The All Blacks will look to extend their winning run while the Springboks and Wallabies will fight for a second-place finish in the last two rounds of the Rugby Championship, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The 2016 Rugby Championship is done and dusted as far as the title race is concerned. The All Blacks thumped the Springboks 41-13 in Christchurch on Saturday. After four rounds, they have racked up a maximum of 20 log points and have taken an unassailable lead at the top of the Rugby Championship table.
And yet, no team should be wanting for motivation in the final two rounds of this year’s tournament.
The All Blacks have won the past two World Cups. Most recently, they have won the Rugby Championship tournament in emphatic fashion. The victory against the Boks in Christchurch extended their winning streak to 15.
The All Blacks should not want for motivation in the coming months. They need three more wins to break the tier-one Test record for the most consecutive wins. They will fancy their chances of winning in Buenos Aires and Durban.
If the All Blacks finish the Rugby Championship unbeaten, they will be favourites to beat Australia in the third Bledisloe Cup match in Auckland. What better place to set a new tier-one record for a New Zealand side? The All Blacks have won their last 43 Tests in New Zealand, and haven’t lost a Test at Eden Park since 1994.
The Boks, Wallabies and Pumas will have more modest ambitions.
The Boks have lost four of their seven Tests in 2016 (for a win record of 43%). They will be under pressure to bounce back when they host the Wallabies in Pretoria on 1 October.
However, even a win in Pretoria may not be enough to guarantee the Boks a second-place finish in this competition. The Boks will face a motivated All Blacks side in their final game in Durban, while the Wallabies will travel to London to front a Pumas team that has been subject to extreme travel demands.
While the Wallabies have failed to impress with their recent performances, they have still managed to claim two important wins. They will travel to Pretoria with some momentum and confidence. They will go to London thereafter knowing that the Pumas will be vulnerable following a grueling Super Rugby and Rugby Championship travel schedule.
The Boks can strengthen their bid for a second-place finish with a win against the Wallabies in Pretoria. But if they lose their remaining matches, and if Argentina lose to New Zealand and Australia, then bonus points and points difference may determine which team – the Boks or the Pumas – finishes the tournament with the wooden spoon. At present, a single log point separates South Africa (third) and Argentina (fourth).
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