and Guido Petti both come in to freshen up the Argentine pack, while there are recalls for wing Santiago Cordero and Tomas Cubelli at scrum-half.
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 (c), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Ethan de Groot.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 George Bower, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Dalton Papali’i, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Quinn Tupaea.
Argentina Starting XV: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia, 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Matias Orlando, 11 Santiago Cordero, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Pablo Matera, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Santiago Grondona, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Joel Sclavi, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 23 Lucio Cinti.
Australia vs South Africa
A fascinating contest in Sydney sees Australia and South Africa lock horns once again in the Rugby Championship.
It was the Wallabies who bested the Springboks at the Adelaide Oval a week ago, coming away from a controversial encounter with a 25-17 success that was just the tonic after subsiding to defeat in Argentina on their previous outing.
Questions are mounting for Bok coach Jacques Nienaber and his World Cup-winning charges.
Hope sprang eternal after their opening round win over New Zealand in Mbombela, only for a narrow defeat to the All Blacks in Johannesburg and last Saturday’s reverse leaving them very much making one step forwards and two steps back.
Nienaber is out of options in the back three, meaning a debut for 19-year-old Canan Moodie as he caps a meteoric rise from the junior ranks.
The youngster is one of eight changes amid an increasingly fraught tour, with Handre Pollard, Lukhanyo Am and Pieter-Steph du Toit all on the casualty list.
Jesse Kriel moves to outside centre and Damian Willemse to his unfavoured fly-half role in the reshuffle.
The Aussies have the luxury of remaining unchanged, in stark contrast to their visitors, as coach Dave Rennie opts for continuity as he eyes back-to-back wins.
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 Jack Gordon, 23 Andrew Kellaway.
South Africa Starting XV: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Retshegofaditswe Nche, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Albertus Smith, 20 Duane Vermeulen, 21 Jacobus Reinach, 22 Francois Steyn, 23 Warrick Gelant.
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Antoinette is a recovering journalist. She has won multiple Sports Journalist of the Year awards and with bylines in The Guardian, Sports Illustrated, Daily Maverick and the New Statesman – among others. She thinks it is a bit odd writing about herself in the third person, unless she is playing as herself in The Sims. She hopes one day Ian Google will love her again.