Over the next two months, the best rugby teams south of the equator will contest the annual Rugby Championship with defending champions New Zealand odds on favourites to win the title once again.
Having won the four-team tournament in five of the six seasons it has been played, plus a remarkable 10 of 16 Tri-Nations tournaments, it is easy to see why the All Blacks are considered to be one of sports strongest dynasties.
They open up their campaign with a trip to Sydney where they will face the only other side to win the Rugby Championship, Australia.
In the other match, Argentina travels to South Africa to face the Springboks.
Read on for our previews and predictions for the weekend’s action.
Saturday 18 August, 8:00pm, ANZ Stadium
We have all heard ad nauseum that the Wallabies have not won the Bledisloe Cup since 2002 and almost as frequently that this might just be the year they snap that streak.
To have any hope against a rampant New Zealand side they need to claim this match on home soil and hope to spring an upset in one of the other two tests on the other side of the Tasman.
During their successful run, when the first Bledisloe test has been played in Australia the All Blacks have won 7 of 11 matches with a draw in 2014 as well, with all bar one of those victories coming at Saturday’s venue, ANZ Stadium.
They have no dramas putting up a bit score in their victories, with their lowest score being 27 points, and have scored 40 points on five occasions, even hitting the half century on two occasions.
While any optimistic Australian would love to see their side cause a huge boilover in this one and give them some hope for the rest of the series, the All Blacks just have too much firepower to back against them.
Back New Zealand to Cover the Line (-11.5) @ $1.91
Sunday 19 August, 1:05am, Kings Park
In the other opening round fixture of The Rugby Championship, South Africa take on Argentina in Durban and if the Springboks have any desires on challenging the All Blacks for tournament honours they will need to get off to a good start.
Thankfully for them, history is firmly in their favour with five of the six Rugby Championship meetings in South Africa being won by the Springboks however the Pumas will take some solace in the fact that the last time these sides met in Durban, they pulled off a remarkable 37-25 upset.
For Argentina to have any real hope of springing an upset here, the Pumas need to stifle South Africa’s attack, as they have only topped 24 points once in these fixtures.
Coming off a draining series against England where they won two of three tests, the Springboks will be very confident heading into this game and should be able to score enough points to get past a determined Pumas side.
Back South Africa to Win by 1-12 @ $3.25