All Blacks surge into lead

The All Blacks’ bonus-point win in Sydney is a blow to the Springboks’ Rugby Championship title prospects, writes JON CARDINELLI.

New Zealand scored six tries in their 42-8 hammering of Australia on Saturday. They claimed a bonus point for scoring three tries or more than the Wallabies. It’s that bonus point that sees the Kiwis topping the Rugby Championship table after round one.

The Boks beat Argentina 30-23 in Nelspruit on Saturday. One log point separates the All Blacks and Boks at the top of the Rugby Championship table. And yet that doesn’t paint an accurate picture of where these teams, particularly the All Blacks, stand at present.

The Wallabies won the 2015 Rugby Championship. They progressed all the way to the final of last year’s World Cup. On the basis of those performances, as well as the not-so-small matter of the Bledisloe Cup, the Wallabies were always going to be the All Blacks’ toughest opponents in 2016.

The match against the Wallabies in Sydney was always going to be the toughest of the All Blacks’ Rugby Championship campaign. They are yet to lose to Argentina in the history of the tournament, and have only lost once to the Boks since 2009. Neither the Pumas nor the Boks should trouble the All Blacks in 2016.

So what do the performances and results of the past weekend mean in the context of the 2016 Rugby Championship? Brace yourself, because it’s bad news for the Boks, at least as far as their title prospects are concerned.

That said, the Wallabies’ 34-point defeat in Sydney may come back to haunt them at the end of the competition. If points difference comes into the equation, and if the Boks don’t suffer similar beatings along the way, Australia may come to regret their shocking defensive effort in Sydney.

The All Blacks have begun their 2016 campaign in the best possible fashion. They have won their hardest match (an away game against Australia) with a bonus point. Their next three matches are in New Zealand. They now have a great opportunity to stretch their lead at the top of the log. The All Blacks have not lost at home since 2009.

For the Boks, the Rugby Championship will only get harder from hereon in. They began their campaign with a home match against Argentina – World Rugby’s lowest-ranked side in the competition. And yet it took all the Boks had to snatch a narrow win at the death.

Their next three games are away from home (against Argentina in Salta, Australia in Brisbane and New Zealand in Christchurch). The Boks have never won all three matches on a Rugby Championship tour.

The Boks’ record in Australasia over the past few years is especially poor. They have won just once in Australia (2013) since the tournament expanded to include Argentina in 2012. While South Africa were the last team to win in New Zealand (2009), they’ve claimed just three victories in this part of the world since the inception of the Tri-Nations in 1996.

The All Blacks may well go on to win all six of their games and reclaim the title. The fight for second place will be fierce. Indeed, after what was witnessed this past Saturday, one can expect the Pumas to push Australia and South Africa in Argentina. The Boks need to win in Salta on Saturday to keep their hopes of finishing the competition in second place alive.

The match between the Wallabies and Boks in Brisbane could be massive in this regard. It should be an especially important clash for Australia.

The Wallabies are expected to lose in Wellington this coming weekend. It would mark their sixth successive loss since the 2015 World Cup final. Come 10 September, they may be fighting tooth and nail to avoid a seventh straight defeat.

Photo: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

Post by