There’s a lot left to be found out about The Rugby Championship field this weekend.
Following a thrilling Round 1 that saw South Africa and Australia emerge victorious, jobs might be on the line in Round 2 as one of the key make-or-break matchweeks of the competition calendar.
This year’s edition of the tournament between SANZAAR nations has a lot left to go, but time is of the essence when four of the top rugby teams in the world battle against each other week after week for two months.
Round 2 might just be the weekend that confirms for sure who is up for the fight – and who isn’t.
Here’s a look at what’s to come for Round 2 of The Rugby Championship. The opening-round opponents will rematch in shows of rugby-related force, with every play of the action streamed live on FloRugby.
NOTE: Kickoff times are listed in Eastern Time and are subject to change.
Where Things Stand
South Africa achieved its most lopsided win over New Zealand in nearly a century, while Australia toppled Argentina, now led by former Wallabies boss Michael Cheika, in a thrilling comeback victory.
For further breakdowns of the Round 1 tests, click here for FloRugby’s previously published recap.
Standings (After Round 1)
1. Australia (1-0-0, +15-point differential) – 5 points (one bonus)
2. South Africa (1-0-0, +16) – 4 points (zero bonus)
3. Argentina (0-0-1, -15) – 0 points (zero bonus)
4. New Zealand (0-0-1, -16) – 0 points (zero bonus)
1. Nine tied (Pablo Matera, Juan Martin Gonzalez, Folau Fainga’a, Len Ikitau, Fraser McReight, Jordan Petaia, Shannon Frizell, Willie le Roux, Kurt-Lee Arendse) – 1
1. Emiliano Boffelli (Argentina) and Handre Pollard (South Africa) – 16
2. Reece Hodge (Australia) – 9
3. 10 tied (Pablo Matera, Juan Martin Gonzalez, Quade Cooper, Folau Fainga’a, Len Ikitau, Fraser McReight, Jordan Petaia, Shannon Frizell, Willie le Roux, Kurt-Lee Arendse) – 5
South Africa vs. New Zealand
When: 11:05 a.m. Saturday
Where: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg, South Africa
2022 South Africa vs New Zealand All Blacks
The low down: New Zealand has to get over its slump sometime. Right?
The three-time world champions certainly won’t be in as poor of a form as they are now (five defeats in six tests) forever, but with the weight the All Blacks name carries in the international rugby world, they’re certainly held to a higher standard of performance than most.
South Africa thoroughly dismantled the visitors in Nelspruit in each team’s 2022 Rugby Championship opener, sinking the visitors to the bottom of the table and putting even more pressure on embattled New Zealand coach Ian Foster, who was already facing plenty of heat from losing last month’s home test series to Ireland.
— TheRugbyChampionship (@SanzarTRC) August 9, 2022
Foster’s days as boss may be numbered, as media in the country report that some sort of action from the New Zealand Rugby Union may come following the Johannesburg test, possibly signaling the end of an era once the All Blacks return home.
Regardless of what’s to come, a lack of an energetic New Zealand response in the rematch would mean that its hopes to repeat as Rugby Championship title winners would essentially be dashed. No nation has ever won the competition with multiple losses on their resume, since Argentina was added to the mix for the 2012 tournament.
As for the Springboks, they’re unquestionably in the driver’s seat and full of momentum following their first home victory over their rivals in eight years.
Hooker Malcolm Marx put up a man-of-the-match performance in his 50th cap as arguably the main driver of a mighty Boks front line, and if that dominance travels to Johannesburg, New Zealand could be in for a world of hurt once again .
Argentina vs. Australia
When: 3:10 p.m. Saturday
Where: San Juan Bicentennial Stadium, San Juan, Argentina
2022 Argentina vs Australia
The low down: Yes, Australia’s fight back to beat Argentina on the road was admirable and has the Wallabies sitting a deserved top of the Rugby Championship table after Round 1, but at what cost?
As Australia had traveled to South America already severely banged up, missing the likes of center Samu Kerevi and prop Scott Sio due to injury, captain Michael Hooper then exited the mini-tour for personal reasons, before fly-half Quade Cooper suffered a severe Achilles injury in the match that could see the 34-year-old out for up to an estimated year or more.
With that many veteran figures gone while playing for an esteemed championship in enemy territory, it made the Wallabies’ victory this past weekend that much more impressive.
— TheRugbyChampionship (@SanzarTRC) August 9, 2022
Still, it offers no guarantee that coach Dave Rennie’s side is winning the rematch in San Juan, especially considering that Argentina had periods of brilliant rugby, particularly in the first half, as a rejuvenated unit under recently appointed boss Michael Cheika.
Oh, and because Cheika is a native Aussie and former Wallabies boss, too, there’s some added fuel to the fire for him on the touchline, as he aims to get back at his former employers.
There’s additionally a big tactical decision ahead for Rennie in terms of figuring out who to start at the No. 10 with Cooper’s absence.
In the Wallabies’ series defeat in July to England, Brumbies man Noah Lolesio earned that role after Cooper missed the entire series following an injury in the warmups of the first test.
However, in Argentina last weekend, versatile Melbourne Rebels playmaker Reece Hodge came in as a solid replacement when Cooper went down.
Whoever is selected will have plenty of responsibility, but if they help lead Australia to back-to-back victories to start off the 2022 Rugby Championship, then the Wallabies might just be greater title threats than previously thought.