All Blacks set for fourth straight title

The All Blacks’ win against the Springboks sees them well placed to win their fourth consecutive Rugby Championship title. JON CARDINELLI reports.

At the start of the season, few would have predicted that the Wallabies would be in a position to win the Rugby Championship. They finished the 2014 Test season poorly, losing to France, Ireland and England. Those results saw them dropping down to sixth place in the World Rugby rankings.

And yet, here we are, two rounds into this year’s truncated, three-round tournament, and it’s the Wallabies who lead the log. Their third and final fixture against the All Blacks in Sydney next Saturday will decide who wins this year’s Rugby Championship.

The Wallabies came back strongly to beat the Boks 24-20 in Brisbane two weeks ago, and then scored a resounding 34-9 bonus-point victory over Argentina in Mendoza this past Saturday. While they have collected the same number of log points as the All Blacks (nine), they currently boast a superior points difference (29 compared to New Zealand’s 28).

The All Blacks beat the Boks 27-20 in Johannesburg this past Saturday. The result has strengthened their own Rugby Championship title claim, and destroyed that of South Africa.

The Boks collected two consolatory bonus points in the defeats to the Wallabies and All Blacks. If they beat Argentina with a four-try bonus point in Durban on 8 August, they will finish the tournament with seven log points. It’s plain to see that they can’t catch the All Blacks or the Wallabies from here, and at best will finish the tournament in third place.

The Boks haven’t won the Rugby Championship since its inception in 2012. They may have come close in 2013, but in the end, the All Blacks prevailed.

The All Blacks have dominated this tournament over the past four years. Their record at this point reads: played 20, won 18, drawn one, and lost one. They will be looking to claim their fourth successive title when they meet the Wallabies next week.

England and South Africa are the only two teams to have beaten New Zealand over the past four years. Australia held the All Blacks to a draw on a wet night in Sydney last year, but the performance was anything but convincing.

The Rugby Championship will take a break this week. This will allow the All Blacks and the Wallabies ample time to return to Australasia (the All Blacks from South Africa, and the Wallabies from Argentina) and overcome their travel fatigue. It will ensure both teams are well rested and ready to contest for the biggest prize in southern hemisphere rugby.

For the battered Boks, the focus will shift to the World Cup. Heyneke Meyer will rest some of his senior statesmen, and look to give fringe players a run in the coming Tests against Argentina. There should also be opportunities for those returning from long-term injuries to make an impact.

Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images

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Jon Cardinelli