Ian Foster warned New Zealand have "quite a bit left in this tank" after they retained their Rugby Championship title on Saturday.

The All Blacks thrashed Australia 40-14 at Eden Park on Saturday to put one hand on the trophy and South Africa were unable to dethrone them, beating Argentina 38-21 later in the day when they needed a bonus-point win by a margin of at least 39 points.

Defeats to the Springboks and the Pumas following a home series loss to Ireland had seen Foster come under huge pressure, but the head coach was backed to stay in the role.

The All Blacks boss says there is plenty more to come from his side less than a year before the Rugby World Cup starts in France.

He said on Sunday: "There is still quite a bit left in this tank. We saw that even last night. The building blocks are nice, but there are still a lot of finishing touches we're not quite getting right. But what a great spot to be in.

"It's up to us to make sure they're areas we can now tidy up. Some of the conversion rates in our line-breaks, for example, and I was disappointed we let them back on the scorecard in that last 10 minutes … they're small things but could be important things in 12 months' time."

Foster expressed his pride over the way his players have overcome adversity to win the title.

He said: "It's very special. It's been a different journey to other Rugby Championships we've won. To do it from behind the eight-ball at the start … it's not the way we wanted, but it's very satisfying. I'm really proud of the effort the boys have put in."

Foster added: "In life you don't know what it's going to chuck at you. You can only deal with the situation you're in and no one can walk in those shoes but yourself.

"What have we learnt? That under pressure we stay tight, under pressure we've sought solutions that have made us uncomfortable at times, but the goal is to get the performance right."

South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber accepts his team have plenty of room for improvement with just under a year to go until their Rugby World Cup defence gets under way.

The Springboks could only beat Argentina 38-21 in the final match of the Rugby Championship on Saturday, and that meant New Zealand took the trophy.

South Africa required a try-scoring bonus point plus a winning margin of at least 39 points at Kings Park in Durban, but the Pumas would not be rolled over in such a manner.

The daunting title target for the Boks had been set when the All Blacks posted a crushing 40-14 victory against Australia earlier in the day.

Before their 2019 World Cup win, the Boks won a three-match Rugby Championship. The 2020 championship was cancelled due to the pandemic, but the All Blacks have now carried off the title in 2021 and 2022, this time around serving to ease some of the pressure on coach Ian Foster.

It was tight this year, with New Zealand and South Africa both winning four of six games, but the All Blacks managed one more bonus point and a superior points difference.

Nienaber is already looking forward to November away games against Ireland, France, Italy and England, as South Africa look to gather themselves for a big push into next year. The World Cup begins in September 2023 in France.

"We are not there yet, we need to find consistency," Nienaber said. "In that regard, we will get a good idea where we are on the end-of-year tour.

"We play the number one [Ireland] and number two [France] in the world in the first two games of the tour. So it will be a challenging tour for us."

South Africa had not scored 39 points in a match, let alone won by that margin, since a 40-9 defeat of Georgia in July 2021.

They last beat Argentina by such a hefty points margin in 2013, when posting a 73-13 landslide win, but the Pumas are far more competitive nowadays, as wins over Australia and New Zealand in this championship showed.

Nienaber said his players still felt they could pull off the improbable against Argentina when they took to the field.

"We saw it as a realistic target, we took on the task full on," Nienaber said, quoted by Supersport. "We needed to get a 39-point winning margin to win the trophy, and we all bought into it.

"In the end we came up short, but you can never take a win in the Springbok jersey for granted, victory is always special. We are glad we came out on the right side of today's result, even if we didn't get what we needed to win the championship."

New Zealand retained the Rugby Championship title after South Africa could only beat Argentina 38-21 in the final match of the tournament on Saturday.

The All Blacks' dominant 40-14 defeat of Australia had set the Springboks the sizeable task of securing a bonus-point win by at least 39 points to be crowned champions in Durban.

