The fourth round of the 2013 Rugby Championship boasts a virtual final between New Zealand and South Africa at Eden Park in Auckland.
While, on the other hand, Australia, who are in a real state of turmoil without a win to their name, have benched their star scrum half Will Genia to face Argentina in Perth. For the majority, the All Blacks and Wallabies are favourites this week, but could we see table leaders South Africa or the ever-resilient Pumas cause an upset?
Talking Rugby Union correspondent in the Southern hemisphere, Scotty Donaldson, believes that “this weekend will certainly be the most exciting of the 2013 Rugby Championship.
“For the first time in recent memory, the All Blacks look less settled and are coming off a smaller winning margin than their opposition.
If the Springboks win in Auckland on Saturday night, they will have their first Rugby Championship in their grasp and gain a rare victory at Eden Park.”
The Springboks, who hammered Australia last week 38-12 in Brisbane, are fielding an unchanged team.
However, New Zealand have made five changes after their unimpressive win over Argentina last weekend. The All Blacks have included Dane Coles at hooker in a move that surprised most.
Scotty added that the move is “most probably indicative of the fact that both Andrew Hore and Keven Mealamu probably won’t last until the 2015 Rugby World Cup.”
The All Blacks will be hard pressed to win without Captain Richie McCaw, although replacement Sam Cane does offer a great deal of speed around the park. Experience is brought back into the team, through the selection of Liam Messam and Owen Franks. Steven Luatana is unlucky to miss a starting spot, but will be hoping to add a lot of impact from the bench. Finally, the talismanic figure of Ma’a Nonu returns to the starting backline at centre.
The All Blacks are bound to be nervous before the game. Home advantage at the fortress of Eden Park is a big bonus for New Zealand, but South Africa, who are a point ahead in the league table, have constantly impressed this season.
On the other side of the tournament, the Wallabies are in a state of turmoil as they can’t seem to win a game.
Scotty joked that “it is ironic given that Australians never usually lack any confidence in anything, ever, but this team seems to be a collection of the least confident Aussies ever.”
The biggest news before the round is that Australia have dumped one of their only world calls players in Will Genia, as we question the coaching decisions of Robbie Dean.
The Argentinians have improved in every game so far this season and will always pose a threat to any team both up front and in the set piece.
Concluding, Scotty said that “both the All Blacks and Wallabies are hot favourites to win this weekend.
“However, I think that both the Springboks and Pumas have a better chance of winning than the odds suggest and I wouldn't be surprised if the Springboks or Pumas did grab a win.”
A win for the Springboks this weekend would make them the IRB’s top ranked side in the world. Although, this does seem slightly dubious given New Zealand’s recent for, having hardly lost in recent years.
On the other hand, should the Pumas cause an upset and beat Australia, the Wallabies will slide down to a lowly sixth in the IRB rankings.
There is plenty at stake in the 2013 Rugby Championships’ fourth round.
Who is your money on?