The 2021 Rugby Championship finally comes together this weekend, as the top four Southern Hemisphere rugby nations collide at the CBS Super Stadium.
Australia has become the host nation by default, thanks to the ongoing administrative wrangling due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
But only after the Wallabies were already twice beaten by New Zealand in the Bledisloe Cup, while South Africa’s Springboks secured back-to-back wins over Los Pumas on home soil last month.
Rugby Championship: South Africa vs Australia
The Springboks play Australia on Sunday in their first overseas international match since lifting the 2019 Rugby World Cup trophy, almost two years ago.
Coach Jacques Nienaber takes his South Africa side to the Gold Coast for what should have been a home fixture against the Australians.
And he does so off the back of a pair of victories over Argentina at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Gqeberha, before the rest of the competition’s schedule was cobbled together by the event bigwigs.
Changes are afoot for the Boks, who also dispensed with the British & Irish Lions over three Cape Town Tests that descended deep into acrimony.
Duane Vermeulen, then, is the perfect player to recall for a country with a target on its back, as the formidable eighth man returns to the international arena.
Cheslin Kolbe misses out on the wing thanks to a leg injury, with Sbu Nkosi receiving the nod.
A big boost in a small package, meanwhile, sees the return of top-notch scrum-half Faf de Klerk, who partners Handre Pollard in the half-backs.
Aussie coach Dave Rennie’s inclusion of veteran fly-half Quade Cooper has caught the eye Down Under, following the kicking travails of rookie Noah Lolesio.
Angus Bell earns his first start for his country in the front row, alongside Folau Fainga’a and Allan Alaalatoa.
South Africa Starting XV: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Retshegofaditswe Nché, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Marco van Staden, 20 Albertus Smith, 21 Jasper Wiese, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse.
Australia Starting XV: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Andrew Kellaway, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Angus Bell.
Replacements: 16 Feleti Kaitu’u, 17 James Slipper, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Leota, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Nic White, 22 Reece Hodge, 23 Jordan Petaia.
Rugby Championship: New Zealand vs Argentina
New Zealand are out to strengthen their grip at the summit of the Rugby Championship table on Sunday as they go up against Argentina at the CBS Super Stadium in Australia’s Gold Coast.
The All Blacks have already claimed the Bledisloe Cup honours over arch-rivals Australia, having mopped up a brace of bonus point wins before all four competing nations decamped to Queensland.
It’s a gloomier picture for Los Pumas, though, thanks to a pair of defeats at the hands of the world champions in a hastily set up double-header at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Gqeberha.
Brodie Retallick takes the captaincy for the favourites, who make six changes in the wake of their Australian triumph.
There’s a first Test start for Asafo Aumua at hooker, while prop Joe Moody returns as far as the bench following several months on the sidelines thanks to injury.
Jordie Barrett will also feature, with his red card for a hoof to the head rescinded.
Nicolas Sanchez is back in the ten jersey for Los Pumas, while Santiago Cordero and Bautista Delguy both make comebacks on the wings.
New Zealand Starting XV: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 David Havili, 11 George Bridge, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Luke Jacobson, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Brodie Retallick (captain), 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Asafo Aumua, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Ethan Blackadder, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Rieko Ioane.
Argentina Starting XV: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Santiago Cordero, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Rodrigo Bruni, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matias Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Facundo Gigena.
Replacements: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Carloe Muzzio, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Tomas Lavanini, 20 Juan Martin Gonzalez Samso, 21 Gonzalo Garcia, 22 Santiago Chocobares, 23 Emiliano Boffelli.
Rugby Championship: Predictions
Prediction methodology explained: The expected win percentage is based off publicly available odds. For example, if a team’s odds are 2.30, the expected chance of winning is 43%. If the odds are 1.62 the expected chance of winning is 62% and so on. These are accurate at the time of writing but are subject to change. Where there is no value listed, the odds were not available at the time of writing. Score margins use the methodology developed by Rugby Vision.