Rugby Championship: All Blacks, Wallabies, Springboks, Pumas resume play

The four Rugby Championship nations have enjoyed a few days off, with the tournament set to recommence this Saturday.

The Springboks and Pumas are on the road for the next two weeks, making the long-haul journeys for games in Australia and New Zealand.

The All Blacks and Wallabies, meanwhile, have set up camp in Nelson and the Gold Coast respectively.

Read on as we look at each team's progress to date and what they'll be working on ahead of Round 3.

ARGENTINA

The Pumas will take plenty of confidence from their big win over the Springboks in Mendoza. It was arguably their best performance in the Rugby Championship as they pelted the South Africans upfront, which laid the platform for some classy finishing by their backs. However, much like the Springboks over the past couple of years, their biggest challenge is going to be replicating the passion and execution they play with at home on foreign soil. The two matches they played against the Springboks is testimony that they can be bi-polar. In Durban they were dominated in the physical exchanges and seemed to surrender meekly like a house cat. However, in Mendoza, they purred like the Puma and hunted the Springboks down for dinner. The Jaguares' performances on tour in Australia and New Zealand under coach Mario Ledesma in 2018 were very good, and there is no reason why this team can't replicate those performances over the next two weeks.

What's working?

Fly-half Nicolas Sanchez has been absolutely superb for the Pumas, especially in the return match against the Springboks when he delivered a full house of points. Sanchez has given the Pumas the direction they have lacked since joining the Southern Hemisphere's big three in 2012. They needed someone to harness the passion and fire they play with, and turn it into points and scoring opportunities. Sanchez's option-taking has been brilliant and has brought his lively backs into the game with his great distribution. Argentina's forwards also stepped up in a big way in Mendoza, and they will need to produce a similarly high-octane display if they want to compete against New Zealand this weekend.

What's not working?

The Pumas need to find consistency and a remedy for their bi-polar tendencies. You can't be as flat as they were in Durban one week and then be prepared to run through a brick wall the next. If they can produce performances similar to the one in Mendoza, they might actually win a Test on their tour. The other thing they will be hoping to get right is their lineout, which hasn't quite got going in the first two matches. Their scrum wasn't good in Durban, but it improved in Mendoza like many of the other departments of their game.

Injury concerns/changes

Leicester Tigers' Gaston Cortes is one of four new faces in the Argentina squad for the trip Down Under. Prop Cortes is joined by Juan Manuel Leguizamon, who last played for the national side in last year's 28-19 defeat by Ireland. Julian Montoya, the hooker who missed the two-match series against South Africa through injury, is back, as is centre Matias Orlando.

AUSTRALIA

After a seemingly positive build-up, it took just one half of rugby in Sydney for Michael Cheika and the Wallabies to receive a staunch reality check and plunge the coach deeper into the pressure-cooker. A week later that heat only intensified as the All Blacks again ran up a bonus-point win; Beauden Barrett's four tries firing the world champions to a 40-12 victory and a frustrated Cheika into a terse media-conference with travelling Australian journalists. Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle has since come out in support of Cheika, backing the coach's "plan" albeit with the caveat that the board "couldn't ignore results". Read into that what you will, but whatever the interpretation the need for Cheika to defeat both the Springboks and Pumas in the coming weeks is critical.

What's working?

Not a lot, to be honest. After a terrible set-piece showing in Sydney, the Wallabies at least improved in that department in Auckland. Their scrum was far more solid and built the momentum that eventually put a determined Will Genia over from close range while Australia's lineout, too, recovered to lose just two balls on their own throw after they'd shipped seven in Sydney a week earlier. But the only real shining light across both weeks was David Pocock, who survived some serious punishment to constantly be a threat at the breakdown and top the Wallabies tackle count on both occasions. The debate about the number on Pocock's back will continue, but there is no hiding from the fact the scorelines could have been far worse for the Wallabies had Pocock not been on the field.

What's not working?

After twin hammerings at the hands of the All Blacks, there is one clear learning for the Wallabies: their current game plan won't cut it against the world champions. The big problem is, though, that it may well be the best way to beat both the Springboks and Pumas over the coming fortnight. Cheika's ball-in-hand, high-retention approach brought Super Rugby success to the Waratahs and worked well in his early time at the Wallabies; but New Zealand have since worked it out and understand that if they wait for the right breakdown or ball-carrier to attack, or a Wallabies mistake, Australia are hugely vulnerable on the counter. That problem is amplified by the fact the Wallabies have been slow to react on turnover ball defensively, reviving calls for Nathan Grey's position to be reviewed.

Injury concerns/changes

The Wallabies have two chief injury concerns in Taniela Tupou and Israel Folau, though both men are rated a strong chance of lining up at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night. The Wallabies fullback has made a rapid recovery from the ankle injury he suffered in Bledisloe I, while Tupou is yet to be seen in the tournament after a hamstring strain sidelined him for the opening fortnight. Brandon Paega-Amosa, Rory Arnold and Caleb Timu have all been added to the squad.

