While New Zealand may have wrapped up their sixth Rugby Championship title with a round to spare, there is still much riding on the final round of the southern hemisphere's flagship international competition.
No fixture between South Africa and New Zealand is anything less than full-blooded and the All Blacks will be desperate to gain revenge for their loss ito the Springboks in Wellington three weeks ago when the top two sides meet in Pretoria this weekend.
Over in Salta, Argentina have an opportunity to round off their best Rugby Championship with an unprecedented third win campaign against an Australian side that has never finished bottom of the table since the competition was established six years ago.
A heavy defeat for the Wallabies would also see them drop below Argentina in the World Rugby Rankings for the first time since June 2008, when Los Pumas were still in the after-glow of their historic bronze medal finish at Rugby World Cup 2007.
2018 TRC Round #6#RSAvNZL #ARGvAUS— TheRugbyChampionship (@SanzarTRC) October 4, 2018
Pretoria: KO 12:05 ARG, 15:05 GMT, 17:05 RSA, 02:05 AUS [sun], 04:05 NZ [sun]
Salta: KO 19:40 ARG, 22:40 GMT, 00:40 RSA [sun], 09:40 AUS [sun], 11:40 NZ [sun]
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South Africa (5) v New Zealand (1)
Damian de Allende, Francois Louw and Steven Kitshoff are back in the Springbok starting line-up for Saturday’s match at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, where Willie le Roux will play in his 50th test for South Africa. De Allende has shrugged off the shoulder injury that forced him to miss last weekend’s win over the Wallabies in Port Elizabeth and takes over from Andre Esterhuizen at inside centre. Louw returns from club duty to take his place at number eight - only his third test start in the position, while Sikhumbuzo Notshe will play off the bench. Kitshoff is part of the starting front row in a straight rotational swop with the experienced Tendai Mtawarira, who is joined on the bench by Vincent Koch. The rest of the team that defeated Australia last weekend in Port Elizabeth was kept unchanged.
Steve Hansen has made a number of changes to his starting XV as the All Blacks seek to overturn the 36-34 defeat they suffered at the hands of the Springboks in Wellington. Two caps centurions are welcomed back to the forward pack in the form of tight-head prop Owen Franks and captain and number eight Kieran Read. In the backs, Aaron Smith returns to the starting half-back spot with TJ Perenara on the bench, while Jack Goodhue has been named at centre for his sixth test, in a midfield partnership with Sonny Bill Williams.
- The All Blacks and South Africa have played each other 96 times since 1921, with 57 wins to the All Blacks, 36 to South Africa and three draws
- South Africa have lost all four post-isolation tests against the All Blacks at the Loftus Versveld, conceding 97 points in the last two encounters
- South Africa could score their 150th try against New Zealand if they score two tries in this test match
- New Zealand need 21 points to reach 2 000 points in tests against South Africa
- South Africa need two tries to bring up their150 against New Zealand, and New Zealand are 21 points from reaching 2 000 points in tests against South Africa.
- Eben Etzebeth will play in his record 38th consecutive Rugby Championship test match.
- Rieko Ioane is the leading try scorer in the world with nine so far in 2018
- Aphiwe Dyantyi and Beauden Barrett are joint top of the try scoring list in this year's competition with five apiece
Third place is the prize on offer for South Africa if they manage to beat the All Blacks by over 15 points. In gaining 2.34 points for a large win, South Africa would move above England and Wales. Such a result will leave New Zealand hanging onto their status as the world’s number one team by six-hundredths of a point. An All Blacks win of more than 15 points will extend New Zealand’s cushion at the top over Ireland to 3.06 points. South Africa are assured of fifth place even if beaten heavily.
Argentina (9) v Australia (7)
Los Pumas are boosted by the return from injury of winger Ramiro Moyano from the rib injury that kept him out of last week's 35-17 home defeat to New Zealand. Despite missing the match, Moyano still tops the chart for most defenders beaten with 23. But while coach Mario Ledesma welcomes back one winger, he loses another with Bautista Delguy having to sit out the final round of the Rugby Championship. Delguy injured his shoulder against the All Blacks and is unavailable for selection, having scored three tries during the tournament, and his place is taken by Matias Moroni, who moves from the left wing to the right to accommodate Moyano. In midfield, Matias Orlando is promoted from the bench to outside centre, while Jeronimo de la Fuente moves inside one position to wear 12 and Bautista Ezcurra drops out of the matchday squad.
For Australia, Bernard Foley returns to the number 10 jersey for the first time since the second round of the Rugby Championship with Kurtley Beale shifting out one position to inside centre, while Matt Toomua drops to the bench. The playmaking reshuffle is the only change to the starting side with coach Michael Cheika opting to stick with the rest of the team that faced South Africa in Port Elizabeth, though there is one change amongst the replacements as Tolu Latu returns to the 23 in place of injured hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau.
- Australia have won on their last three visits to Argentina
- Argentina won this season's first encounter in round four, 23-19 on the Gold Coast, which was only their sixth win in 30 tests against the Wallabies
- Los Pumas need nine points to bring up 500 in tests against Australia
- Nicolas Sanchez is the leading points scorer in the competition with 61 points - six more than New Zealand's Beauden Barrett
- Neither side has received a yellow card in this year's competition
- Argentina have never won three Rugby Championship games before in a single season
- Australia have never finished bottom of the Rugby Championship before
Not since June 2008 have Argentina been above Australia in the world rankings but that is the prize at stake if they finish their Rugby Championship campaign in style and win by more than 15 points. Such a margin of victory would take Los Pumas up to seventh, their highest position since October 2016 and send Australia down to a new record low of eighth. Australia need to win by over 15 points to improve their position, a gain of 1.53 points taking the Wallabies above Scotland and into sixth place.
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