And Ian Foster's side could ultimately watch on with some degree of comfort early on Sunday morning back home, as the world champions could not prevent them from claiming a fifth title in six championships and had to settle for second place.

An 11th-minute Springboks try was ruled out as Eben Etzebeth had stripped the ball from team-mate Siya Kolisi in an offside position, although their pressure soon told with a yellow card for Marcos Kremer.

South Africa made the most of their numerical advantage when Jasper Wiese scored the first and surely easiest try of his international career, walking the ball over at the back of a scrum.

No sooner had Kremer returned than Juan Martin Gonzalez headed for the sin bin, and it was captain Kolisi's turn to capitalise as he powered through for the second, before Frans Steyn dispatched a long-range penalty.

But Gonzalo Bertranou lunged for the line on the stroke of half-time to silence the Kings Park crown, then Gonzalez raced down the left for the first try of the second period.

Argentina had designs on winning the match, yet they conceded pivotal penalty tries either side of Matias Moroni's score in a half that saw two yellow cards for each side, with the Springboks forced to scrap for their victory as Etzebeth and Faf de Klerk were off the field at the same time.

Kurt-Lee Arendse's last-gasp try at least allowed South Africa to finish with a flourish, with the Pumas consigned to finishing bottom of the table.

First-half frustrations again

If South Africa were to hold any hope of stealing the championship from New Zealand, they needed a strong start. However, three of their previous six home Tests against Argentina – despite all ending in victory – had seen the Springboks fail to take a lead into half-time.

They had to stay patient again in this encounter, frustrated in front of the posts against 15 men, but two tries with men in the sin bin looked to have kept South Africa just about on course until Bertranou dealt the home crowd a blow shortly before the interval.

Seven-try repeat a step too far

South Africa had not scored 39 points, let alone won by that margin, since a 40-9 defeat of Georgia in July 2021.

The last victory the Springboks celebrated that would have been enough to take the title in these circumstances was a 66-7 success against Canada at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, while the last against Argentina was a 73-13 win in 2013.

There were seven second-half South Africa tries in that thrashing of the Pumas, but a repeat never appeared likely this time.

Ian Foster says he has "forgotten about the rollercoaster" after New Zealand hammered Australia 40-14 to stand on the brink of retaining the Rugby Championship title.

The All Blacks put their trans-Tasman rivals to the sword in front of a capacity crowd at Eden Park, scoring five tries with Richie Mo'unga booting 13 points.

A resounding victory ensured South Africa need to a bonus-point win over Argentina by at least 39 points to claim the title later on Saturday.

It is not long since Foster was in danger of losing his job, with New Zealand suffering a home series defeat to Ireland before losing to the Springboks and Argentina in the Rugby Championship.

All Blacks head coach Foster said: "I've forgotten about the rollercoaster. I'm just happy in the moment.

"We've come into a championship, we've had, in our mind, the hardest draw by having both tests against South Africa in South Africa, got one out of two in that space, we've let ourselves down in Christchurch [in a defeat to Argentina], but our response to that has been really positive.

"We look at the last half of the championship and we're really pleased with what went in. All we can do is deal with what's in front of us right now.

"I know we've got a buffer [over South Africa] – whether it's enough I don't know. But we've given ourselves a chance and that's all we want."

Foster knows New Zealand remain a work in progress, but he has been impressed with the way they have knuckled down in challenging times.

He added: "All you can do, in the circumstances you get dealt, is try and find a way out of it and I think we've owned very clearly that we put ourselves in a situation. But I back the group we've got to get through an issue.

"I said at the time we're going through stuff that none of us had really gone through in an All Blacks jersey and it was hard. We just had to own it and we had to be the people who came up with the solutions.

"We've done some good problem-solving. We've worked hard, and it's given this team a little bit of steel and it's given us some harsh lessons we kind of wish we didn't have to deal with, but we did.

