Rugby Championship 2017: Outright Preview

Our Rugby Scribes gives us a breakdown of the Upcoming Rugby Championship 2017, kicking off from the 19th of August until the 7th of October. 

While last year’s edition of The Rugby Championship brought with it little in the way of actual excitement, this season’s tournament is set to challenge the status quo. The All Blacks’ one-all draw to the British & Irish Lions in June means they will be going full tilt in every one of their remaining Tests in 2017 to remove any doubts as to their place on World Rugby’s throne.
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To Win Outright
New Zealand 2/11 | Australia 6/1 | South Africa 7/1 | Argentina 100/1 

Australia will aim at challenging New Zealand and do what none of their Super Rugby franchises could in a 26-matches against Kiwi opposition this year – actually win a game.
Meanwhile, the Springboks’ 2016 nightmare is now over and, in Warren Whiteley, they have a calm, collected leader who may make all the difference in this campaign. Argentina goes into the tournament as underdogs, but you certainly wouldn’t bet against them recording one or two upsets.

New Zealand
As expected, the 2016 version saw the World Champion Kiwis reclaim their Rugby Championship crown, comprehensively winning all six of their matches. So good were they, in fact, that renowned former All Black-turned TV personality Jeff Wilson, even went as far as to suggest that the class of 2016 were superior to the McCaw/ Carter-led team that claimed the World Cup the year before.

Since the heights of last year’s Rugby Championship, they have slumped to a first-ever loss to Ireland, a series draw with the British & Irish Lions, and have even seen England equal their world record for consecutive Test match wins. Suddenly there is a feeling amongst the rugby-playing world that the All Blacks aren’t quite as invincible as they once were, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Kieran Read and his bandits will look to permanently shut those critics up in the months ahead.

Player to Watch: Brodie Retallick
Retallick has been extremely good for both club and country this year, as he looks to emulate the form that made him 2014’s World Player of the Year. Expect him to ride that momentum into this year’s Southern Hemisphere showpiece.

South Africa
The Springboks’ Rugby Championship performances in 2016 saw them limp to two victories whilst suffering record losses to both Argentina and New Zealand at home. Having avoided the chop ahead of this season, Coach Allister Coetzee has stressed the need to “start afresh”, something his side certainly seem to have taken on, as they managed to whitewash France in a three-match test series in June.

The Lions’ success in Super Rugby has since filtered into the national team, with Warren Whiteley having been appointed Captain amid a plethora of his provincial national teammates. His fantastic leadership abilities should serve as a relative calm after the storm of 2016, as his Boks aim to climb the World Rugby ladder once again.

Player to Watch: Malcolm Marx
Having cemented himself as one of Super Rugby’s standout players over the past few seasons, Marx will want to prove himself in the Test arena in 2017. The youngster has all the makings of a great modern hooker, and it really is scary to think how good he could one day become.

It is an open secret that the Jaguares’ Super Rugby side is the Argentine National team in disguise. Only players who ply their trade in the competition qualify to represent the national team, and therefore nearly the entire player-pool are included in Daniel Hourcade’s Test match squads. Having come leaps and bounds over the past few seasons, the Jaguares, also secretly known as, Argentina will feel confident about challenging the “Big Three” once again.

Twice losing to England in June would have hurt Agustin Creevy’s boys, who will place more emphasis on their home games during this campaign especially against South Africa and Australia, as they look to emulate their 2015 season and finish third.

Player to Watch: Martin Landajo
Landajo has lit up the international rugby scene for the past two seasons, with his chirpiness and never-say-die attitude making him a fan-favourite amongst his teammates. Expect the wily 29-year-old scrumhalf to keep oppositions guessing in 2017, with his speedy service from the base of the ruck.

The Wallabies looked as aimless and unexciting as ever in their June internationals. In between unconvincing wins over Fiji and Italy, Michael Cheika’s men embarrassingly went down at home to Scotland’s second-stringers in an appalling performance. With the Brumbies rather ridiculously having been the only Aussie side to make the cut for the Super Rugby playoffs, all indications are that their national team won’t exactly be title contenders in 2017’s Rugby Championship. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them in a scrap for third place as the competition nears its crescendo in October.

Having floated through their Rugby Championship fixtures a year ago (which saw them win just 50% of their games), it’s hard to imagine this season’s bunch fairing any better. Real quality has been sorely lacking from this Aussie side over the past two seasons, and little looks set to change.

Player to Watch: Michael Hooper
Once regarded as one of the best flankers, Hooper has seemingly hit a bit of a slump recently. Playing in losing sides hasn’t helped his cause, but if he wants to be remembered as a Wallaby great, he needs to start putting his hand up.

Verdict: New Zealand 2/11
Were you really expecting anyone else? The All Blacks drawn Lions series would have hurt Steve Hansen’s boys astronomically and for the first time in a while, they will go into a Rugby Championship campaign feeling as though they have a point to prove. South Africa will finish in second, as they look to rebuild after the horror show that was 2016, while I’m expecting “Los Pumas” to pip Australia to third-place. 

Rugby Championship 2017 Fixtures
19 Aug
Australia vs New Zealand
ANZ Stadium
19 Aug
South Africa vs Argentina
Nelson Mandela Bay - PE
26 Aug
New Zealand vs Australia
Forsyth Barr Stadium
26 Aug
Argentina vs South Africa
Estadio Padre, Salta
9 Sep
New Zealand vs Argentina
Yarrow Stadium
9 Sep
Australia vs South Africa
nib Stadium, Perth
16 Sep
New Zealand vs South Africa
QBE Stadium, Albany
16 Sep
Australia vs Argentina
GIO Stadium
30 Sep
Argentina vs New Zealand
Estadio Jose
30 Sep
South Africa vs Australia
7 Oct
Argentina vs Australia
Estadio Malvinas
7 Oct
South Africa vs New Zealand

Written by Shaun Goosen for

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