Rugby Championship R5: Springboks vs Wallabies, Pumas vs All Blacks

The Rugby Championship enters its fifth round on Saturday, with Port Elizabeth and Buenos Aires playing host to back-to-back games on Saturday.

At the Nelson Mandela Stadium, the resurgent Springboks take on the under-fire Wallabies, while Argentina will hope to upset the wounded All Blacks.

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

South Africa vs. Australia, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth

The Springboks are still on cloud nine after their Tom Cruise-like, Mission Impossible stunt against the All Blacks. And why not, it was a performance for the ages, and a result that gave the team a massive confidence boost.

The Springboks and Rassie Erasmus needed that result at this stage of the team's development to affirm that they are on the right track in terms of their World Cup preparations. But it will count for absolutely nothing if they don't go out and beat the Wallabies on Saturday at the Nelson Mandela Stadium.

The Boks need to become more consistent in their performances, as they have dished up the very good and the disastrous in the Rugby Championship. If you want to do well in a World Cup, you need to play at the same level at the business end of the tournament.

The Wallabies, and specifically coach Michael Cheika, are under pressure to get a win over the Boks at a venue where the South Africans have never tasted defeat. The Australians lost to Argentina in the previous encounter and further trouble could spell the end of their coach.

How the Springboks can win ...

The Springboks don't have to look further than what worked for them against the All Blacks. The Springboks' line speed on defence was superb and their gang-tackling brutal, and this forced the All Blacks to make mistakes and rushed them into terrible decisions on attack. The Springboks' scrum was rather tame in Brisbane against the Australians, while their lineout was a shambles. The Boks need to dominate the set pieces, so that they can get their maul going. But the Boks must also take their chances on attack like they did in Wellington, when they scored 36 points with just 25 percent of the ball.

How the Wallabies can win it ...

The All Blacks made the mistake of trying to take on the Springboks in the vacuum, close to the breakdown. They were easily smashed back, and this forced them to play on the back foot behind the advantage line. The Wallabies have very good outside backs, and they must try and stretch the Springboks and attack the wider channels, where players like captain Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit are least likely to be to knock the stuffing out them. Australia must also kick well and test the Springboks' back three under the high ball.


South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Beast Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Stephen Kitshoff, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse.

Australia: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Izack Rodda, 4 Adam Coleman, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Folau Faingaa, 1 Scott Sio.

Replacements: 16 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 17 Sekope Kepu, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rory Arnold, 20 Rob Simmons, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Bernard Foley, 23 Jack Maddocks.

Key match-up: Siya Kolisi vs Michael Hooper

The breakdown battle is always key when you play Australia, and against Michael Hooper and the tenacious David Pocock. Those two players are relentless when fighting for the ball on the ground and they're going to give the Springboks a tough day at the office. Hooper, especially, will be looking for a top performance, as a win will go a long way in boosting the team's morale.

Kolisi is not an out-and-out fetcher by any stretch of the imagination, but he has been central to the Springboks' attack. Kolisi's biggest job at the breakdown is securing the Springboks' ball on attack. He is normally the first player to arrive for the Boks, and more often than not smashes the opponent trying to steal the ball.


The Springboks always fancy themselves at home, and especially at the Nelson Mandela Stadium, where they haven't tasted defeat. If they can play at the level which they performed at in Wellington, they are going to be tough to beat. South Africa by 14.

Argentina vs. New Zealand, Estadio José Amalfitani, Buenos Aires

A Jaguares side that reached its maiden Super Rugby playoffs and a national team with wins over South Africa and Australia sees Argentine rugby in the midst of arguably its most successful period since the Pumas finished third at Rugby World Cup 2007. Eleven years on, the Pumas are showing just what Rugby Championship and Super Rugby play has done for their players; they are no longer an annoyance capable of an upset, but a well-coached team pulling in the same direction. That growth was exemplified by the fact that three Pumas players were there to tackle Israel Folau as the Wallabies winger looked set to deny Argentina on the Gold Coast; they instead whacked him in a brutal tackle, walloping Australian rugby in the process. Back at home, against the world's best, who are coming off a rare defeat, Argentina have the perfect opportunity to take another huge step under Mario Ledesma.

