The Rugby Championship Preview

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AUCKLAND, NZ – Super Rugby is in the can, so now it’s time to turn our attention to international rugby in the competition that obviously had the least effort put into naming it: The Rugby Championship. For those of you don’t know, this comp started life as the Tri-Nations back in 1996 and was contested between the All Blacks, Wallabies and Springboks. In 2012 it was expanded to include Los Pumas of Argentina and given it’s very boring new name. Some other quick historical notes:

All Black captain Sean Fitzpatrick with the Tri Nations trophy and Bledisloe Cup
All Black captain Sean Fitzpatrick with the Tri Nations trophy and Bledisloe Cup

The comp has been dominated by the All Blacks, who have won it 12 times in 18 seasons. The Wallabies and Springboks have won it three times each. Argentina are yet to win a game, let alone a championship.

Aside from the Rugby Championship title, other trophies are at stake between the nations. The oldest of all is the Bledisloe Cup, contested between the All Blacks and Wallabies since 1931. The Wallabies and Springboks play for the Nelson Mandela Challenge Plate, first contested in 2000.

The first match in the comp’s history was a famous win by the All Blacks over the Wallabies at the old Athletic Park in Wellington. Despite some of the worst conditions ever seen in a test match the All Blacks ran out 43-6 winners. Michael Jones had the honour of scoring the first try in the professional era and Jonah Lomu had one of his finest performances in an All Black jersey.

After winning the first two editions, the All Blacks suffered a massive fall from grace in 1998, losing every match in the tournament. This led to an unprecedented fallout, costing both coach John Hart and captain Taine Randell their jobs.

Some of the finest test matches ever played have been in this competition, two of them in the 2000 edition. Both Bledisloe Cup tests that year have gone down in history as classics, the first in Wellington’s new waterfront stadium coming down to a John Eales penalty after four minutes of injury time. The second test in Sydney is often referred to as ‘The Greatest Game Ever Played’ or ‘The Match Made In Heaven’. After shooting out to a 24-0 lead after less than 10 minutes the All Blacks let the Wallabies draw level by halftime. They then trailed the then-world champs before Jonah Lomu scored possibly the most important try of his career to win the game.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGTBubqr8xQ

Bryan Habana doing what he does best.
Bryan Habana doing what he does best.

The highest try-scorer in the comp’s history is Bryan Habana, with 17 for the Springboks. Christian Cullen holds the record for the All Blacks with 16, while Adam Ashley-Cooper has 9 for the Wallabies. The highest points scorer of all time is Dan Carter with 531, over 200 points ahead of second placed Andrew Mehrtens.

 

After a long and arduous Super Rugby campaign the squads that have been named for each side don’t contain too many surprises, especially since we’ve seen them all have a run in national colours during the June test series.

The All Blacks squad is:

Forwards:

Hookers

Dane Coles Wellington / Hurricanes (18)

Keven Mealamu Auckland / Blues (113)

Props

Wyatt Crockett Canterbury / Crusaders (27)

Charlie Faumuina Auckland / Blues (20)

Ben Franks Hawke’s Bay / Hurricanes (31)

Owen Franks Canterbury / Crusaders (57)

Tony Woodcock North Harbour / Blues (110)

Locks

Dominic Bird Canterbury / Crusaders (1)

Brodie Retallick Bay of Plenty / Chiefs (27)

Patrick Tuipulotu Auckland / Blues (2)

Samuel Whitelock Canterbury / Crusaders (54)

Loose forwards

Sam Cane Bay of Plenty / Chiefs (14)

Jerome Kaino Auckland / Blues (51)

Steven Luatua Auckland / Blues (11)

Richie McCaw (c) Canterbury / Crusaders (127)

Liam Messam Waikato / Chiefs (32)

Kieran Read Canterbury / Crusaders (62)

Backs:

Halfbacks

Tawera Kerr-Barlow Waikato / Chiefs (14)

TJ Perenara Wellington/ Hurricanes (3)

Aaron Smith Manawatu / Highlanders (29)

First five-eighths

Beauden Barrett Taranaki / Hurricanes (19)

Daniel Carter Canterbury / Crusaders (100)

