With the first two rounds of the new Rugby Championship tournament between the Southern Hemisphere’s finest teams completed, Al Jazeera has a look at how the matches have gone and what we can expect from the next round of games.
The most prominent feature of the tournament has been the introduction of Argentina to rugby’s top table.
In their two matches against 2007 World Cup champions South Africa they have performed admirably and more than justified their inclusion in the tournament.
The first match in South Africa saw Argentina struggle as expected, going down 27-6. But they showed a lot of character to respond with a draw a week later in the return fixture in Mendoza, Argentina.
In fact, Los Pumas improved so much that it was the Springboks who were relieved to escape with a 16-16 draw after the hosts dominated the match for large periods.
Across the Pacific Ocean meanwhile New Zealand look to have seamlessly transitioned from life under Graham Henry to new coach Steve Hansen.
The All Blacks registered a 27-19 victory over great rivals Australia in Sydney followed by a 22-0 humbling of the Wallabies in Auckland.
This result, coupled with South Africa’s failure to defeat Argentina in Mendoza, all but gifts the first Rugby Championship to current World Champions New Zealand.
However, there is still a lot to play for in Round Three.
Argentina will look to build momentum from their draw and produce a competitive spectacle despite the unenviable task that awaits them in playing New Zealand in Wellington.
But Argentina will take confidence from the return to fitness of star playmaker Juan Martin Hernandez and veteran flanker Juan Manuel Leguizamon to the starting line up.
Meanwhile Australia captain Nathan Sharpe has promised the Springboks his struggling team will be “motivated” and will look to capitalise on South Africa’s new playing and coaching set-up.
The teams clash in Perth this Saturday in a match that promises to be one of the most competitive to date with both teams looking to make amends for their last outings.
Matches between South Africa and Australia are rarely dull affairs and this match will not be for the faint-hearted as both are under intense-pressure from their unforgiving media at home.
Ones to watch for the home team will be the return of first-choice Kurtley Beale at fullback who will provide some much needed direction and pace in the attack.
South Africa meanwhile has a crisis at hooker where if Adriaan Strauss fails a late fitness test, fourth choice Tiaan Liebenberg will be making his debut in the starting line-up.
Saturday, 8 August
Australia 19-27 New Zealand
South Africa 27-6 Argentina
Saturday, 25 August
New Zealand 22-0 Australia
Sunday, 26 August
Argentina 16-16 South Africa
Saturday, 8 September
New Zealand v Argentina, 07:35 GMT
Australia v South Africa, 10:35 GMT
Saturday, 15 September
Australia v Argentina, 10:05
New Zealand v South Africa, 06:35
Andrew Binner is a freelance journalist contributing to Al Jazeera. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewBinner and www.andrewbinner.com.
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