It’s hard to see past a New Zealand triumph in this year’s Rugby Championship.
The All Blacks won the inaugural four-team tournament last year by winning all six of their matches.
Even before the addition of Argentina, New Zealand had dominated the old Tri-Nations—triumphing in 10 of the 16 tournaments.
All four sides desperately want the bragging rights of the Southern Hempishere and we’ve put together a table showing how it might all end up.
|Position||Team||Played||Won||Lost||Try Bonus||Defeat Bonus||Points|
The All Blacks should come through the tournament relatively unscathed. They’ve held an advantage over closest rivals Australia for a while now and cemented it in their 2011 World Cup semifinal win.
They’re missing Dan Carter for their opening matches, per the BBC, but his replacement Aaron Cruden comes into the Rugby Championship on the back of Super Rugby success with the Chiefs and is world-class in his own right.
Only five players scored more than two tries last tournament; four represented the All Blacks. If that attacking threat is carried into this year's event there can only be one winner.
Their rivals will want to avoid the humiliation of seeing the All Blacks win another tournament with a 100 percent record.
The game in South Africa is where they might come unstuck—the Springboks were 16-12 up last year before collapsing after the break under intense pressure.
A draw against Argentina cost South Africa second place in the Rugby Championship last year but there were encouraging signs as they twice pushed New Zealand.
They need to build on their performances against the world champions and address the problem of maintaining form in the second half of matches.
Bryan Habana will again be their focal point after notching a crazy total of seven tries last year. His points should carry them to victory over Argentina but he’ll need assistance from his try-shy teammates this time around if they are to challenge New Zealand at the top.
The final fixture sees the All Blacks travel to their shores, and if the tournament rests on the outcome of that match then South Africa must find a way of not cracking under pressure.
Australia are the unknown of this year’s championship. Defeat to the British and Irish Lions heralded a change of coach with Ewen McKenzie stepping in, but this series is brutal. Whilst experimentation can work, it can also go horribly wrong.
McKenzie took the Queensland Reds to Super Rugby glory in 2011 and former Wallaby fly-half Michael Lynagh believes the new coach might create a new style, as reported by Sky Sports.
What I'm looking forward to seeing is how different Australia are going play under McKenzie.
Are we going to see more of how the Queensland team played a couple of years ago to win the Super Rugby title?
Players playing a bit wider than they have in the past, a bit of a different way to how they did under Deans. We're all looking forward to that being unveiled.
They might not usurp the All Blacks but a potential shift of tactics is likely to bring a mixture of victories and flat defeats, which is why they look destined to finish mid-table.
There’s no shame in succumbing to these great rugby nations, but after their debut ended with just a solitary draw Argentina must win a match this time around to prove their worth to the tournament.
Their home matches with Australia and South Africa represent their best chance in 2013.
The Pumas drew with the Springboks last time around and mounted a late comeback against the Wallabies that ultimately fell just short.
They have never beaten South Africa, and whilst their record against Australia is slightly better they still have not beaten them since 1997.
All the signs point towards another wooden spoon and with their leader Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe missing their opening match in South Africa, per Sky Sports, it looks like they are in for a challenging tournament.