One of the more intriguing installments of the Rugby Championship in recent history will burst into action this weekend.
The All Blacks have dominated the quadrangular competition, winning six of the seven editions of the southern hemisphere showpiece, with the Wallabies being the only other side to get their hands on the silverware after an unbeaten campaign in 2015.
New Zealand are firm favourites to continue their dominance, and rightfully so, but it’s not a foregone conclusion that they’ll keep their stranglehold on the trophy, largely because of this year’s truncated tournament. The single-round shootout, necessitated by the World Cup taking place in September, makes for a coaching conundrum.
The Springboks and All Blacks are opting for a two-team approach; will this help or hinder their respective causes in the competition? How much importance has Steve Hansen put on retaining the title? Will the All Black mentor risk losing the Rugby Championship battle if it means improving the chances of winning the World Cup war?
All four teams will want to fine-tune their game, but at the same time, keep a few tricks up their sleeve for the World Cup.
These factors fuel the intrigue and inject a level of unpredictability into a competition that’s become more and more predictable over the years.