The Rugby Championship predictions
This Friday sees New Zealand open their defence of The Rugby Championship title, looking to once again be crowned kings of the Southern Hemisphere ahead of South Africa, Australia and Argentina.
Due to the upcoming World Cup this year’s Rugby Championship will see each side face each other just once in a far more condensed format.
Read on for our early thoughts on who will be finishing where, and what that could do for their momentum heading into the World Cup.
The Pumas will undoubtedly remember beating Australia 21-17 in Mendoza to claim their first-ever Rugby Championship victory last September. This followed two campaigns of defeat after defeat, but if they can repeat that upset this time round they will likely finish off the bottom of the competition for the first time due to the condensed format the competition undertakes this year.
In 2016 Argentina’s Super Rugby franchise will debut, and if things go the way we think they might they will be doing so on the back of a third place finish, which would give the team another level of credibility.
A third place finish would also give Argentina a big push in momentum heading into the World Cup, where their favourable Pool suggests they have one foot in the knockout rounds already.
Predicted finish: 3rd
A new dawn beckons for the Wallabies as they try to prove heading into the World Cup that they can once again become a credible force on the world stage.
Australia, who have been dominated by New Zealand and South Africa in recent times, are nevertheless at huge risk of a last-place finish if they do not perform in week 2 against Argentina.
Michael Cheika will feel his team may have an outside chance of finishing second based on the fact South Africa’s Super Rugby teams, bar the Lions and Stormers, were largely disappointing in 2015, but Heyneke Meyer’s Springboks should still have enough about them to succeed in Brisbane.
It seems unlikely therefore that Australia will be able to build any considerable momentum going into the World Cup from The Rugby Championship. This means Aussie fans should brace themselves what could be another difficult year of rugby again for the Wallabies as their Pool includes both England and Wales, with only team teams able to advance.
Predicted finish: 4th
The All-Blacks will be tipped to dominate once again and make it four wins in a row after three years of utter supremacy. That rise to the top came on the back of their 2011 World Cup success, which was followed by them becoming the first nation to record a perfect calendar year in 2013, and that momentum has rarely stuttered since heading into this years Rugby Championship.
It is no surprise therefore that the Hurricanes, who are filled with New Zealand international talent, ran away with the Super Rugby regular season. They were also one of three New Zealand sides that reached the play-offs before they were beaten by fellow All-Black side the Highlanders in the final.
So despite playing two of their three matches away from home, with one coming at Ellis Park against South Africa, it would be expected that New Zealand would continue their dominance by emerging with a perfect record and the silverware, which will make them hot favourite’s heading into the World Cup.
Predicted finish: 1st
The Springboks have finished clear second in back-to-back years, finishing 10 points clear of the Aussies in 2013, before ending nine points clear in 2014.
South Africa have not won The Rugby Championship now for six years since 2009, nevertheless last year they demonstrated on their day they can match the All-Blacks when they ended their 22-match unbeaten run at home before coming incredibly close to beating them again in Wellington, eventually losing 14-10.
However, the Boks had an awful Super Rugby season, with just the Stormers reaching the finals, meaning confidence could potentially be damaged heading into the tournament. They should finish comfortably in second, giving them a decent foundation heading into the World Cup.
Predicted finish: 2nd