Last Updated: 23/09/22 11:23pm
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After one of the closest and most competitive Rugby Championships in recent years, the title will be decided on Saturday, with New Zealand and South Africa hoping to lift the trophy.
The All Blacks and Springboks are level on 14 points, with Australia on 10 points and Argentina one point behind the Wallabies.
With Australia’s points difference on -26, it is unlikely they will be in with a chance to claim the title, even with a bonus-point win over the All Blacks, but the Wallabies and the Pumas will have a say on the eventual winner.
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First up on Saturday are defending champions New Zealand, who host Australia at Eden Park after the All Blacks won last week’s match in Melbourne in contentious circumstances to retain the Bledisloe Cup for the 20th consecutive year.
The All Blacks appear to have the harder task on the final weekend – they needed a disputed last-minute try to beat the Wallabies 39-37, having conceded a 31-12 lead midway through the second half.
New Zealand are unbeaten at Eden Park in almost three decades and have not lost to Australia in Auckland since 1986.
But this year has thrown up many surprises.
The All Blacks suffered their first-ever Test loss to Ireland in New Zealand as they lost a home series to the Irish for the first time, and they have also lost to Argentina in New Zealand for the first time.
Australia will be reeling after last week’s loss, when they thought they had won it before French referee Mathieu Raynal felt Bernard Foley was taking too long to kick the ball, warned him and then called him for time wasting, awarding the All Blacks a scrum from which they scored the winning try.
Beauden Barrett, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, Jordie Barrett, Caleb Clarke, Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith; Ardie Savea, Dalton Papali’i, Akira Ioane, Sam Whitelock (captain), Brodie Retallick, Tyrel Lomax, Codie Taylor, Ethan de Groot. Replacements: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Nepo Laulala, Tupou Vaa’i, Hoskins Sotutu, Finlay Christie, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Sevu Reece.
Andrew Kellaway, Tom Wright, Len Ikitau, Lalakai Foketi, Marika Koroibete, Bernard Foley, Jake Gordon; Harry Wilson, Pete Samu, Rob Valetini, Cadeyrn Neville, Jed Holloway, Allan Alaalatoa, David Porecki, James Slipper (captain). Replacements: Folau Fainga’a, Angus Bell, Pone Fa’amausili, Nick Frost, Fraser McReight, Nic White, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia.
Australia sought clarification of Raynal’s ruling from World Rugby and head coach Dave Rennie claims the world body supported their view it was incorrect.
“We’ve decided to just take that on the chin, and we’re going to move on,” Rennie said. “We sought a bit of clarity and we got that. It’s not going to help us win on the weekend.”
The Wallabies still are likely to draw on the ending of the Melbourne match as motivation to win in Auckland.
“You look at the game and all the boys and everyone in the environment is disappointed and we just have to harness that and take that to New Zealand,” vice-captain Allan Alaalatoa said. “We have to got to be clinical with the way we play.”
New Zealand also came away from the Melbourne match disgruntled with the actions of Wallabies lock Darcy Swain which resulted in a serious knee injury to centre Quinn Tupaea.
The All Blacks have since accepted the six-match suspension imposed on Swain.
Saturday’s match is likely to be lively but All Blacks head coach Ian Foster, more diplomatically, said the rivalry between the teams is “alive and well and kicking”.
South Africa will know what they need to do in Durban to win the Rugby Championship.
Their game kicks off about six hours after New Zealand’s finishes, but it will likely require more than just a regulation win against Argentina.
If New Zealand win with a bonus point, the Boks would likely need an emphatic victory over the Pumas to be crowned champions at Kings Park.
However, if the Wallabies spring a surprise in Auckland, Argentina would be in the frame to claim their first title, although they would need to rack up the points against South Africa which would appear a tough task.
“It is all or nothing for us this week, and we have a team with several players who have won the Rugby World Cup and the British and Irish Lions series,” Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber said.
“So they know it will take nothing less than a quality 80-minute effort to win this match and the competition.”
Willie le Roux, Canan Moodie, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Frans Steyn, Jaden Hendrikse; Jasper Wiese, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (captain), Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche, Vincent Koch, Franco Mostert, Duane Vermeulen, Kwagga Smith, Faf de Klerk, Kurt-Lee Arendse.
Juan Cruz Mallia, Emiliano Boffelli, Matias Moroni, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Juan Imhoff, Santiago Carreras, Gonzalo Bertranou; Pablo Matera, Marcos Kremer, Juan Martin Gonzalez, Tomas Lavanini, Matias Alemanno, Eduardo Bello, Julian Montoya (captain), Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro. Replacements: Agustin Creevy, Mayco Vivas, Joel Sclavi, Guido Petti, Pedro Rubiolo, Tomas Cubelli, Benjamin Urdapilleta, Bautista Delguy.
The Pumas have been the surprise package this year, recording a dominant home win over Australia and stunning the All Blacks in New Zealand.
Consistency has been a problem, losing a second game in New Zealand 53-3 and losing to South Africa last weekend at home.
But victory in Durban would give Argentina a victory over the three southern hemisphere powerhouses for the first time in the same tournament, and it is also a chance to beat the World Cup holders.
Argentina coach Michael Cheika, the former Australia coach, said he would obviously be rooting for the Wallabies in front of the TV in South Africa in the morning but believes his side have “a chance to take” against South Africa.
“I don’t want to go bigger picture here, I just want to say here’s an opportunity for us in Durban against the world champions, a chance to take,” Cheika said. “You gotta go there and try and take it.”
Cheika evoked the spirit of 2015, when Argentina beat South Africa in Durban for their first win over the Springboks, by recalling wing Juan Imhoff for Saturday in one of two changes to the starters.
Imhoff scored a hat-trick of tries in that memorable Pumas performance seven years ago.
South Africa are down to their fourth-choice fly-half after losing Handre Pollard and stand-in Damian Willemse to injury. Elton Jantjies, normally the number two to Pollard, was sent home from the squad after allegations he was involved in an extramarital affair with the team dietician – something Jantjies and the dietician have denied – but the Springboks did not need the distraction.
That has left Frans Steyn, the 35-year-old veteran, to start for the Springboks in the tournament finale and Faf de Klerk to cover both scrum-half and fly-half as one of just two backs on the bench.
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