"In those situations you either fold and walk away because it's too hard, or you buckle up and get stuck into work.

"The work of the players has been phenomenal, and we're growing belief. But we've still got some steps to go."

Australia were again left "gutted" after being beaten by New Zealand for the second week running, with captain James Slipper accepting their performance "just wasn't good enough".

The Wallabies had lost 39-37 at home last week in dramatic fashion, but there was a far wider margin on Saturday.

The All Blacks were 17-0 ahead at half-time of the Rugby Championship clash after a pair of early Australia yellow cards and never looked likely to cede that comfortable advantage as they ran out 40-14 winners at Eden Park.

"That's a very disappointing outcome for us," Slipper told Sky.

"We wanted to come here and perform; we were really gutted with the result last week, and we had a lot of confidence coming in, but the ABs were too good, clearly."

He added: "I'm just gutted the way we performed. It just wasn't good enough."

Coach Dave Rennie bemoaned "way too soft penalties" on top of the early trips to the sin bin for both Jed Holloway and Dave Porecki.

Analysing the match, he said: "We got shaded everywhere, didn't we?

"I thought the All Blacks' defence was excellent; we had enough ball at times to find a way through and didn't.

"We didn't defend well enough, and you can't give a side like the All Blacks that much time and space. They're good enough to hurt us."

New Zealand put one hand on the Rugby Championship trophy with a dominant 40-14 victory over Australia in Auckland, leaving South Africa requiring a 40-point win later on Saturday to take the title.

The All Blacks never looked likely to give South Africa hope after Will Jordan raced home for the first try 23 minutes in, with Australia's ill-discipline costing them as the hosts went in search of a bonus-point victory.

New Zealand added a penalty try and then three second-half tries to wrap up an emphatic win over their Bledisloe Cup rivals, and simply require Argentina to avoid a mammoth defeat to the Springboks to retain their crown.

Australia were temporarily reduced to 14 men through Jed Holloway's yellow card just two minutes in, but New Zealand did not get off the mark until the Wallabies were back at full strength, with Richie Mo'unga kicking a 20th-minute penalty.

The All Blacks finally clinched the first try of the contest shortly afterwards when Jordan powered home after the ball was worked to the right, before Mo'unga added the extras.

Things quickly went from bad to worse for the disjointed Wallabies, with the All Blacks handed a penalty try and Dave Porecki being yellow carded after a collapsed maul 27 minutes in.

Although the Wallabies avoided further concessions to go into half-time 17-0 down, the All Blacks stretched their lead when Sam Whitelock went over three minutes after the interval, with a video review sticking with the on-field decision to award the try.

Mo'unga then added another penalty and, as the All Blacks looked to wrap up the all-important bonus point, a well-worked maul then saw Codie Taylor fall over the line as the hosts went 32-0 ahead.

Australia added two consolation scores through Folau Fainga'a and Jordan Petaia either side of Samisoni Taukei'aho going over, but the All Blacks richly deserved their margin of victory, which makes them favourites to lift the trophy.

Resurgent New Zealand on the brink

New Zealand are on the brink of another Rugby Championship title, which would represent a remarkable turnaround for an All Blacks team which came under huge pressure at the start of the campaign.

Ian Foster's men have now won four of their last five Tests after winning just one of their previous six.

If they clinch the title, this would be their sixth success in the last seven years - only South Africa in 2019 have denied them in that span.

Home comforts reign for All Blacks

Australia struggled from the off, producing a flat display, and have now lost three Tests in a row in the Rugby Championship for the first time since September 2013.

Meanwhile, New Zealand have posted five consecutive wins over Australia and have won each of the last 23 Tests between the teams in Auckland. The last time Australia got the better of their neighbours in that city was in 1986.

The final round of Rugby Championship fixtures are upon us and two teams are realistically left standing in the battle to be crowned 2022 champions.

In what has been the most competitive tournament since Argentina joined a decade ago, all four teams have at one point looked good value to finish top.

