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Rugby Championship – All roads point to a decider at Ellis Park

The Rugby Championship returns this weekend, and where else is there to begin other than the mess that is Australian rugby right now?

The latest twist in the Wallaby saga came at club level this week as Jake White resigned from his contract as Head Coach of the Brumbies, it is alleged that it is because he was overlooked for the Wallaby job after Robbie Deans’ departure in favour of Ewen McKenzie.

Whether or not that is the reason the fact that it is now out there just adds to the ever-growing list of daft stories emerging from Down Under.

It ought not to be relevant to the Wallaby performance though, however what will be is the absence of James O’Connor who has been banned after being removed from Perth airport for drunken behaviour.

Together he, Kurtley Beale, and Quade Cooper, the ridiculously named ‘three amigios’, have the potential to make this Australian backline one of the most vibrant and dangerous in the world. They are all world class players capable of turning a game in an instant, indeed when they first appeared on the scene they did.

However since then off field issues and plain daft behaviour have been the main stories surrounding these three, some said that it was because of their natural difference in style to the instinctively conservative Deans, however that O’Connor’s latest indiscretion comes under McKenzie would suggest otherwise.

Unfortunately for Australia the problems have not just been limited to off field misdemeanours though, they have looked like a shadow of their former selves in the Rugby Championship and against a South African side who are playing as fluently as they ever have in recent memory it is hard to see the Wallabies notching up a second win of the tournament.

South Africa will be doubly determined this week, they were furious at the red card for Bismarck Du Plessis against the All Blacks, believing that it cost them the game, and they will be wanting to prove a point against the Wallabies tomorrow.

If South Africa can even come close to matching the physicality that they showed last time out then Australia will have no hope, their physical output against the All Blacks was simply unbelievable and any other side in world rugby would have crumbled under it, repeat it tomorrow and Australia will prove that point.

The other game sees New Zealand take the trip over to Argentina. The Pumas pushed the All Blacks hard in the reverse fixture so there is little chance of the All Blacks taking this at anything other than 100%.

Both Dan Carter and Richie McCaw are missing for the All Blacks, something that made them vulnerable in the past but with Sam Cane excelling in place of McCaw last time out and Aaron Cruden starting at ten tomorrow and now promoted to the All Blacks’ all powerful leadership group it seems that the loss of those two world class players is perhaps not the huge ‘opportunity’ banner to the opposition that it was in the past.

In fairness, huge is a bit of an overstatement, more just a ‘slightly better opportunity than usual banner’.

Argentina will as ever pose a big physical threat, something that the return of Patricio Albacete in the second row will certainly not diminish, and they know that they have the ability to squeeze the life out of a game and frustrate the opposition. If they can do that to the All Blacks then they may just have a chance, albeit a small one.

It would be a surprise to see anything other than victories for both South Africa and New Zealand, setting up a mouth-watering winner takes all finale at Ellis Park in the final round.

Best not to write the Wallabies and Pumas off just yet though, sport has a way of biting those who look too far ahead.

By Angus Savage

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