Aaron Cruden Manawatu / Chiefs (32)

Midfielders

Malakai Fekitoa Auckland / Highlanders (2)

Ma’a Nonu Wellington / Blues (91)

Conrad Smith Wellington / Hurricanes (77)

Outside backs

Israel Dagg Hawke’s Bay / Crusaders (39)

Cory Jane Wellington / Hurricanes (48)

Charles Piutau Auckland / Blues (10)

Ben Smith Otago / Highlanders (29)

Julian Savea Wellington/ Hurricanes (22)

Dan-Carter-anchor-482x550Key man: The most notable name in the lineup is that of Dan Carter, back from a long layoff and seemingly ready to recapture the form that’s made him the best first five of all time. His contributions to the back end of the Crusaders season didn’t exactly set the world on fire, however he plays his best in a black jersey. As long as he can stay injury-free he should be a major contributor to the All Blacks cause.

 

The Wallabies squad is:

Forwards:

Ben Alexander, Pek Cowan, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, Scott Sio, Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Hanson, Nathan Charles, James Horwill, Rob Simmons, Will Skelton, Sam Carter, Scott Fardy, Scott Higginbotham, Michael Hooper (captain), Matt Hodgson, Wycliff Palu, Ben McCalman.

Backs:

Nic White, Nick Phipps, Luke Burgess, Bernard Foley, Kurtley Beale, Matt Toomua, Christian Leali’ifano, Tevita Kuridrani, Rob Horne, Joe Tomane, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Henry Speight, Pat McCabe, Israel Folau.

232806-higginbothamKey man: Even though he plugged away in vain for Super Rugby’s worst team, big Aussie flanker Scott Higginbotham should have a huge bearing on the national side’s performance this year. He’s the sort of player who can stand up the his All Black and Springbok counterparts, take the ball forward and throw a few cheap shots if need be. Which will be needed if they are to disrupt the All Blacks enough of them to go off the boil.

 

The Springboks squad is:

Willem Alberts, Bakkies Botha, Schalk Brits, Marcell Coetzee, Damian De Allende, Lodewyk de Jager, Jean de Villiers (captain), Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Bryan Habana, Cornal Hendricks, Francois Hougaard, Patrick Lambie, Willie le Roux, Francois Louw, Frans Malherbe, Victor Matfield, Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje, Tendai Mtawarira ,Lwazi Mvovo, Trevor Nyakane, Ruan Pienaar, Handre Pollard, Cobus Reinach, Jan Serfontein, Gurthro Steenkamp, Morne Steyn, Adriaan Strauss, Duane Vermeulen.

---art_du_plessis_20130916080033579801-620x349Key man: The term leading from the front might as well have been coined for Bismarck du Plessis, the Sharks hooker won’t be taking a backward step during this campaign. His presence was sorely missed last year in the test against the All Blacks in Auckland when he was unfairly sinbinned in the first half and ultimately sent off in the second.

 

The Pumas squad is:

Backs: Joaquin Tuculet, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, Manuel Montero, Horacio Agulla, Juan Imhoff, Marcelo Bosch, Nicolas Sanchez, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Juan Martin Hernandez, Martin Landajo, Tomas Cubelli

Forwards: Juan Fernandez Lobbe, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Pablo Matera, Leonardo Senatore, Rodrigo Baez, Tomas Lavanini, Mariano Galarza, Matias Alemanno, Marcos Ayerza, Ramiro Herrera, Lucas Noguera Paz, Bruno Postiglioni, Nuhuel Tetaz Chaparro, Matias Cortese, Agustin Creevy (captain)

Juan-Martin-HernandezKey man: First five Juan Martin Hernandez is a 44 test veteran who, if given some front foot ball, could ignite a talented backline. The Argentine’s have been traditionally strong through their forwards throughout their history but have recently shown they do have the attacking capacity in the backs to score some decent tries.