The Rugby Championship suddenly not a foregone conclusion, and New Zealand find themselves in an unfamiliar position. The World Cup year of 2015 aside, the tournament has been within their grasp at this same stage across its other five seasons, which has afforded Steve Hansen the chance to tinker with his selections. That won't be the case this time around -- save for rested skipper Kieran Read -- as Hansen knows back-to-back defeats won't be tolerated at home in New Zealand. It was bad enough that they lost to a Springboks side paying more than $8 with the bookies in the first place. It may have only been a two-point defeat, but the manner in which it came -- specifically dropped ball, lapses in concentration and the failure to take a drop goal -- all very un-All Blacks like. New Zealand understand just how dangerous this current crop of Pumas can be, and they know another performance similar to the one they put in Wellington will be punished once again.

How Argentina win it

Smashed at the scrum during the 46-24 defeat in Nelson, Argentina must shore up the key set-piece if they are to be any chance in Buenos Aires. If they again go backwards, or commit a succession of infringements, the Pumas will leave themselves open to the wrath of referee Mathieu Raynal and an All Blacks pack that will sniff blood in the water. If the scrum stands up, however, the Pumas have shown they have the attacking ability to scores tries against anyone; that is the only way you can beat the All Blacks. They will miss in the in-form Ramiro Moyano, but Bautista Delguy and fullback Emiliano Boffelli are still there to sting the visitors when the opportunity presents. They must capitalise on each and every opportunity that falls their way, just as they did on the Gold Coast.

How New Zealand win it

Part of what makes the All Blacks so great to watch is their willingness to attack from anywhere, to chance their arm when the opportunity presents. But that approach will always carry an element of risk, and that's what gifted South Africa two tries in Wellington a fortnight ago. Don't expect the All Blacks to shelve that intention this weekend, but tempering it in search of a little more stability would be a wise course of action. Look for the All Blacks to concentrate a little more of their play through the middle of the paddock, opening up opportunities for TJ Perenara in and around the ruck. They were too lateral, at times, at Westpac Stadium, which played right into the hands of the Springboks' rush defence. The inclusion of Sonny Bill Williams should see the world champions punch through in midfield; his backline teammates will be sweating on that famous offload.


Argentina: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 12 Bautista Ezcurra, 11 Matias Moroni, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.

Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Juan Pablo Zeiss, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Matias Orlando, 23 Sebastian Cancelliere.

New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock (captain), 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Karl Tu'inukuafe.

Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Richie Mo'unga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.

Key match-up: Ramiro Herrera vs Karl Tu'inukuafe

Given what happened to the Pumas' scrum in Nelson, it is imperative Herrera steps up and makes himself an immovable object right from the opening set-piece in Buenos Aires. The Argentine tighthead has delivered at Test level, and is that little bit more experienced than Santiago Garcia Botta who got such a scrum-time schooling earlier this month.

It has been a sensational rise for Tu'inukuafe this season. A former Auckland bouncer, Tu'inukuafe hadn't even played Super Rugby before at the start of the year and now finds himself the cornerstone of the All Blacks' scrum. But it is not just the set-piece where the 25-year-old is excelling, he is also proving a mobile ball-carrier; a clean break against Argentina in New Zealand evidence of that.

Verdict: Seven years have past since the All Blacks last suffered back-to-back Test defeats, and even then they recovered to go on and win the Wor;ld Cup on home soil. Argentina go into this one full of confidence and will test New Zealand at times but the world champions will be desperate to execute far more clinically than their error-ridden effort in Wellington. The All Blacks will do so in recording a 14-point victory.