Australia and New Zealand will battle in the final round of the 2019 Rugby Championship on Saturday, with the All Blacks chasing a fourth title in a row.
South Africa lead the way on seven points after the first two rounds, and the holders sit one point behind. A draw would be enough for New Zealand if South Africa lose to Argentina.
However, Australia could leapfrog both sides and win the championship if they beat the All Blacks and South Africa lose to Argentina.
The tournament bonus-point system dictates South Africa can miss out on the title even if they win their final game, but only if New Zealand record a huge victory in Australia.
Date: Saturday, August 10
Time: 7:45 p.m. local, 10:45 a.m. BST, 5:45 a.m. ET
Stream: Sky Go (UK), ESPN+ (U.S.)
TV: Sky Sports (UK)
New Zealand's dominance of the Rugby Championship—they have been winners or joint-winners of every tournament since its inception in 2012—could soon be over, with the Springboks closely observing the champions' visit to their Antipodean neighbours.
South Africa play Argentina away from home 10 hours after the All Blacks and Wallabies clash at the Optus Stadium in Perth.
Bonus points might come into play with the top two teams neck and neck heading into Round 3. With four points for a win and two for a draw, teams claim a bonus point for winning by three tries or more than their opponents. A bonus point can also be earned by losing within seven points, creating a number of scenarios for the final standings.
The match will be the first of two games between New Zealand and Australia for the 2019 Bledisloe Cup, with the return set for a week later at Eden Park. The second game will not be a Rugby Championship encounter this season after the format was shortened because of the upcoming Rugby World Cup.
According to Reuters (via the Guardian), New Zealand will rest Sonny Bill Williams on Saturday before the centre returns to the squad in Auckland for the second Bledisloe tie. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen explained how important it is to defeat their bitter rivals.
"The Bledisloe Cup is the second most important trophy for us, after the Rugby World Cup, and we’re really looking forward to the next two Tests coming up. Two weeks together will give us solid preparation towards growing our game understanding and getting our execution honed, so that’s exciting."
Whatever the outcome in Argentina, New Zealand will be motivated to defeat Australia in Perth. Their continental rivalry is one of the biggest in the sport, and with a World Cup just around the corner, bragging rights will be up for grabs over the next two weekends.
South Africa will slight be favourites to capture the tournament win, and the Southern Hemisphere title would be the perfect addition before they take the battle onto the world stage in Japan. The Springboks have their destiny in their own hands, and it would be a shock if Los Pumas opened the door for New Zealand or Australia with a win over the leaders.