The final round of Rugby Championship matches is upon us and two teams must realistically remain in contention for the crowning of 2022 champions.
In what has been the most competitive tournament since Argentina joined a decade ago, all four teams at one point looked cheap enough to take first place.
New Zealand are level on points with South Africa but have an advantage in terms of net points difference between the teams which can be used as a deciding factor.
The All Blacks therefore know that a bonus-point win over Bledisloe Cup rivals Australia in a repeat of last week’s classic will almost give them their eighth title in 10 years.
South Africa play Argentina later on Saturday, the only side completely out of contention, and will know what they need to do to have any chance – if any – of overtaking New Zealand.
Here, Stats Perform previews the weekend’s clashes in Round 6 of the Championship using Opta data.
NEW ZEALAND vs AUSTRALIA
New Zealand defeated Australia 39-37 in a thrilling test in Melbourne last week in a highly controversial late try to get four wins in a row in that game – her best run of this kind in seven wins between August 2015 and August 2017.
The All Blacks’ record on home soil against Australia is even better, after winning each of the last 22 Tests in Auckland by an average margin of 18 points per game. The last time Australia defeated its neighbors in this city was in September 1986.
Australia therefore has a big task ahead of them at Eden Park as they set out to do Avoid losing three straight Rugby Championship tests for the first time since September 2013with this current run following a six-win streak from the previous seven games in the competition.
The Wallabies, needing a bonus point win and then hoping South Africa doesn’t get the required result against Argentina, will look to capitalize on any poor discipline from their rivals. Their 92 percent scoring accuracy on placement shots this year (33/36) is about 11 percentage points higher than any other Tier One nation.
ONE TO SEE
Will Jordan made 10 line breaks for New Zealand in 2022, which is the most of any player from a Tier 1 nation. To put that in further perspective, it’s twice as much as Tom Wright (five), Australia’s top performer in this area.
Australia wing Marika Korobete could be the key to taking 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
After the 36:20 bonus point triumph last week in Buenos Aires South Africa have won their last five Tests against Argentina. A win alone may not be enough on Saturday, however, and the Springboks could go all out in the pursuit of New Zealand to claim a clear victory.
The Boks have some much-needed momentum on their side thanks to back-to-back wins – that’s the number they managed in their previous seven games in the competition – with a lead of exactly 16 points.
Argentina cannot be written off, however, having already defeated New Zealand and Australia in the first half of their championship campaign. Los Pumas have lost two consecutive games since then. as many as they have lost in their previous six games.
Revenue could be a big factor in this competition as Argentina and South Africa have won the most teams in this year’s tournament with 22 teams each He also made the most and second-most tackles with 706 and 600, respectively.
ONE TO SEE
Springbok Castle Lood de Jäger has played a huge role for his country in this campaign, finishing second to Italy’s Federico Ruzza for line-outs won in 2022 with 36 players from Tier One nations.
Matthew Moroni was one of the goalscorers for Argentina in last week’s defeat as he ended a well-crafted set piece and is among the starters for this final scramble. He has made dominant contact in seven tackles this year, putting him second among elite nations only behind Italy’s Monty Ioane (eight).