The curtain comes down on the 2021 Rugby Championship Down Under on Saturday, with plenty of pride to play for among the four Southern Hemisphere nations.
New Zealand have the title sewn up thanks to an imperious campaign, with South Africa’s Springboks setting out to salvage some pride when they meet the All Blacks for one last dance.
Australia are eyeing a strong finish to a positive campaign against increasingly ragged Argentina.
Rugby Championship: Argentina vs Australia
There are starkly contrasting emotions as Australia meet Argentina in the final round of Rugby Championship fixtures on Saturday.
The Wallabies have roared back following an opening pair of defeats against the All Blacks.
Back-to-back victories over world champions South Africa paved the way for a comfortable success against Los Pumas in Townsville last weekend.
A rise up the world rugby rankings has been the reward for coach Dave Rennie, who has followed up his eye-catching recall of Quade Cooper earlier in the competition with the inclusion of Sean McMahon and veteran Greg Holmes in his final squad.
Pete Samu, Jordan Petaia and Darcy Swain are the three new starting inclusions.
It’s been a miserable tournament for Argentina who have lost five from five so far, not helped by a punishing travel and quarantine schedule.
And their bubble burst this week, with six players busted for an unsanctioned trip across the border from Queensland into New South Wales.
Star man Pablo Matera is among those to miss out, as coach Mario Ledesma makes five starting changes to his beleaguered side.
Argentina Starting XV: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia, 14 Matias Moroni, 13 Lucio Cinti, 12 Santiago Chocobares, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Rodrigo Bruni, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Rodrigo Martinez.
Replacements: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Thomas Gallo, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Francisco Gorrissen, 21 Gonzalo Garcia, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Mateo Carreras.
Australia Starting XV: 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Jordan Petaia, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Andrew Kellaway, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nic White, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Pete Samu, 5 Darcy Swain, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Sean McMahon, 21 Jack Gordon, 22 James O’Connor, 23 Tom Wright.
Rugby Championship: South Africa vs New Zealand
The Springboks have one last bash at salvaging a positive result from their trip Down Under, as they tackle Rugby Championship winners New Zealand in Gold Coast.
An agonizing, 19-17 defeat to the All Blacks in Townsville last weekend made it three defeats on the spin for Jacques Nienaber’s reigning world champions.
It left an opening pair of wins over Argentina a distant memory and questions swirling around the Springboks’ playing style.
No such issues for the Kiwis, who have romped to the top of the standings thanks to a perfect winning record.
Frans Malherbe’s dodgy neck necessitates a recall in the front row for Retshegofaditswe Nche, as Trevor Nyakane switches to the tighthead side.
Jasper Wiese returns to the bench in the absence of Marco van Staden, while the final fixture comes just too soon for Cheslin Kolbe to make his mark in Australia.
Sevu Reece and Rieko Ioane are preferred on the wings for the All Blacks, who were subjected to an aerial barrage last Saturday.
Anton Lienert-Brown returns from injury in the midfield, while Brad Weber gets the nod at scrum-half for the finale.
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 Albertus Smith, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Frans Steyn.
New Zealand Starting XV: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 David Havili, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Luke Jacobson, 7 Ardie Savea (captain), 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 George Bower, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Ethan Blackadder, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Richie Mo’unga, 23 Damian McKenzie.
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.