The Rugby Championship 2021: The Breakdown - Hooper to make history as Springboks eye revenge

By Sports Desk September 16, 2021

South Africa will attempt to spoil Michael Hooper's record-breaking Australia appearance when the Springboks go on a Rugby Championship revenge mission on Saturday.

Hooper will captain the Wallabies for a 60th time at Suncorp Stadium, surpassing the number of times George Gregan led Australia out.

A special occasion for the skipper will come six days after Quade Cooper marked his international return by kicking a dramatic winning penalty against the Boks on the Gold Coast.

Holders South Africa were consigned to a stunning 28-26 defeat in Queensland and trail leaders New Zealand by five points.

Australia are unbeaten in six Tests against the Springboks on home soil ahead of the round-four showdown, after achieving their first win of this year's tournament last weekend.

The All Blacks have maximum points from three matches and can take another stride towards regaining the title by beating Argentina.

Here, Stats Perform uses Opta facts to preview the Rugby Championship double-header in Brisbane.

 


AUSTRALIA V SOUTH AFRICA

Form

South Africa will be looking to avoid back-to-back defeats in men's Tests for the first time since November 2018.

Australia have not won back-to-back Tests since October 2019 and may need to show their staying power once again to get their hands on the Nelson Mandela Challenge Plate.

Dave Rennie's side have scored 27 points in the final quarter of games in this tournament, more than any other quarter of a match.

Nic White, James Slipper and Taniela Tupou come into the Australia team. Jacques Nienaber makes three changes to South Africa's matchday squad, with Marvin Orie and Trevor Nyakane starting. Cheslin Kolbe is not ready to return from injury.

 

Ones to watch

Andrew Kellaway scored Australia's only try in last week's win over the world champions.

The wing is the joint-leading try-scorer in the tournament with three, alongside David Havili and Malcolm Marx. 

With Lood de Jager absent due to concussion, Orie takes over at lock for South Africa.

De Jager has won a competition-high 22 lineouts, including three steals, so Orie has big shoes to fill.

 

ARGENTINA V NEW ZEALAND

Form

The All Blacks dished out a 39-0 thrashing to Argentina in round three, Luke Jacobson scoring two of their five tries.

New Zealand have kept the Pumas scoreless in each of their past two meetings and have only failed to beat them in two of 32 previous encounters.

Argentina have lost three consecutive Tests, having lost only twice in their 10 prior to that run.

Joe Moody comes into a much-changed All Blacks side and Ardie Savea returns as captain, while Samisoni Taukei'aho makes his first Test start. Patrick Tuipulotu and Ofa Tuungafasi are also among the starters.

Santiago Carreras starts for Argentina at fly-half, while Pablo Matera takes the number eight shirt as Mario Ledesma makes six changes.

 

Ones to watch

The versatile Damian McKenzie gets the chance to start a second Test at fly-half for the All Blacks.

Playmaker McKenzie can put on a show at number 10 and pull the strings in tandem with scrum-half TJ Perenara.

Pumas captain Julian Montoya won three turnovers in the defeat to the All Blacks last weekend and his tally of four is twice as many as any other player in the tournament.

Montoya has not missed any of his 40 tackles in the competition.

Related items

  • Morocco v Portugal: Fernandes alert to upset threat as Regragui calls on support of Arab world Morocco v Portugal: Fernandes alert to upset threat as Regragui calls on support of Arab world

    Bruno Fernandes and Portugal are alert to the threat of an upset posed by Morocco in their World Cup quarter-final after the Atlas Lions stunned Spain and now eye tournament history.

    Walid Regragui's side held La Roja to a 0-0 draw before beating them 3-0 on penalties, owing much to the saves of goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.

    Portugal had been effective if unspectacular in the group stage, but they released the handbrake in the last 16, demolishing Switzerland 6-1 in one of the finest performances by any team at Qatar 2022 after Goncalo Ramos came in for the benched Cristiano Ronaldo and scored a hat-trick.