 

The full list of fixtures are:

 

DAY & DATE MATCH HOME VENUE Kick off Kick off Kick off in New Zealand Kick Off in Australia Kick off in Kick off in
local GMT (NSW/ACT) South Africa Argentina
ROUND 1
Saturday 16 August Australia v New Zealand ANZ Stadium, Sydney 20:05 10:05 Sat 16 Aug 22:05 Sat 16 Aug 20:05 Sat 16 Aug 12:05 Sat 16 Aug 7:05
Saturday 16 August South Africa v Argentina Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria 17:05 15:05 Sun 17 Aug 3:05 Sun 17 Aug 1:05 Sat 16 Aug 17:05 Sat 17 Aug 12:05
ROUND 2
Saturday 23 August New Zealand v Australia Eden Park, Auckland 19:35 7:35 Sat 23 Aug 19:35 Sat 23 Aug 17:35 Sat 23 Aug 9:35 Sat 23 Aug 4:35
Saturday 23 August Argentina v South Africa Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena, Salta 16:10 19:10 Sun 24 Aug 7:10 Sun 24 Aug 5:10 Sat 23 Aug 21:10 Sat 23 Aug 16:10
Saturday 30 August BYE
ROUND 3
Saturday 6 September New Zealand v Argentina Maclean Park, Napier 19:35 7:35 Sat 6 Sep 19:35 Sat 6 Sep 17:35 Sat 6 Sep 9:35 Sat 6 Sep 4:35
Saturday 6 September Australia v South Africa Patersons Stadium, Perth 18:05 10:05 Sat 6 Sep 22:05 Sat 6 Sep 20:05 Sat 6 Sep 12:05 Sat 6 Sep 7:05
ROUND 4
Saturday 13 September New Zealand v South Africa Westpac Stadium, Wellington 19:35 7:35 Sat 13 Sep 19:35 Sat 13 Sep 17:35 Sat 13 Sep 9:35 Sat 13 Sep 4:35
Saturday 13 September Australia v Argentina Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast 20:05 10:05 Sat 13 Sep 22:05 Sat 13 Sep 20:05 Sat 13 Sep 12:05 Sat 13 Sep 7:05
Saturday 20 September BYE
ROUND 5
Saturday 27 September South Africa v Australia DHL Newlands, Cape Town 17:05 15:05 Sun 28 Sep 4:05 Sun 28 Sep 1:05 Sat 27 Sep 17:05 Sat 27 Aug 12:05
Saturday 27 September Argentina v New Zealand Estadio Ciudad de La Plata, La Plata TBC TBC TBC TBC TBC TBC
ROUND 6
Saturday 4 October South Africa v New Zealand Ellis Park, Johannesburg 17:05 15:05 Sun 5 Oct 4:05 Sun 5 Oct 1:05 Sat 4 Oct 17:05 Sat 4 Oct 12:05
Saturday 4 October Argentina v Australia Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza 19:40 22:40 Sun 5 Oct 11:40 Sun 5 Oct 9:40 Sun 5 Oct 00:40 Sat 4 Oct 19:40

The first test between the All Blacks and Wallabies in Sydney is the most anticipated match since the last World Cup final and should provide a very good indication of who will go on and win the competition. A sell-out 80,000 crowd will be in attendance at Olympic Park, knowing that this is the Wallabies best opportunity to knock off the All Blacks in many years. They will be desperate to get their hands on the Bledisloe Cup, which has permanent residence on this side of the Tasman since 2003.

Meanwhile the Springboks take on Los Pumas at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria. Once again, little is really known about the Argentines other than what we’ve seen before, which doesn’t have many holding their breath. Their away form in the competition so far has been pretty awful, so even though the South African sides in Super Rugby did little to inspire, the Boks should have enough firepower to win this one comfortably.

I’ll have a full preview of these two matches later in the week.

That’s it for now. Feel free to comment below, please look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@:RugbyWrapUpJunoir Blaber, Nick HallJames HarringtonJamie Wall, Jaime LoydDJ Eberle, Cody KuxmannKaren RitterJake Frechette and Declan Yeats, respectively.

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About Jamie Wall 131 Articles
Jamie Wall grew up in Wellington, NZ and enjoyed a stunningly mediocre playing career in which the highlight was a seat on the bench for his club's premier side. He's enjoyed far more success spouting his viewpoints on anything to do with Rugby to anyone that'll care to listen.