All Blacks close in on title

New Zealand will be favourites to beat South Africa in Christchurch on Saturday and clinch the Rugby Championship title, writes JON CARDINELLI.

Three rounds remain in the 2016 Rugby Championship. And yet, the All Blacks may need only one more to take an unassailable lead at the top of the log.

The All Blacks have accumulated 15 log points after three matches. They will move to 20 if they score yet another bonus-point victory against the Boks in Christchurch next Saturday.

It seems a likely outcome given what has transpired in recent rounds. The All Blacks put eight tries and 57 points past Argentina in Hamilton last Saturday. Meanwhile, the Boks have scored seven tries in three games, and have slumped to embarrassing defeats in Salta and Brisbane.

The All Blacks should claim five log points against the Boks in Christchurch. They will, however, have to wait a few more hours to know for certain if they have reclaimed the Rugby Championship title.

Argentina can move into second place with a win against Australia in Perth. They can also keep their slim chances of winning the tournament alive by claiming five log points against the Wallabies.

Of course, that statement is made from a mathematical perspective. Realistically, one cannot see any team bar the All Blacks winning the title from here.

The real scrap from hereon in is for second place. As stated, the Pumas can strengthen their bid for this modest accolade with a win in Perth. They will play their last two matches in Argentina (against New Zealand and finally Australia).

The Boks haven’t beaten the All Blacks since 2014. They haven’t beaten the All Blacks in New Zealand since 2009. They've beaten the All Blacks in New Zealand just three times in the professional era.

The class of 2016 has already lost to Ireland at home and to Argentina and Australia away. You wouldn't bet on this Bok side scoring an upset win in Christchurch on Saturday.

Can the Boks remain competitive? Can they do enough to stop the All Blacks from scoring three more tries than themselves (and ultimately claiming a full house of log points)?

Can the Boks claim sufficient log points over the next three matches to finish the tournament in second place? The odds are certainly against the Boks excelling in the second half of this tournament, as they will face the All Blacks in two of their last three matches.

The fixture against Australia in Pretoria may represent the Boks' final opportunity for a victory in this year's tournament. Failure to win at Loftus Versfeld may see the Boks finishing the competition in last place for the second consecutive year.

Photo: Phil Walter/Gallo Images

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Jon Cardinelli