New Zealand are level with South Africa at the summit, but they have the advantage in terms of the sides' net points difference, which may be used as a deciding factor.

The All Blacks therefore know a bonus-point win over Bledisloe Cup rivals Australia in a repeat of last week's classic will all but land them an eighth title in 10 years.

South Africa play Argentina, the only side entirely out of the running, later on Saturday and will know what they have to do to have a chance – if any – of overtaking New Zealand.

Here, Stats Perform previews the weekend clashes in round six of the championship using Opta data.


NEW ZEALAND v AUSTRALIA

FORM

New Zealand beat Australia 39-37 in last week's thrilling Test in Melbourne through a hugely contentious late try to make it four wins in a row in this fixture – their best such run since winning seven on the bounce between August 2015 and August 2017.

The All Blacks' record on home soil against Australia is even better, having won each of the last 22 Tests in Auckland by an average margin of 18 points per game. The last time Australia got the better of their neighbours in that city was in September 1986.

Australia therefore have a huge task on their hands at Eden Park as they aim to avoid losing three Tests in a row in the Rugby Championship for the first time since September 2013, with this current run following a streak of six wins from their previous seven matches in the competition.

The Wallabies, who need a bonus-point win and would then hope South Africa fail to get the result required against Argentina, will look to exploit any ill-discipline from their rivals. Their goal-kicking accuracy of 92 per cent on place-kicks this year (33/36) is some 11 percentage points higher than any other Tier One nation.

ONES TO WATCH

Will Jordan has made 10 line breaks for New Zealand across 2022, which is the most of any player from a Tier One nation. To put that into some further perspective, it is double the tally of Tom Wright (five), Australia's best performer in that area.

Australia wing Marika Koroibete could hold the key to breaking down the hosts. The 30-year-old has beaten 23 defenders in 2022 – the most of any player from a Tier One nation and two more than New Zealand's best Rieko Ioane.

 

SOUTH AFRICA V ARGENTINA

FORM

Following last week's 36-20 bonus-point triumph in Buenos Aires, South Africa have won their past five Tests against Argentina. However, a win alone may not be enough on Saturday and the Springboks could find themselves going all out for an emphatic victory in pursuit of New Zealand.

The Boks have some much-needed momentum on their side thanks to two wins in a row – matching the number they managed in their previous seven games in the competition – with those victories coming by a margin of exactly 16 points.

Argentina cannot be written off, though, having already defeated New Zealand and Australia during the first half of their championship campaign. Los Pumas have lost back-to-back matches since then, as many as they lost in their six games prior.

Turnovers could be a huge factor in this contest as Argentina and South Africa have won the most of any teams in this year's tournament with 22 apiece, while also making the most and second-most tackles with 706 and 600 respectively.

ONES TO WATCH

Springbok lock Lood de Jager has played a big part for his country this campaign and is second only to Italy's Federico Ruzza for line-outs won among players from Tier One nations in 2022 with 36.

Matias Moroni was among the try scorers for Argentina in last week's loss when finishing off a well-worked set-piece and is among the starters for this latest tussle. He has made dominant contact on seven tackles this year, placing him second only to Italy's Monty Ioane (eight) among elite nations.

Michael Cheika has urged Argentina to rise to the "huge challenge" of tackling world champions South Africa at Kings Park on Saturday.

For the first time, the Pumas could finish a Rugby Championship campaign with wins against all three of their rivals.

A 36-20 loss to the Springboks in Buenos Aires last week saw the Springboks score two late tries after Argentina got within two points heading into the closing minutes.

With wins over Australia and New Zealand already in the bag, Argentina head into their final match in Durban looking to complete the set, although Cheika is reluctant to address what such an achievement would signify.

"We can talk about that if it happens," he said. "We've got objectives and goals, but that's a good discussion to have once it's done. We've got a lot of work to do, a huge challenge in front of us for it to happen.

