Round two of the Rugby Championship takes place this weekend as New Zealand host South Africa while Australia welcome Argentina to Brisbane on Saturday.
It is fair to say that New Zealand have not been the same outfit since the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour.
Steve Hansen’s men have had to adjust after some of their key personnel retired, and they have lost two of their last nine Test matches. One of those defeats came against South Africa in the last Rugby Championship in September 2018, which was also at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
The Springboks are looking to record successive wins on New Zealand soil for the first time ever and the All Blacks did show signs of nerves last week as they only just beat Argentina 16-20.
The World Cup failed to score a single point in an entire half for the first time since 2011 but the return of Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read should at least help them settle.
Beauden Barrett returns to fullback, while Richie Mo’unga will play at fly-half as Hansen makes sweeping changes.
South Africa’s starting line-up will have at least a dozen new faces after their 35-17 win over Australia and there is some value in backing the Springboks.
They are now arguably the second-best team in the competition and they know what it takes to beat the All Blacks.
Australia coach Michael Cheika is under immense pressure with the World Cup on the horizon. The Wallabies wasted too many opportunities last time out against South Africa, but they are playing Argentina at the right time.
The Pumas have lost their last seven matches but will not lie down in Brisbane.
Their last three losses have been by five points or fewer and they will perhaps have some confidence at least, having beaten Australia in their last away success.
However, it takes a brave punter to go against Australia at the Suncorp Stadium, with the Aussies winning over 70% of their matches there.
Argentina are without hooker Agustin Creevy who proved his ability in defence last week, while it promises to be a huge day for James O’Connor as he gets his shot at redemption, six years after last wearing the famous gold jersey.
Fly-half Christian Leali’ifano will also return, three years after being diagnosed with leukemia. In total, Cheika makes five changes as he tries to help record their first win of the competition, with Will Genia, Kurtley Beale, Marika Koroibete and Scott Sio all set to start.
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