NEW ZEALAND

The All Blacks made a mockery of Steve Hansen's pre-Bledisloe "Wallabies are favourites" comments, not that the coach would have minded one little bit. While they were tested for 40 minutes in both trans-Tasman clashes, the All Blacks ability to strike from the smallest opportunity continues to keep them clear of their Rugby Championship rivals and the chasing pack across the globe. At the heart of the victories have been New Zealand's two key players: Brodie Retallick and Beauden Barrett. For Retallick, it has been a dream return to Test rugby after he missed last year's spring tour and the June series against France; the lock backing up his man-of-the-match performance in Sydney with another superb outing in Auckland. Barrett, meanwhile, has silenced those discussions that were circling about Canterbury as to why Richie Mo'unga wasn't in the black No. 10 jersey. Barrett simply went out and scored five tries in two Tests. Conversation over.

What's working?

Long the masters of using turnover ball, the All Blacks were in exquisite form on the counter in both Bledisloe encounters. But that opportunity must be first earned through defence, and it's here where the All Blacks are dominating in general play. The world champions have given up just three tries so far, and two of those can largely be blamed on halfback Aaron Smith who has fallen off one-on-one tackles. When the Wallabies have had the ball, the All Blacks were more than happy for them to put together extended phase sequences knowing that the longer the Australians retained the ball, the harder it would be for them to maintain their structure. Then when the right moment arrived, a steal, strip or a Wallabies' mistake, afforded New Zealand the opportunity for a quick shift to a player in motion who ran into wide open spaces. It all stems from their ability to stay patient in defence, though.

What's not working?

It's hard to pinpoint anything too concerning in the All Blacks' game - how can you really when they have won by 25 and 28 points in consecutive weeks? What Hansen will be hoping for, however, is a little more accuracy around their own attacking sequences and their general all-round approach. Given they face encounters with against Ireland and England -- who will both look to play a more territory-based game plan that won't allow the All Blacks to sit back and absorb attacks -- later this year, New Zealand will want to tighten up their work under the high ball, on the kick-chase and at the breakdown where Pocock proved an annoyance in both Sydney and Auckland. Hansen may look to get some rugby into some fringe All Blacks, too.

Injury concerns/changes

Both Sam Cane and Ryan Crotty are reportedly progressing well within their concussion protocols and are likely to be available for selection ahead of Thursday's team naming. Sonny Bill Williams remains sidelined for a further week however; the code-hopper a chance to return against the Springboks in Wellington on Saturday week.

SOUTH AFRICA

Rassie Erasmus will look to reverse the Springboks' dismal away form over the last few years during South Africa's tour of Australasia. The Boks' away record since 2016 has been rather appalling - they have only managed to win three of their past 15 Tests during that time. Their latest mishap on the road came against Argentina in Mendoza two weekends ago where they looked a totally different team from the one that had dominated the Pumas in Durban the week before. It's also been a trend at Super Rugby level in the past couple of years; South African teams only managed two wins in 21 matches outside of the Republic in 2018, which includes the Lions going down to the Crusaders in the final. The Boks have also struggled away from home against Australia and New Zealand since the advent of the Rugby Championship in 2012. The Boks last beat Australia in away from home in 2013, while they haven't been able to get one over the All Blacks in New Zealand since Peter de Villiers' team clinched the Tri-Nations in 2009.

What's working?

The Springboks forwards were fantastic in Durban when they pounded the Pumas into submission with their big ball-carriers, dominant scrum and ferocious play at the breakdown. However, Argentina hit back hard in Mendoza and turned the tables on the Springboks' forwards with a fiery display of their own. Forward play, though, is still the hallmark of the South Africans' play and they will back themselves to dominate Australia at set-piece time this coming weekend, especially at the scrum. The Boks will put the heat on in this department to win penalties. Their maul has also been good, but they first have to win their lineout to get this going.

What's not working?

The Springboks have problems on both attack and defence going into Saturday's clash against the Wallabies. The South Africans have found themselves in some great positions with ball in hand, but haven't been able to convert their chances. Goal-kicking has also been a massive problem, as they also haven't been able to build scoreboard pressure. The Boks' defence has been pretty average, especially in Mendoza where they just couldn't handle Argentina's strike runners, particularly in the wide areas. It's been a bit of problem since the June series against England, and one they will have to sort out before they face some of best attacking players in the world over the next two years.

Injury concerns/changes

Centre Damian de Allende has recovered from his shoulder injury and is likely to start this weekend in the No. 12 jersey ahead of Andre Esterhuizen, who played in the first two Rugby Championship matches against Argentina.