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The Thursday Two-up: Hopes and dreams, thoughts and prayers

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Here we go then, The Rugby Championship kicks off for 2022 this weekend, and it feels like the tournament may be a bit wider than the last few seasons.

If it feels like South Africa starts as favourites this year, it might just be because they are. Enviable depth building, New Zealand coming to them to start the tournament, and few major injuries within their squad pops them in a strong position from which to start their major international campaign of the season.

The All Blacks have their own claims, obviously, but there may well be internal relief that they’re starting the tournament away from home, while the headlines continue. They won’t be out of mind, of course they won’t, but the pressure probably won’t be quite as intense being out of sight at least.

Australia and Argentina will be looking for strong starts for much the same reason – you don’t want to be left trying to play catch-up after your first block of games. Equally, both will be wanting to prove they have far more up the sleeve than what they showed during the July Tests.

And of course, all teams start from the same position and are currently unbeaten for the tournament. Hopes will never be higher, prayers will never be further from needed.

So, it’s prediction time.

Question 1: If not your team, who’s your tip to take out The Rugby Championship for 2022?


The All Blacks.

The way I have it, South Africa should win five matches, New Zealand four, Australia three, and (sorry, Nobes!) Argentina 0.

Basically, I have the Boks dropping one in Australia (likely in Adelaide, to make me miserable after flying around the world, and creating the most memorable instant reaction pods ever) and winning the rest.

So, if the All Blacks can pinch one in South Africa (the first one is their best shot), they would be in pole position to take the trophy. It can happen.

Ardie Savea of New Zealand scores a try (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

The Boks can squander good ball, get a rare card, miss their kicks, or have a brain lapse. It is not like these Boks live at altitude. Most of them live on the coasts, rivieras, and ports in three continents.

But it would be an upset for this struggling All Black squad to beat the Boks at this moment; if they do, they will go on to win the tourney.


The Springboks should take the title.

Their game at this moment, what the others have shown, and the schedule that from my point of view favours them, makes them the candidate.

They will play from the start at home against the historic rival who comes under a lot of pressure and his game is far from the one we are habituate. With a favourable result at this start, they will have a trip to Australia that will already have more travel miles, which is already an advantage considering the depth of the two nations to fill their respective teams.

Later, back home the Boks will face Los Pumas, a team travelled and physically punished by the trip to New Zealand and without many players to choose from. Finally, they will travel to Argentina perhaps with the title under their belt and without much pressure.

The second and third positions will be the most contested in my opinion and will be the most entertaining for the neutral eye and especially for the fans of the respective nations. The Wallabies and All Blacks will duel for them.

Los Pumas on paper should close the table since they will surely be looking for something else that will deposit them in RWC 2023 with the confidence and a game plan to pass the first round. All very nice, but this is rugby and surely cards, TMOs, injuries, etc, can upset the outcome and that is what we are here for.


With everything that’s going on in New Zealand right now, South Africa have to start The Rugby Championship as raging hot favourites.

There will be no better time to bank two wins against the All Blacks, and even if they drop a game in Australia, that will still leave them with the two matches against Argentina to wrap it up.

If SANZAAR are smart (and I acknowledge the heavy-lifting the word ‘if’ is doing at the start of this sentence), they’ll have TRC trophy ready and waiting in Durban on the last weekend in September. They might even have had it engraved by then.

Of course, the All Blacks can win it, too, but that starts with two wins in Nelspruit and Johannesburg.

And I’m less than confident about that happening.

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South Africa is certainly sitting in the box seat to take out this year’s championship with a favourable draw seeing a misfiring All Blacks first up twice at home.

Certainly, and it’s a big possibility, some would suggest large probability, if they win both of the opening games, they will be heavily favoured to run through the balance of the competition leading from the front.

They will have to overcome their own ‘demons’ of sort, as winning in Australia has proven to be a hurdle at times for the Springboks.

If they find the formula, with the Pumas having to travel to New Zealand and the Wallabies splitting their games against the All Blacks home and away, the next two weeks feels pivotal to deciding the likely overall winner and the Boks are definitely in pole position.


The popular answer must be South Africa.

With good reason, too; starting off at home, the vast majority of the World Cup winning team still in place, and coach and waterboy having found their true calling.

