ABs on verge
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.