ABs on verge

Weekend Herald - - Your Sporting Weekend -

On pa­per, and given re­cent records, tonight’s two Rugby Cham­pi­onship matches should be fore­gone con­clu­sions. The All Blacks have won 11 of their last 12 bat­tles with the Boks, while Aus­tralia have been even more dom­i­nant against Ar­gentina, win­ning 15 of their pre­vi­ous 16. New Zealand and South Africa first met in a three-match se­ries in 1921 with two of the three venues used — Caris­brook and Ath­letic Park — no longer around. Over­all the two pow­er­houses have now met 95 times with the ABs ahead 57-35 with three matches (in­clud­ing the only 0-0 in the third match of that in­au­gu­ral se­ries) drawn. At West­pac Sta­dium, host for the sev­enth such clash tonight, the Boks have come up short ev­ery time. They last won in Welling­ton at Ath­letic Park in 1998. In con­sec­u­tive matches in Oc­to­ber 2016 at Kings Park and North Har­bour Sta­dium the fol­low­ing year, the All Blacks put 57 points on the team from the Republic, in­clud­ing that em­bar­rass­ing 57-0 trounc­ing a year ago. The Wal­la­bies have won 23 of their 29 matches against the Pu­mas, in­clud­ing 23-19 and 32-25 wins on the Gold Coast where tonight’s match will be played. Aus­tralia’s only loss to the South Amer­i­cans in their last 16 was away in 2014. A bonus­point win tonight for New Zealand, with Kieran Read now firmly en­trenched back as skip­per, will all but wrap up an­other Rugby Cham­pi­onship ti­tle.

● New Zealand v South Africa, tonight 6.30pm; Aus­tralia v Ar­gentina tonight 9.30pm.

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