The third round of The Rugby Championship kicks off this weekend and by Sunday morning we’ll have hit the halfway mark of the tournament. Each team faces a tough challenge in the run home towards the top of the table, but each also has their own unique brand of rugby with which they hope to attain the trophy.
No big surprises at the top of the table with New Zealand clear leaders of the tournament. They’re at home again, where they boast a supremely impressive record of 42 straight victories, and they boast formidable numbers in almost every key area but there’s one where they are far and away the most effective team this year.
At the lineout, New Zealand are flawless. They’ve won 22 of their lineouts so far this campaign; no team has won more while they are the only team to boast a 100% lineout success rate. Not only are they formidable on their own throw but they’ve been significantly more effective at winning opposition throws as well. The All Blacks have stolen seven lineouts already this campaign, over three times more than any other team in the competition.
Their opposition this week, Argentina, are also incredibly effective on the lineout. The Pumas are level with New Zealand on total lineouts won with 22 for the campaign so far, but one of their greatest strengths lies with the boot rather than the hand.
Argentina have kicked 11 goals already this campaign, equal with South Africa for the most of any team. Seven penalty goals and four conversions combine for a tally which is made even more impressive by the fact that they have missed the posts only once in the two fixtures thus far. This lands the Pumas with a kicking accuracy of 92%, 25% better than any other team in the competition and 36% better than the All Blacks.
On the other side of the Tasman, the Wallabies hunt for their first victory of the tournament after a brace of demoralising losses to the All Blacks. It’s not all doom and gloom for the Australian team, though. The Wallabies boast the most effective scrum in this year’s iteration of the tournament. They’ve won 12 of 13 scrums on their own feed so far this campaign, which gives them a tournament-high scrum success rate of 92.3%, fractionally better than the All Blacks’ 91.7%; what used to be an Achilles heel for Australia is now a strong platform upon which to build. They’ve also been the best team at the ruck, winning 94.4% of their own contests. That’s the best of any team in the tournament and more than 1.5% more than the Springboks, the team they’ll face this weekend.
The Springboks travel to Australia knowing that they can bring a game that’s threatening until the dying breath. South Africa have scored three tries in the final quarter of games so far this season, three times more than any other team has managed. Conversely, only New Zealand (1) have conceded fewer second half tries than the Springboks (2) this campaign.
A win in round three is crucial for each of the four teams in the competition. Whether it be to lock up a higher position on the ladder or simply to remain in contention there is plenty at stake in The Rugby Championship this weekend.