    With the out-of-form and maligned Ronaldo out of the team, there was a perception of Portugal suddenly realising their potential without the 37-year-old holding them back, and Ramos' performance – as he became the first player since 2002 to net a World Cup treble on his first start – was evidence of that.

    But Fernandes – involved in more goals (five) than any of his team-mates in this tournament – insists Portugal will not be taking anything for granted.

    "It's a difficult game," he told reporters. "Morocco are a really good team.

    "They came first in the group, beat Spain, so we are aware of their qualities. We want to do the best game, as always, but we have to focus on ourselves and understand what we need to do to win our game.

    "That's the most important thing: that we do our game, do our job to get through. We know it will be a really difficult game."

    That is backed up by the fact Morocco have kept three clean sheets in four games at this World Cup, which is the most ever by an African side in a single edition of the tournament.

    But the task facing Morocco is monumental.

    If they do see off Portugal, Morocco will become the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup.

    Each of the previous three African teams to reach a quarter-final were all eliminated in the last eight, with Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002) and Ghana (2010) falling at this hurdle.

    Additionally, only two of the previous 11 knockout meetings between European and African teams at the World Cup have seen CAF sides progress, and one of those was Morocco's shoot-out win over Spain.

    Morocco have been one of the best-supported nations in Qatar, and Regragui is calling on the support of the rest of the Arab world to help bridge the gap in quality to Portugal.

    "We cannot achieve anything without the Moroccan public," he said. "Four days ago, they came to the hotel to ask for tickets, and many of them came from all over to encourage us.

    "We tell our supporters that we need them, especially in the quarter-finals, to write history. We also need Arab supporters; Algerians, Tunisians and Africans, and we know that many countries are behind us."
     

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Portugal – Goncalo Ramos

    Will Fernando Santos stick to his guns and keep Ronaldo on the bench? Judging by the team's performance against Switzerland, he should.

    Ramos had a hand in four goals against the Swiss and his hat-trick in 74 minutes was more knockout goals than Ronaldo has ever managed in the knockout stages of the World Cup (none in 531 minutes).

    Morocco – Yassine Bounou

    He was the Atlas Lions' hero in the last 16, saving two penalties in the shoot-out – the other hit the post, but he seemed to have it covered anyway.

    But even outside of penalty shoot-outs, Bounou is a key man for Morocco as a dependable goalkeeper who was even nominated for FIFA's Yashin Trophy – the prize given to the world's best keeper – earlier this year.

    PREDICTION

    Portugal are firm favourites here, with Santos' side having a 55.8 per cent chance of progressing to the semi-finals.

    Morocco have an 18.8 per cent likelihood of winning in normal time, with the draw rated at 25.4 per cent.

    Clearly then, while the Atlas Lions are the underdogs, they have a good opportunity of at least forcing extra-time, which did not work out too badly for them last time.
  • Regragui proving Arab coaches are 'worthy' of top jobs like Barcelona Regragui proving Arab coaches are 'worthy' of top jobs like Barcelona

    Walid Regragui hopes Morocco's performance at the World Cup is showing why Arab coaches should get top jobs in Europe, which is "impossible" right now.

    Regragui was only appointed as Morocco head coach at the end of August.

    Since then, the Atlas Lions are unbeaten, conceding only an own goal against Canada and reaching the quarter-finals at Qatar 2022.

    Regragui's short stint has included an upset win over Belgium and a penalty shoot-out success against highly-fancied Spain in the last 16.

    Morocco are the first Arab team and fourth African side to make the last eight at a World Cup, prompting discussion of interest in Regragui's services.

    But the coach explained the battle he had faced just to get this job, let alone taking over at Manchester City or Barcelona.

    "This question is probably best asked to European clubs: why don't they hire Arab coaches? Maybe it's a cultural question, maybe it's a mentality aspect," he said.

    "Today I think it's impossible Manchester City or Barcelona bring an Arab coach. They don't think about it, as if we're not worthy, as if we're not capable.