"We've just got to get in there, get dirty and do our bit, and see where we end up, and we can talk about that stuff after."

Cheika wants to give the Argentinian public something to celebrate after the late disappointment against the South Africans. Argentina came from 22-6 behind to recover to 22-20 last week, before being unable to complete the comeback.

"In relation to where we want to end up as a team, of all the games we've played so far we're probably most disappointed with that one because of the context," Cheika said. "I don't think I've seen a crowd going like that ever, and I want them to go like that this week when they're watching on telly.

"I don't want to go bigger picture here, I just want to say here's an opportunity: full house in Durban against the world champions, a chance to take, we've got to go there and try to take it."

Cheika has made two selection changes, bringing in wing Juan Imhoff and centre Matias Moroni for Lucio Cinti and Matias Orlando. That follows South Africa also making two changes when naming their line-up on Tuesday, with Frans Steyn coming in at fly-half for the injured Damian Willemse, and flanker Pieter Steph du Toit stepping in for Franco Mostert.

Argentina team: Juan Cruz Mallia, Emiliano Boffelli, Matias Moroni, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Juan Imhoff, Santiago Carreras, Gonzalo Bertranou; Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Julian Montoya (captain), Eduardo Bello, Matias Alemanno, Tomas Lavanini, Juan Martin Gonzalez, Marcos Kremer, Pablo Matera.

Replacements: Augustin Creevy, Mayco Vivas, Joel Sclavi, Guido Petti, Pedro Rubiolo, Tomas Cubelli, Benjamin Urdapilleta, Bautista Delguy.

South Africa team: Willie le Roux, Canan Moodie, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Frans Steyn, Jaden Hendrikse; Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Siya Kolisi (captain), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jasper Wiese.

Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche, Vincent Koch, Franco Mostert, Duane Vermeulen, Kwagga Smith, Faf de Klerk, Kurt-Lee Arendse.

Back rower Harry Wilson has been recalled by Australia for this weekend's Rugby Championship finale against New Zealand, as an injury-strewn All Blacks look to take a remarkable crown.

The two teams meet in the Bledisloe Cup just over a week on from the Wallabies' controversial loss in Melbourne against their rivals from across the Tasman Sea.

With immediate revenge on their minds after a dramatic 39-37 loss, Dave Rennie has recalled Wilson to the fold, shunting Rob Valetini to blindside flanker after Rob Leota's Achilles injury ruled him out for the rest of the season.

Cadeyrn Neville returns following a knee injury in place of Matt Philip, who sits the clash out with a sternum problem.

New Zealand have been forced to reshuffle the deck, meanwhile, after injuries left captain Sam Cane, Scott Barrett, David Havili and Quinn Tupaea out of the picture for Saturday's game in Auckland.

Sam Whitelock leads the side in Cane's absence, while Ardie Savea returns from parental leave, with Tupou Vaa'i, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Sevu Reece all included among the replacements.

New Zealand are level on points with South Africa – who host Argentina on Saturday – heading into the final round of matches.

New Zealand: Beauden Barrett, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, Jordie Barrett, Caleb Clarke, Richie Mo'unga, Aaron Smith; Ethan de Groot, Codie Taylor, Tyrel Lomax, Brodie Retallick, Samuel Whitelock, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papali'i, Ardie Savea.

Replacements: Samisoni Taukei'aho, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Nepo Laulala, Tupou Vaa'i, Hoskins Sotutu, Finlay Christie, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Sevu Reece.

Australia: Andrew Kellaway, Tom Wright, Len Ikitau, Lalakai Foketi, Marika Koroibete, Bernard Foley, Jake Gordon; James Slipper, David Porecki, llan Alaalatoa, Jed Holloway, Cadeyrn Neville, Rob Valetini, Pete Samu, Harry Wilson.

Replacements: Folau Fainga’a, Angus Bell, Pone Fa’amausili, Nick Frost, Fraser McReight, Nic White, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia.

