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Sports

New Zealand crush Argentina in Rugby Championship

media Dan Carter (left) and skipper Richie McCaw celebrate after New Zealand's win over Argentina Reuters/Anthony Phelps

New Zealand have won the Rugby Championship four years on trot. On Friday they started their quest for a fifth consecutive title in front of their adoring fans. South Africa and Australia kick off their campaign on Saturday.

New Zealand's All Blacks began the defence of their Rugby Championship crown on Friday with a resounding 39-19 victory over Argentina in Christchurch.

The All Blacks have won the tournament ever since it was revamped from the Tri-Nations series to include Argentina in 2012.

New Zealand went in at half time leading 18-6. Ma'a Nonu scored the hosts' second try on the stroke of half-time when he muscled past four defenders to score in the corner.

The contest was effectively over shortly after the pause with Charles Piutau's touchdown.

Two tries from Argentina's skipper Agustin Creevy in the second half gave the scoreline a modicum of respectability.

"From the forwards' point of view we knew it was going to be a good challenge there and for the most part we got that right," All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said after the game. "One of the pleasing things was we didn't let them, especially around the fringes, let their big boys make too many inroads.

"Bar the couple of drives when they scored I think we looked after them pretty well."

On Saturday in Brisbane, Australia host South Africa for their first game in the tournament. Last season Australia beat the Springboks 24-23. It's been their only win in five matches. The fixture this year will mark the return of Matt Giteau.

He hasn't played for his country for four years and the 32-year-old Toulon centre will collect his 93 cap, nearly 13 years after making his debut.

"It's obviously a proud moment for myself," he said on the eve of the clash. "It's one that I thought I'd never get again. I'm very proud to be named."

Giteau racked up nearly 700 points in those games for the Wallabies and his inclusion has been identified by the South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer as a concern for his side.

"I highly rate Matt Giteau, I think he's an unbelievable player," said Meyer. "He's a great playmaker and he's won a lot of trophies, especially with Toulon. He's the type of guy who can get their backs going, especially with the experience he has."

Ruan Pienaar, Handré Pollard, Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel have been anointed to start in the South Africa back line.

"The thing for me now is about combinations," Meyer said. "Handré, Damian and Jesse played together for the first time last weekend so you want to allow combinations to settle."

Australia and South Africa will use the opening game to make a statement of intent. The first objective will be to take the southern hemisphere crown from the New Zealanders before the sides start their assault in September in England on the All Blacks' world championship title. 

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