(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Australia has a good record against South Africa and, if they can start well this weekend, and get a result against New Zealand, they are right in the mix.

But at the risk of swimming against the tide, and on the proviso that the wheels don’t come off this week against the Boks, I think the All Blacks aren’t as rancid as what many believe, and they’re still the team to take it out.

Question 2: Where can your team finish this season’s Rugby Championship, and why?


First. They can and should and must finish first.

The last time the Springboks opened the tournament with two All Black Tests in South Africa was 2009. This one factor means the Boks should win the Rugby Championship. Should.

But none of these teams looks polished, based solely on the July tests. Perhaps this is a refining, polishing tourney.

The Boks can put a team on the pitch with 20 of the 23 players who won the last Rugby World Cup.

There is a drop off from the two retired (Beast Mtawarira and Francois Louw) to their replacements (Ox Nche and Kwagga Smith) but they are growing into it. Willie le Roux is being used as player 23: ideal.

Damian Willemse is shaping to be a Frans Steyn type: good, or better, under pressure. The schedule is usually punitive; this year it favours SA. I predict a stumble in Adelaide, but five wins overall.

Why won’t it happen? Missed kicks, bad choices, or bad form at 9 and 10.


The chance of Los Pumas to finish better than fourth will be defined in the first two games.

If they manage to surprise the Wallabies and beat the Springboks in the last game at home, they could get to third place depending on the other results. But it is hard for me to think of a victory as a visitor against these three powerhouses in the present time.

I believe that Los Pumas are with the objective of consolidating the players with the new technical staff and in the process of developing new players to have a broader squad to have more options at the time to choose those who go to the World Cup.

Michael Cheika’s main objective is to beat Japan and qualify for the Round of 16 at RWC 2023, and to do so he must give high-level game minutes to many players who are scattered throughout Europe and unable to control which positions they play and how many minutes, or if they play at all.

The opportunities to face the rugby powers that Argentina has are not many, and they must make the most of each one.

Likewise, we have already witness and it was demonstrated that Los Pumas can beat anyone if the opponents are not on a good day and the Argentines are inspired.


Look, just let me explain here, but the Wallabies can win The Rugby Championship.

But, not unlike my point about NZ above, Australia cannot win the tournament without winning both games in Argentina. This plan lives and dies over the next two weeks. The All Blacks dropping both games in the Republic will certainly help, too.

If the Wallabies can get back to Australia with two wins under their belt, then they’ll absolutely be targeting two wins over the ‘Boks, relying heavily on both being able to do a job on them as they did last year, and on the Boks not really playing any differently – as they haven’t, really, since the RWC. Pretty much.

The Springboks know what works for them, and they play to those strengths. The Wallabies would need to just play a little bit better on those two dates.

Marika Koroibete of the Wallabies (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

From there, it’s doubtful that four wins would be enough to win this year, but it might be. If not, then it requires a win in either Bledisloe Test. And who knows what sort of state or how buzzing the All Blacks will be by then.

So, there you go, the Wallabies can win it. But it lives and dies over the next fortnight.


The All Blacks can win the Championship and it ties into my answer for the first question somewhat – if they can win one of their games in South Africa, they will be sitting pretty.

Having three of the next four games at home will put them in a great position and the onus will be on what I perceive is their greatest threat to the title, the Boks to travel and win in Australia.

This is not meant to dismiss the Wallabies or Pumas, but the draw is certainly not in their favour. I suspect the style of game the All Blacks will play against the Wallabies and Pumas in New Zealand will be favourable for the All Blacks.

Again, the first two weeks in South Africa will more than likely shape the Championship winner.


It’s not being too glib to say that both Australia and New Zealand could finish anywhere between first and fourth; it’s that sort of competition this year.

It feels like all sides are capable of dropping games, which makes for a great comp, and opens up all sorts of possibilities for article comment threads, as fans ride the emotional roller coaster, up and down.

Injuries will obviously play a major role, and the Wallabies losing Samu Kerevi already, is a terrible start.

On the other hand, if the All Blacks can return from South Africa with at least one win, the return of Brodie Retallick might be perfectly timed.

OVER TO YOU: Who’s your tip to take out The Rugby Championship this year, aside from your team?

And where can your team finish?


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