Australia lock Darcy Swain has been suspended for six weeks for his reckless clean-out of New Zealand's Quinn Tupaea in last week's Rugby Championship clash.

Swain entered a ruck and made firm contact with the knee of All Blacks centre Tupaea, who suffered a ruptured medial cruciate injury and is facing nine months out.

The 25-year-old was shown a yellow card at the time and was cited after New Zealand's remarkable 39-37 Bledisloe Cup victory at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne.

A SANZAAR Judicial Committee ruled on Wednesday that Swain contravened Law 9.11, which states "players must not do anything that is reckless or dangerous to others".

Swain's ban extends to November 6, ruling him out of this weekend's return match with New Zealand, as well as tour matches against Scotland and France.

He had controversially been selected in Australia A's squad to tour Japan next month, with that seen as a ploy to use up the suspension.

However, by making the ban time-related, rather than match-related, that controversial ploy has been negated.

Asked about Swain's ban on Thursday, All Blacks coach Ian Foster said he was satisfied with the process.

"It is what it is," he said. "We spoke after the game and basically said there's a process that people go through. We're fully aware of that. He's got what he's got.

"I haven't read the judiciary [report], but clearly he's gone through a process and that's what they've come up with."

South Africa moved level on points with New Zealand at the top of the Rugby Championship standings with a 36-20 bonus-point win over Argentina on Saturday.

An ill-disciplined Argentina recovered from 16 points down at half-time to move within two of their opponents and set up a tense conclusion at Estadio Libertadores de America.

But Damian de Allende and Malcolm Marx crossed over late on to add to South Africa's three first-half tries as they made it 29 wins in their 33 Tests with Argentina.

The Springboks welcome Argentina to Durban next weekend, while New Zealand – who boast a better points difference – host Australia with their fate in their own hands.

South Africa fell behind early on to a Emiliano Boffelli penalty, but they hit back through Damian Willemse's successful kick and the opening try followed 10 minutes later.

An offside Santiago Carreras attempted to stop Jaden Hendrikse from grounding the ball and a penalty try was awarded, with the fly-half also being issued a yellow card.

Boffelli moved Argentina back within four points from the boot, but the ball was popped up to Hendrikse and he burst through under the sticks to give the Boks breathing space.

After Willemse added the extras, the visitors pushed on and had a third try through Marx, who crashed over following a sustained spell of pressure.

Argentina's hopes of recovering were further dented when referee James Doleman sin-binned Gonzalo Bertranou after losing patience for a series of infringements.

South Africa could not entirely put the game out of reach and were themselves down to 14 after Willie Le Roux, having already been warned, strayed offside.

Tomas Cubelli appeared to spill the ball when charging through and attempting to touch down, but it was deemed Kwagga Smith illegally intervened and a penalty try was given.

Smith was also yellow carded for that offence, yet it was the Boks who finished strongest as De Allende and Marx added two more tries to seal what seemed an unlikely bonus point.

Dave Rennie has accused referee Mathieu Raynal of "showing a lack of feeling" over his match-turning decision to penalise Bernard Foley for time-wasting in Australia's 39-37 loss to New Zealand.

Australia had battled back valiantly from 31-13 down with an hour played in Thursday's thrilling Rugby Championship clash to lead 37-34 with time effectively up at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne.

The hosts seemed certain to have snapped a three-game losing run against New Zealand when Lalakai Foketi secured a turnover penalty in front of his own posts, only for Raynal to reverse the call due to perceived time-wasting.

New Zealand were handed a five-metre attacking scrum and eventually spun the ball wide, where Jordie Barrett had space to slide over and earn his side back-to-back Test wins for the first time this year.

Referee Raynal explained his decision was down to Foley failing to play on when the clock restarted, but Australia head coach Rennie was furious with the call.

