Battle lines drawn down South
The full draw for the 2013 Rugby Championship has been confirmed with the All Blacks and Wallabies kicking things off in Sydney on August 17.
The full draw for the second edition of the Rugby Championship has been confirmed with the All Blacks and Wallabies kicking things off in Sydney on August 17.
That same day the Springboks will host the Pumas, who are yet to win a Rugby Championship Test, at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein.
The Pumas repeat the 2012 draw for their home matches, hosting their first home match of the Rugby Championship in Round Two against the Springboks at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza on Saturday August 24, with the All Blacks hosting the Wallabies at Westpac Stadium in Wellington the same day.
Test matches in Brisbane, Hamilton, Perth, Auckland, Cape Town and La Plata will follow, with the final round to be played in Johannesburg between the Springboks and the All Blacks at Ellis Park, while the Pumas will host the final match of the Championship by hosting the Wallabies at Estadio Gigante de Arroyito, in Rosario.
The New Zealanders were undefeated in last year's competition, which was known as the Tri-Nations before Argentina joined in 2012, and remain the top-ranked team in international rugby.
But England proved in December that the world champions are not invincible and the Wallabies, who will be battle-hardened after hosting the British and Irish Lions, will be gunning for an upset.
SANZAR chief executive Greg Peters said it was exciting to release the draw for the Rugby Championship as Test rugby closed out for the year.
"In 2012 we saw the Rugby Championship played for the first time, welcoming the Pumas into the fold alongside the original Tri-Nations teams, which saw the All Blacks claim inaugural success with an unbeaten charge to the title," Peters said.
"The Rugby Championship will again feature the best teams in the world. With the recent End of Year Tests yielding 10 victories for our competing rugby nations."
"The Pumas claimed a historic win in Cardiff against Six Nations champions Wales, the Springboks went through Europe unbeaten, while the All Blacks and Wallabies won three of their four Tests," he added.
Peters said that the new dimension that Argentina brought to the tournament was evident with the fan response through the six rounds.
"A total of over 16 million viewers tuned into the twelve Tests of the Rugby Championship and an average of 44,000 attended the matches, which saw stadiums at 91% capacity, with the 88,739 crowd that saw the All Blacks come back from a half-time deficit to defeat the Springboks 32-16 at FNB Stadium in Soweto the most attended match of the season," Peters said.
"The first round of action, with the Wallabies playing the All Blacks in Sydney, and the Springboks hosting the Pumas in Bloemfontein, will have added spice considering the last time each of these two nations played - the result was an 18-18 and 16-16 draw respectively.
"We are also pleased to announce that the format for 2013 will be consistent with the recent season to enable Unions and fans to have certainty on which weekends matches will be played in their territories," added the SANZAR boss.
Fixtures for the 2013 Rugby Championship (kick-off times yet to be confirmed).
Round One (August 17)
Australia v New Zealand in Sydney
South Africa v Argentina in Bloemfontein
Round Two (August 24)
New Zealand v Australia in Wellington
Argentina v South Africa in Mendoza
Round Three (September 7)
Australia v South Africa in Brisbane
New Zealand v Argentina in Hamilton
Round Four (September 14)
Australia v Argentina in Perth
New Zealand v South Africa in Auckland
Round Five (September 28)
South Africa v Australia in Cape Town
Argentina v New Zealand in La Plata
Round Six (October 5)
South Africa v New Zealand in Johannesburg
Argentina v Australia in Rosario