The Rugby Championship resumes this weekend with only one point covering all four teams heading into round three.
Each team has won one game apiece with Argentina and Australia on five points to South Africa and New Zealand’s four.
But while the competition remains wide open, the table could take on a very different look after the next two rounds with New Zealand and Australia hosting Argentina and South Africa, respectively, in back-to-back tests.
Given their status as three-time world champions and current holders of the Webb Ellis Cup, South Africa’s recent inability to beat the Wallabies in Australia in recent times is one of the more eye-catching trends in the modern game.
South Africa pitch up in Adelaide having failed to win any of their last seven tests against the Wallabies in Australia, dating back to a 38-12 win in September 2013, with six defeats and one draw in that time.
🇦🇺 Your team to take on the @Springboks at @TheAdelaideOval.— Wallabies (@wallabies) August 25, 2022
🗓 Saturday 27 August, 3:00pm ACST
🏟 Adelaide Oval
📺 @StanSportAU & @Channel9@eToroAU #TRC2022 #AUSvRSA pic.twitter.com/vInmhCps06
De Klerk returns to boost Boks
Faf de Klerk returns at scrum-half for the Springboks as they look to overturn that poor record.
The other change from the New Zealand defeat sees Warrick Gelant selected to start on the right wing in the place of the injured Jesse Kriel.
Head coach Jacques Nienaber has also made three changes on the replacements bench, which features a five-three split between forwards and backs.
"Australia are always a tough force at home and the fact that we haven't beaten them here since 2013 is evidence of that," Nienaber said.
"Much like us, they will also want to bounce back after going down against Argentina, so we expect them to come out firing.
"We had a thorough review of our last match against New Zealand, and we have identified the areas of our game in which we need to improve," Nienaber continued.
"We know we need to make a big step up in the quality of our performance to start the tour on a positive note, and that is a big objective for us this weekend."
As for the Wallabies, assistant coach Dan McKellar wants to see a reaction from the humbling defeat to Argentina a fortnight ago.
"We were pretty filthy about how we performed in San Juan," he said.
"We didn't win the collisions and didn't have a thirst to win the collisions.
“You've got to stick tight; it's Test footy, it's hard. You're always going to have these periods."
Having been overlooked in the first two rounds, Noah Lolesio gets the chance to show he should be the Wallabies' first-choice fly-half moving forward.
Lolesio is named at 10 in a starting line-up showing six changes from San Juan.
Elsewhere in the backs, Hunter Paisami comes in at centre for Lalakai Foketi, while Reece Hodge lines up at full-back with Tom Wright switching to the wing and Jordan Petaia missing out.
In the pack, fit-again hooker Folau Fainga'a and prop Allan Alaalatoa return to the front row, while Matt Philip will start in the second row in place of the demoted Darcy Swain.
"I thought it was never achievable"— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) August 25, 2022
Congrats Stevie! 🖤🖤 pic.twitter.com/l43ymPUsWI
“One win doesn’t mean a lot”
First up on Saturday is the game in Christchurch as the All Blacks take on Los Pumas in a bottom-v-top encounter that no one probably envisaged – at least that way around – two rounds into the competition.
The All Blacks relieved some of the pressure on themselves with a brilliant 35-25 win over the Springboks in Johannesburg and will be looking to follow that up against Los Pumas who also responded to an opening round defeat with a record 48-17 victory over Australia in the second meeting. It was Los Pumas’ first Rugby Championship victory, and only their seventh overall, since they beat New Zealand 25-15 in the 2020 Tri Nations on neutral soil in Australia
Ian Foster says the emphasis is on continual improvement with him confirmed as All Blacks head coach for another year.
"There's always plenty of tenseness and pressure around playing for the All Blacks but it's learning how to deal with that. It comes in different forms and shapes – sometimes it's geared at people, sometimes it's geared at performance.
"We know one win doesn't mean a lot. We want to keep growing and climbing through this year."
Los Pumas beef up backline
New Zealand have won all 14 tests with Argentina on home soil as well as two matches in 1979 when the All Blacks did not award caps.
Foster has kept faith for Saturday's match with the same players that ended a run of three straight defeats with that victory at Emirates Airline Park, and as a result, scrum-half Aaron Smith will start his 100th test in what is his 108th cap overall for the All Blacks.
The only change comes on the bench where Stephen Perofeta is poised for his test debut after replacing the injured Beauden Barrett.
Meanwhile, Los Pumas coach Michael Cheika, who won three of his 14 encounters against New Zealand as head coach of Australia, has opted to make three changes to his starting XV.
Matias Orlando and Lucio Cinti step in to replace Jeronimo De La Fuente and Juan Imhoff at inside centre and on the left wing respectively, while Joel Sclavi comes in for Francisco Gomez Kodela at tight-head prop.
Explaining his selection policy, Cheika said: “New Zealand have a big backline, so we’ve got some big players there to maybe counter that.”