The Rugby Championship is back this weekend, the coveted Southern hemisphere trophy returns in full swing with Australia meeting the All Blacks while the Springboks will be hosting the Pumas from Argentina.
Steve Hansen said earlier this week that his All Blacks side were the underdogs against the Wallabies, a thought that was ridiculed by many in rugby circles as mere mind games; the lineups were released for the encounter showing a very strong All Blacks side, clearly showing Hansen’s intentions to start strong. Hansen’s side sees the return of captain Kieran Read in the Number 8 role and Beauden Barrett keeps the fly half role despite pressure from rookie Richie Mounga. Codie Taylor retains his place despite Dane Coles’ return to full fitness, Jack Goodhue’s impressive displays give him the nod over Anton Lienert-Brown for the number 13 shirt in what is a very strong All Blacks side regardless of the changes made by the coach.
he Wallabies skills coach stated that his group’s skill set has improved, so much that they match their visiting counterparts with what they can do with ball in hand. Tom Robertson wears the Number one shirt due to Scott Sio’s failure to recovery from injury, Tatafu Polota Nau returns from Europe to have the starting hooker role alongside long time campaigner Sekope Kepu to form a lethal front row. Lukhan Tui will be the third man in a very experienced back row that sees the return of captain Michael Hooper alongside David Pocock who will be facing off with Kieran Read at Number 8.
Reece Hodge is the latest inclusion in the back line at outside centre in the absence of Red’s enforcer Samu Kerevi, the back three retains a familiar look with Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty and Marika Koroibete keeping their places in the team. Matt Toomua walks straight onto the bench as he returns from the Gallagher Premiership in England, Jack Maddocks will be hoping to make his debut off the bench in shirt number 23.
In the other tie of the day, Rassie Erasmus will handle his first challenge in the Rugby Championship as coach when the visiting Pumas run onto Kings Park in Durban – The Springboks are targeting a bonus point win to keep close tabs on the All Blacks who they aim to put under immense pressure from the start of the competition.
Captain Siya Kolisi’s team consists of a very experienced forward pack with the likes of Malcolm Marx, Eben Etzebeth, Francois Louw and Warren Whiteley all returning to the starting XV for the kickoff of the Rugby championship. There is less experience among the backline although what they lack in experience will be compensated with a very exciting brand of rugby. It’s all about gelling well for them to effect full lethalness – Makazole Mapimpi takes the right wing while Andre Esterhuizen takes the #12 shirt away from Damian De Allende. In other changes, Embrose Papier replaces Elton Jantjies as the back up fly half whereas Lions’ centre Lionel Mapoe is named on the bench.
Argentina select Saracen’s prop Juan Figallo in a change of policy that initially only permitted them to choose home-based players. Figallo who plays in the English Premiership was not included in the original 36 man squad named by new coach Mario Ledesma but made the team late on Thursday.
Ever since coming fourth at the 2015 World Cup in England, the Pumas have ignored Argentines playing in Europe and based the team on Super Rugby side Jaguares. Recent form has not justified the strategy, with a run of just six victories in 28 internationals. A change in policy was required – Fullback Emiliano Boffelli, winger Bautista Delguy, inside centre Bautista Ezcurra and flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez retain their positions in the backline.
Ledesma preferred outside centre Matias Moroni, winger Ramiro Moyano and scrumhalf Gonzalo Bertranou to Matias Orlando, Sebastian Cancelliere and long-serving Martin Landajo in what he deemed as necessary switches from the embarrassing loss to Scotland.
- Willie le Roux, 14. Makazole Mapimpi, 13. Lukhanyo Am, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10. Handre Pollard, 9. Faf de Klerk. 8. Warren Whiteley, 7. Siya Kolisi, 6. Francois Louw, 5. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Francois Malherbe, 2. Malcolm Marx, 1. Tendai Mtawarira.
Substitutes: Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Thomas du Toit, Marvin Orie, Marco van Staden, Embrose Papier, Lionel Mapoe, Damian Willemse.
15. Emiliano Boffelli, 14. Bautista Delguy, 13. Matias Moroni, 12. Bautista Ezcurra, 11. Ramiro Moyano, 10. Nicolas Sanchez, 9. Gonzalo Bertranou, 8. Javier Ortega Desio, 7. Marcos Kremer, 6. Pablo Matera, 5. Matias Alemanno, 4. Guido Petti, 3. Juan Figallo, 2. Agustin Creevy (captain), 1. Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Substitutes :Diego Fortuny, Santiago Garcia Botta, Santiago Medrano, Tomas Lavanini, Tomas Lezana, Martin Landajo, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Juan Cruz Mallia.
- Israel Folau 14. Dane Haylett-Petty 13. Reece Hodge 12. Kurtley Beale 11. Marika Koroibete 10. Bernard Foley 9. Will Genia 8. David Pocock 7. Michael Hooper (captain) 6. Lukhan Tui 5. Adam Coleman 4. Izack Rodda 3. Sekope Kepu 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau 1. Tom Robertson.
Reserves: 16. Tolu Latu 17. Allan Alaalatoa 18. Taniela Tupou 19. Rob Simmons 20. Pete Samu 21. Nick Phipps 22. Matt Toomua 23. Jack Maddocks.
- Ben Smith 14. Waisake Naholo 13. Jack Goodhue 12. Ryan Crotty 11. Rieko Ioane 10. Beauden Barrett 9. Aaron Smith 8. Kieran Read (capt) 7. Sam Cane 6. Liam Squire 5. Sam Whitelock 4. Brodie Retallick 3. Owen Franks 2. Codie Taylor 1. Joe Moody.
Reserves: 16. Nathan Harris 17. Karl Tu’inukuafe 18. Ofa Tuungafasi 19. Scott Barrett 20. Ardie Savea 21. TJ Perenara 22. Damian McKenzie 23. Anton Lienert-Brown.