2016-08-18 by Liam Del Carme
Australia v New Zealand
Australia won at home last year but the All Blacks beat them convincingly a week later after Michael Cheika made a raft of changes. The All Blacks also went on to beat them fairly convincingly in the World Cup final. This time Cheika has named 13 of his World Cup starters as he backed experience. Australia are still smarting from their series defeat to England and would have hoped for a less conspicuous entry to the Rugby Championships. Israel Folau has admitted the Wallabies may be a bit rusty after the Australian teams' early exit from Super Rugby. They do however have experience and should they still be in the contest in the closing stages that may yet prove decisive.
Griquas v Golden Lions
Griquas weren't just beaten by the Sharks last week, they were found to be well off the pace. The Lions made a roaring start whipping the Pumas at Ellis Park. The Lions have a fair clutch of Super Rugby talent in their Currie Cup squad and it is the pace and intensity that those players are used to that will set them apart in Kimberley.
La Rochelle v Clermont Auvergne
The last time these teams met was in June when Clermont won 57-8. Clermont will have to get over their disappointing finish to last season quickly. They lost by a point in the semifinals to eventual winners Racing 92 but this is the start of a new campaign and an opportunity to put down a marker. The visitors start clear favourites.
Toulouse v Montpellier
Toulouse, the slumbering giant of French rugby showed signs of reawakening last season. They won six games in a row before falling to Racing 92 at the tail end of last season. They will be hard to beat at home but Montpellier are likely to unleash their new star signing, former Crusaders Nemani Nadolo. Toulouse are slight favourites.
South Africa v Argentina
Player availability is limited for Allister Coetzee but he also has to make changes that will improve performance in the Rugby Championships. The Springboks were unconvincing against Ireland and changes are needed. Their kicking game needs to be addressed hence Johan Goosen's recall to the squad. Their tactical kicking will be a feature of this game but they also need to get it right up front. Unlike the Jaguares, the Pumas will be full of fire and the Springboks need to tread carefully.