    "But there's moments in history that make people change their mind. It's on us, the Arab and African people, to show we are ready."

    Having spent much of his coaching career with clubs in Morocco, Regragui added: "Ten years I am a coach, nobody looked at me. 'No, it is impossible, he does not have the experience. Let's look at somebody else'.

    "I'm in the quarter-final. Explain this miracle.

    "Experience doesn't matter. It's skills. It doesn't matter your background, where you're from; skills matter. If you're not worthy, you don't have the skills, you can leave."

    Perhaps Morocco's style of play could be an obstacle to Regragui's progress, with only Costa Rica (30.2 per cent) having a smaller average share of possession at the tournament than their 32.3 per cent.

    But Regragui made no apologies for Morocco's approach as they stifled Spain, who dominated 76.8 per cent of the play in the previous round but had only one shot on target in 120 minutes.

    Highlighting other examples of Spain – with the highest possession share at the finals (77.0 per cent) – bossing proceedings against elite sides, Regragui wondered if critics would rather Morocco had bravely lost.

    He asked: "Why do Morocco need to keep the ball? Why do African teams need to play very well and lose after and cry?"

    But now, against Portugal in Saturday's quarter-final, Regragui feels huge support for his side.

    "We want to show Africa deserves to be here, Morocco deserves to be here, football is global," he said.

    "We have a federation behind us, a whole people behind us, a whole continent behind us. We have the Arab world. That's a lot of people. That's what we're going to draw from."

  • Lyon roars to Test record after Head ache as Australia torment West Indies again Lyon roars to Test record after Head ache as Australia torment West Indies again

    Nathan Lyon became the outright most prolific Test wicket-taker at the Adelaide Oval, going past Shane Warne as Australia dominated day two of the second Test against West Indies.

    Lyon, who served as a groundsman at the venue before his career took off, had Jermaine Blackwood caught and bowled for three in the evening session as Australia reduced West Indies to 102-4 at stumps, a world away from Australia's 511-7 total. It gave Lyon a 57th wicket in 12 Tests in Adelaide, beating Warne's haul of 56 from 13 matches.

    Michael Neser, playing just his second Test match and first since facing England in Adelaide last year, took 2-20 after drawing edges from West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite and Shamarh Brooks. Tagenarine Chanderpaul (47no) was the only West Indies batter to have passed 20 by the close.

    Earlier, Marnus Labuschagne advanced from his overnight 120 not out to 163 before edging Devon Thomas through to wicketkeeper Joshua Da Silva.

    Hometown favourite Travis Head had delighted the Adelaide crowd by reaching 114 on Thursday, and he looked set to convert that to a double century before being run out for 175 after a mix-up with Cameron Green over a second run. Head, crestfallen to miss out, could console himself with what goes down as the best score of his Test career.

    In the second of two Tests, Australia look to be on track for a hefty win to match their previous victory in Perth, particularly with their bowlers already firmly on top.

    Neser, a 32-year-old Queensland seamer, told Fox: "The boys set it up there with the bat. We took advantage of the night session."

    He praised Lyon for going past Warne, saying: "He's been performing for many years now, so it's great to see him getting milestones. I'm sure he has many more years left in him."

    Labuschagne and Head go sixth on all-time list

    The partnership for Australia's fourth wicket was worth 297 runs before Labuschagne was the first to go, and only five Test pairings have put on more for any wicket at the Adelaide Oval. Labuschagne also featured in the second-highest Test partnership at the ground, putting on 361 with David Warner for Australia's second wicket against Pakistan in November 2019. The highest remains the 386 that Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke shared in against India in January 2012 – both batters making double centuries.

    Chanderpaul at it again

    West Indies arrived in Australia with high hopes for Test rookie Chanderpaul, son of the great Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and while the team are collectively struggling, he has proven highly capable. Scores of 51 and 45 in the first Test boded well, and he will certainly hope to post a new personal Test best on Saturday.

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