All Blacks near title, titan Tupou in Rugby Championship Round 4 talking points

Eighty minutes is all that stands between New Zealand and another Rugby Championship title after they beat Argentina for the second time in six days on Saturday.

Ian Foster rung the changes for their rematch at Suncorp Stadium, but the end result was the same as New Zealand ran in six tries en route to a 36-13 win.

Australia helped the All Blacks edge closer to the crown after they also overcame the same foe twice in a row, defeating South Africa 30-17 in Brisbane.

Marika Koroibete and Len Ikitau each crossed over for two tries apiece in a result that left the Springboks 10 points below New Zealand.

The four teams are in the home stretch as the Rugby Championship enters its last batch of double-headers, and Mirror Sport breaks down this weekend's major talking points…

All Blacks reserves get the job done

South Africa's 'Bomb Squad' gained notoriety for their displays off the bench en route to World Cup glory in 2019, but it's New Zealand who still have the deepest player pool on the planet.

Eleven changes to their starting XV wasn't enough to disrupt the end result in any meaningful way, although one could see the All Blacks were more suspect defensively at Suncorp Stadium.

The option to rest his stars is understandable on Foster's part, with the upcoming Tests against South Africa being where this tournament will be decided.

Argentina are the world's seventh-ranked nation and no small fry in the grand scheme, however, highlighting just how deep New Zealand's resources remain despite a small population.

Do you think New Zealand will beat South Africa to clinch the 2021 Rugby Championship? Let us know in the comments section.

Talismanic Tupou too good to ignore

Last week saw Australia fans demand Quade Cooper be retained after dazzling on his return to the team; now it's Taniela Tupou's turn to earn a swathe of support.

In only his second start thus far in 2021, the tighthead prop looked sublime against the Springboks and played a critical role in more than one scoring manoeuvre.

Tupou's highlight came in the form of a sensational offload through the tackle to tee up Koroibete for one of his tries, resembling a centre more so than any kind of prop.

A devilish asset for the Wallabies in open play, Dave Rennie can't afford to drop the Queensland Red as long as current form persists.

Springboks discipline the difference

The warning signs flashed early for South Africa at Suncorp Stadium when Faf de Klerk was carded for slowing ball at the breakdown, resulting in two Australia tries during his spell in the sin bin.

Lukhanyo Am hit back for the visitors when Wallabies lock Lachlan Swinton was also shown a yellow, evidence as to just how telling a man advantage can be.

But it's not just the yellow cards that made a difference in regards to discipline after the Springboks were lacking their usually regimented sheen in all quarters at Suncorp Stadium.

Rennie's men deserve their credit, of course, but it appeared as though the fatigue of a long international summer has begun to weigh on the Boks both mentally and physically.

Referees must take ownership in card debates

South Africa No. 8 Jasper Wiese was the third player to be sin binned in Brisbane, but not without an excessive amount of deliberation between the officials.

It wasn't the first time, either, after referee Matthew Carley had earlier contemplated showing Swinton a straight red for a shoulder that rose accidentally onto the head of Duane Vermeulen.

The communication between referees and their television match officials is a major boon for rugby and offers transparency, though it requires the man on the field to take charge in the end.

Head injuries in particular have become a minefield, but fans saw on Saturday how quickly a referee's outlook can change depending on the input of his TMO (or lack thereof).

Rugby is ahead of many other sports when it comes to using technology as a tool in officiating, but certain calls resembled a referee who sought aid making decisions, rather than assistance supporting his own judgement.

Australia are 'back'

Whisper it, but the Australia we've seen over this past week is arguably the best the Wallabies have looked since 2017, sealing back-to-back wins for the first time in just shy of two years.

South Africa supporters may not agree, but rugby is better off when the two-time Rugby World Cup-winners are competing at the top, and it certainly spices up the Rugby Championship no end.

Not all of their recent transformation can be attributed to the return of Cooper after four years in exile, but the matured fly-half surely deserves huge credit for his role in the recent revival.

Centre Samu Kerevi and lock Izack Rodda were major proponents in keeping ball alive with terrific offloads and support runs, but it's been a team-wide tweak in intensity that's lifted prospects of late.

It's stellar timing, too, considering Rennie now has just two years to prepare for the next World Cup in France, where the Wallabies hope to bounce back following their quarter-final exit in 2019.

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