Wallabies to front Pumas in round 5

Taniela Tupou of the Wallabies charges forward during The Rugby Championship match against the Springboks at Suncorp Stadium. CHRIS HYDE/GETTY IMAGES

It’s hard to believe that the 2021 Rugby Championship is almost coming to an end. Fans have seen four weeks of exciting, enterprising and bruising rugby.

This weekend on Saturday night in Queensland, fans will see the penultimate round of matches, and although the All Blacks are running away with the Rugby Championship trophy, there is still plenty of action for fans. The Wallabies front the Los Pumas, who is the tournament’s only winless side.

The Los Pumas have suffered agonizing back-to-back defeats at the hands of the Springboks and the All Blacks 32-12 and 29-10, and 39-0 and 36-13, respectively, while the Wallabies are on form after inflicting misery on the 2019 RWC champions, defeating the green machine 28-26 and 30-17, respectively. The Wallabies have 10 points, and are smarting the opportunity of re-winning the Rugby Championship title.

History reveals that the Wallabies first played against the Pumas on 27 October 1979, resulting in a win to the Pumas 24-13.

The teams have met 34 times, with Australia winning 25, Argentina six and three matches drawn. In the five Tests played between the two nations, the Wallabies have two wins, the Pumas have one win, and two Tests have ended in a draw. Last year, the Wallabies faced the Pumas at Bankwest Stadium and McDonald Jones Stadium and both matches ended in a draw 16-16 and 15-15, respectively.

In 2019 at Suncorp Stadium, the Wallabies narrowly beat the Pumas 16-10, and in 2018 at Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena, Salta, the Wallabies edged out the hosts 45-34, while they lost at Robina Stadium on the Gold Coast 23-19.

However, for the Wallabies the most significant result last weekend though, was their ability to beat the Springboks 30-17, as the win enabled them to close the gap on the Springboks, who sit second on the table, to just a point.

The All Blacks sit top of the group after winning all four of their matches with a bonus point, and quite simply, the All Blacks look unstoppable. With the Springboks now looking at back-to-back matches against the all-conquering All Blacks in their remaining fixtures, the Wallabies are now firmly in the driving seat to finish second on the points table.

So far in the competition, the Wallabies been beaten twice by the All Blacks, before doing a double over the Springboks, in what were effectively the two matches to decide who comes second to the All Blacks. Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, who has restored Wallaby fans hopes and faith, has assembled a strong side for the two-match series.

Reece Hodge has been given the nod at fullback to replace the injured Tom Banks. He got the nod ahead of Jordan Petaia and Andrew Kellaway to start in the No. 15 jersey.

James O’Connor is also likely to make his return from the bench. While the Wallabies are chasing a third straight victory after their back-to-back wins over the Springboks, they should not underestimate the Pumas, who will be ready to bounce back from their four disappointing defeats.

I agree that it has been another sole-destroying competition with defeat after defeat for the Pumas, but their pride and passion is at stake, and they’ll come out firing.

The Pumas, who have former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika assisting Mario Ledesma, have scored one try in four Tests in the Rugby Championship, and Ledesma’s blue brigade will be out to give something back to their passionate and spirited fans.

I’m betting on the Wallabies to outmuscle the Pumas, and grab another bonus point win!

Rajnesh Lingam is a contributor to this newspaper. The views expressed are his and not necessarily of this newspaper or his employer.

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