"I was just talking to Bernard Foley and what we knew was the time was out and he told the boys to play but the clock was stopped," Rennie told Stan Sport. 

"So there was no real urgency to do that and I don't know... it just shows a little bit of a lack of feel for such an important moment in the game.

"The referee had told him to play and at no stage was he told or did he believe he was going to call a scrum from that.

"Most situations the clock is off and the clock stays off, so it sounds like the clock went off and then he started it again. As we know, a team scores a try late and you take your time getting back to halfway and they stop the clock and wait until you kick off.

"The disappointing thing from our point of view is it was a fantastic game of footy and we should be celebrating the game as opposed to talking about a ref decision in the last minute."

 

Wallabies great Matt Giteau used social media to describe Raynal's late decision as the worst he has seen. Asked if he agreed with that sentiment, Rennie opted against giving a comment.

The Wallabies have now lost 17 of their past 21 Tests against Australia, including each of the past four, and are no longer in contention to win this year's Rugby Championship.

"I'm absolutely gutted," Australia captain James Slipper said. "I don't know what else to say. We really wanted to put in a performance. That is probably the most gutting way to finish a game."

Australia, who have lost four of their past five Tests on home soil, travel to Auckland in the final round of fixtures next weekend. 

New Zealand squandered an 18-point lead before recovering to snatch a dramatic 39-37 victory over Australia as they moved a step closer to winning the Rugby Championship.

The All Blacks led 31-13 in a Bledisloe Cup classic at a packed Marvel Stadium with an hour played, yet they trailed 37-34 with normal time up in Melbourne.

However, Beauden Barrett capped a truly remarkable contest by touching down in the corner with nearly 81 minutes on the clock to break Australian hearts, after a controversial decision that saw the hosts penalised for time-wasting and the visitors handed a scrum in front of the posts.

New Zealand have now won 17 of their past 21 Tests against Australia, including four in a row, and are five points ahead of Argentina and South Africa, who meet on Saturday.

The penultimate round of Rugby Championship fixtures are upon us and it is all to play for with every side having won two and lost two of their opening four games.

An inconsistent New Zealand side are a point better off than Argentina, South Africa and next opponents Australia by virtue of picking up two bonus points.

Despite a thumping win over Argentina last time out, the pressure still remains on head coach Ian Foster heading into Thursday's contest with great rivals Australia in Melbourne.

The hosts are looking to bounce back from a 16-point loss against South Africa, who make the trip to Buenos Aires in the second of this week's fixtures on Saturday.

Here, Stats Perform previews both clashes in round five of the championship using Opta data.


AUSTRALIA V NEW ZEALAND

FORM

New Zealand may lead the way at the top, but their form this year has been very poor by their usual high standards. The All Blacks have lost four of their seven Tests in 2022 – only in 1998 (five) and 1949 (six) have they ever lost more in a calendar year.

Back-to-back victories would provide a major confidence boost for Foster's charges, and they have a good record in this fixture. Of the past 20 Tests meetings between the sides, New Zealand have won 16 and lost only three, a run that includes three wins in a row.

Australia have not lost back-to-back Tests with New Zealand since August 2017, however, and their return of three wins from their past six matches against the All Blacks on home turf is more than they managed in the previous 13 such encounters.

The Wallabies have won the opening game of the Bledisloe Cup – which New Zealand have dominated for the past two decades – only twice in the past 13 years. However, one of those victories came when they last hosted the opening game three years ago.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Australia will have to watch their discipline in what is a highly charged fixture. Skipper James Slipper has conceded 11 penalties so far in this year's Rugby Championship, which is four more than any other player in the competition.

All Blacks centre Rieko Ioane continued his good form last time out by scoring a try and setting up another in the 50-point win against Argentina. That could spell bad news for Australia, against whom he has been directly involved in 13 tries across 12 Test appearances.


