2022 South Africa vs New Zealand All Blacks

The Rugby Championship Preview: Round One For Squads

The Rugby Championship Preview: Round One For Squads

In the first round of Rugby Championship games, scheduled for August 6, South Africa will take on New Zealand, and Argentina will play Australia.

Aug 1, 2022 by Briar Napier
The Rugby Championship Preview: Round One For Squads

Ready or not, the Rugby Championship is coming.

The annual tournament between the SANZAAR nations—South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina—gets going again starting Saturday with a pair of matchups to start this year’s slate. While the event usually contains a team on a roaring hot streak, there isn’t one to fill that role this year, making for an open field that’s sure to produce plenty of exciting rugby.

Fans are currently back in full capacity across all of the participating nations for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic, setting the stage for electric atmospheres as the Rugby Championship. The tournament will debut its new “mini-tours” forma, in which teams will play in the same country on back-to-back weekends before an off week. Needless to say, things are about to get wild.

Here’s a peek ahead as the entire tournament will be streamed on FloRugby throughout the next two months.

Where Things Stand

It’s a rarity that no team in the Rugby Championship is in the top slot of the Rugby World Rankings by the time the annual event rolls around, but it’s even less frequent that no nation is in the top two. 

Sure enough, as of the most recent standings as of July 25, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina are nowhere to be found, with the current top two places held by Ireland and France, respectively. That fact on paper makes The Rugby Championship field this year as wide open as it’s been in years, with no clear-cut favorite. 

Notwithstanding is the fact that the defending champion All Blacks are amid a historic slump (more on that below). 

Additionally, a trial run of a 20-minute red card rule will continue in this year’s tournament after it was first implemented in The Rugby Championship last year—all SANZAAR nations voted to keep it in place this time around. 

Still yet to be implemented globally by World Rugby, the rule’s aim is to keep 15-on-15 play going and deter intentional foul play whenever possible. Participating teams hope to see it adopted worldwide in the near future.

South Africa Vs. New Zealand 

When: Saturday, August 6 at 11:05 a.m. ET

Where: Mbombela Stadium, Mbombela, South Africa 

The lowdown: This game is as vital as any in recent times for New Zealand, but for all the wrong reasons. Never in the history of the All Blacks had they lost a home test to Ireland before welcoming it twice last month on home soil. 

The All Blacks now sit at their lowest-ever position of fourth in the World Rugby Rankings (dating back to its launch in 2003), coach Ian Foster’s seat is white-hot and New Zealand has been the losing side in four of its past five matches, a near-unprecedented poor run of form for the three-time World Cup champions. 

And speaking of former World Cup champions, things don’t get any easier as the defending cup holders are up next on the docket. South Africa was far from perfect in its 2-1 home series win over Wales, but the Springboks at least avoided total disaster and showed much of the quality that took them to success three years ago in Japan, with a cut-and-dry 30-14 win to close the series. 

South Africa-New Zealand is international rugby’s finest rivalry and a test both squads have circled on the calendar on every occasion as a must-win. 

Foster and Boks coach Jacques Nienaber have each selected near-identical squads from their separate July tests for their first Rugby Championship meeting—though South Africa will also get back World Cup victors Duane Vermuelen and Frans Steyn, both of which missed the Wales series due to injury. 

As for the All Blacks, loose forward Sam Cane keeps his captainship (for now) following calls by some to have it removed after the Ireland series. He’ll try to right the ship and help his country make a positive stride toward its second straight Rugby Championship title and a fifth crown in six tries. 

Australia Vs. Argentina

When: Saturday, August 6 at 3:10 p.m. ET

Where: Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza, Argentina

The lowdown: The Michael Cheika era is off to a flier as the new Los Pumas boss kicked off his tenure on the Argentine touchline with a 2-1 series win over visiting Scotland last month. Can he keep the positive momentum going? 

Well, in a tournament where Argentina has largely been the underdog since joining the party in 2012, there’s probably no better opponent for Los Pumas to play straight out of the gate than Australia. 

Of the five wins Argentina has recorded in The Rugby Championship across the past decade, two of them (in 2014 and 2018) came against the Wallabies, and Cheika (a native Aussie) will be particularly motivated in facing off versus the national team he formerly coached—from 2014 to 2019—for the first time in his new gig, especially in front of friendly supporters. 

As for Australia, a home test series defeat last month to England wasn’t exactly ideal, but there are some positive notes for coach Dave Rennie’s men. The Australia A team, which played in July’s Pacific Nations Cup in Fiji while the senior side defended home soil, finished second among a strong field in the tournament. 

Now, Rennie has decided to reward those efforts by calling up four members of that team (Jock Campbell, Matt Gibbon, Lalakai Foketi and Fraser McReight) for the first two rounds of The Rugby Championship, giving the group a chance to prove itself on a world-class stage. 

Many of the Wallabies’ other familiar faces like fly-half Quade Cooper and back row Michael Hooper return as well, though prop Scott Sio (70 caps) won’t after picking up a shoulder injury in the England series. 

Argentina’s core is largely the same from the Scotland series, with fullback Emiliano Boffelli aiming to continue his recent solid play—particularly after scoring the series-winning try in the third and final test against Scotland.