ARGENTINA V SOUTH AFRICA

FORM

Argentina fell short of registering three wins in a row in this competition for the first time ever when falling heavily to New Zealand two weeks ago. 

Los Pumas will take great confidence from beating Australia last time out at home, though, and are now seeking successive wins on their own patch for the first time since 2012.

South Africa may not be in full flow, but they have won 28 of their 32 Tests against Argentina, including the past four in a row. In fact, only against Italy (93 per cent) do they have a better win percentage than they do against Los Pumas (88 per cent) among teams they have faced at least 10 times.

The Springboks did manage to build a little momentum with their win over Australia two weeks ago, yet that was one of only three victories in their past eight games in the championship after winning six of the previous eight.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Matias Moroni has put in some strong displays to keep Argentina in the hunt for the title, his five dominant tackles more than any other player in the competition. The centre has also won five turnovers, a tally only Malcolm Marx (six) – who he will face off against this weekend – can better.

South Africa are the lowest points scorers after four rounds of matches. Willie le Roux could hold the key to finding a way through Argentina this weekend as he leads the way for try assists this tournament with three, while also providing six assists in his past six meetings with Argentina.

Bernard Foley is relishing "one more crack" at international rugby after the experienced fly-half was picked by Australia to face New Zealand in Thursday's Bledisloe Cup clash.

After three years out of the picture, since moving to play in Japan after the Rugby World Cup, Foley has been handed the chance to be the Wallabies' playmaker once more.

The 71-cap Foley's inclusion is one of eight changes made to the starting line-up by coach Dave Rennie for the tussle with the All Blacks in Melbourne.

Waratahs captain Jake Gordon comes in at scrum-half to partner 33-year-old Foley, with the home side looking to atone for a 24-8 loss to South Africa last time out, in Sydney.

Australia have two wins from four games so far in the Rugby Championship and complete their campaign with home and away battles against New Zealand, with the Bledisloe Cup on the line.

Wing Marika Koroibete will get his 50th cap, yet all eyes will be on Foley in the first instance.

"It's great to have Bernard's experience, and he brings plenty of voice and passion for the gold jersey," Rennie said.

Foley replaces Noah Lolesio who suffered concussion in the loss to the Springboks.

"It means so much," Foley said. "Not being a part of it for a couple of years, being a spectator overseas, you get to reflect on how much the jersey means to you and how you really appreciate the time and opportunity.

"I'm really excited. One thing when you go away is you miss the build-up, the anticipation of these big games, so I've enjoyed this week."

For his international return to come against New Zealand makes it all the more special.

"I think you definitely look at the games and you have some great battles," Foley said. "You always wish you can get one more crack, so for me to be back here is just making the most of it."

New Zealand coach Ian Foster has switched around his scrum, with Hoskins Sotutu coming in at number eight and Brodie Retallick handed a chance in the second row, as Scott Barrett moves to blindside blanker

Foster said of the high-stakes tussles with Australia: "We are incredibly driven to keep hold of this trophy which means so much to both countries.

"And when you factor in how tight this year's Rugby Championship is, all signs point towards another great Test match here in Melbourne."

Australia::Andrew Kellaway, Tom Wright, Len Ikitau, Lalakai Foketi, Marika Koroibete, Bernard Foley, Jake Gordon; James Slipper (captain), David Porecki, Allan Alaalatoa, Jed Holloway, Matt Philip, Rob Leota, Pete Samu, Rob Valetini.

Replacements Folau Fainga'a, Scott Sio, Pone Fa'amausili, Darcy Swain, Fraser McReight, Nic White, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia.

New Zealand: Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, Caleb Clarke, Richie Mo'unga, Aaron Smith; Ethan de Groot, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Tyrel Lomax, Brodie Retallick, Samuel Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Sam Cane (captain), Hoskins Sotutu.

Replacements: Dane Coles, George Bower, Fletcher Newell, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papali'i, Finlay Christie, Beauden Barrett, Quinn Tupaea.

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