2015 Bledisloe Cup – Game 2

The Bledisloe Cup is still up for grabs on Saturday as last weekend in Sydney, the Wallabies broke the All Blacks stranglehold on The Rugby Championship with a strong 27 – 19 win. It was a shock loss for the world’s number one team, but one must give credit to the Wallabies and in particular their forward pack, who really had their opponents measure throughout the match. Argentina kept the weekend upsets coming after securing their first win over South Africa from 20 attempts in a one-sided affair in Durban, in front of members of the first Argentinian team to tour South Africa, 50 years prior. As a result, the Wallabies won The Rugby Championship, followed by the All Blacks, the Pumas and the lowly Springboks. Looking ahead to this week, New Zealand will face the Wallabies yet again with the Bledisloe Cup on the year in Auckland and the Springboks travel to Buenos Aires seeking revenge after their worst performance in living memory against the Pumas last weekend. Although my two primary best bets didn’t land last week, my Currie Cup two unit play for the Stormers landed, as well as Ireland’s thrashing of Wales, so make sure you keep an eye on late twitter plays. As always it was a pleasure catching up with a few of you on Twitter, but for the newcomers, don’t forget to follow me (@S15_TheProfits) for game coverage, expert insight or just for a chat and fingers are crossed for another fascinating weekend of International rugby.

Best Bet 1: New Zealand/South Africa @ $1.93 – Sportsbet (early twitter play – Tuesday)

Note: More bets to come via twitter 

New Zealand ($1.25) vs Australia ($4.00)

A determined New Zealand outfit will welcome the new Rugby Championship titleholders, Australia, to the sacred home of world rugby at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday night. Last weekend, the Wallabies stunned the All Blacks in front of a strong crowd in Sydney and in the process became the first team other than New Zealand to win the Rugby Championship. This week sees the return match with the Bledisloe Cup on the line, a trophy the Wallabies haven’t held since 2002. To put things into perspective, the Wallabies have lost 15 straight Test matches at Eden Park and have an overall record of four wins from 28 attempts dating back to 1925, but there appears to be newfound belief amongst the squad under the guidance of Michael Cheika.

New Zealand team:
Tony Woodcock, Dane Coles, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Victor Vito, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read, Aaron Smith, Dan Carter, Julian Savea, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Ben Smith

Reserves: Kevin Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Nepo Laulala, Jerome Kaino, Sam Cane, TJ Perenara, Colin Slade, Malakai Fekitoa

The All Blacks have made three changes to the team that lost to the Wallabies last weekend in Sydney. The front row remains the same, however, this week Brodie Retallick is joined by Sam Whitelock in the second row. The other change in the forwards sees Jerome Kaino move to the bench with Victor Vito coming into the starting line up in the number six jumper. Kaino had a great Super Rugby season with the Blues, however, he hasn’t asserted himself on the opposition this season like he has done so in the past. I have no doubt Richie McCaw would’ve been given a rest this week had the All Blacks won last week, however, when he runs out at Eden Park, he will become the most capped Test player of all time. Many people including myself questioned his ability at this level after an ordinary Super Rugby season, but he is a class player and he will go down as the best rugby player of all time. Aaron Smith and Dan Carter continue their partnership in the halves and Ma’a Nonu has been brought back into the starting team in place of Sonny-Bill Williams who has an injury, however, he would’ve been dropped anyway after a poor performance in Sydney. The back three of Julian Savea, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Ben Smith remains the same and the AB’s will be looking for a little more purchase from the trio this weekend. There are a few changes on the bench with Wyatt Crockett likely to get some game time and Colin Slade has surprisingly been picked ahead of Beauden Barrett, which comes as somewhat of a surprise to me given the latter’s Super Rugby form.

Australia Team:
Scott Sio, Stephen Moore, Sekope Kepu, James Horwill, Will Skelton, Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper, Wycliff Palu, Nic White, Quade Cooper, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Matt Toomua, Tevita Kuridrani, Henry Speight, Israel Folau

Reserves: Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper, Greg Holmes, Kane Douglas Dean Mumm, David Pocock, Matt Giteau, Kurtley Beale

Michael Cheika has done it again. He is full of surprises with six changes to the starting team. The front row remains the same after a dominant performance last week, however, the bulk of Will Skelton will be needed and he partners James Horwill in the second row. Scott Fardy has been one of Australia’s most consistent performers over the past twelve months and Michael Hooper has gotten the nod over David Pocock who returns to the bench. Wycliff Palu has been selected at number eight for the first time this season and his partnership with Will Skelton as the bruisers of the forward pack will be key to the Wallabies go forward. Nick Phipps has been dropped out of the match day 22 after an ordinary effort in Sydney, with Nic White to partner Quade Cooper in the halves. This is an extremely surprising selection with Cooper only playing one Test match so far this season. He is known for performing poorly in New Zealand, however, the fact that Cheika has thrown him into the deep end will really prove whether or not he should be selected for the Rugby World Cup. Matt Toomua’s impressive performances off the bench has warranted a starting spot next to Brumbies teammate, Tevita Kuridrani in the centres. Henry Speight comes onto the wing to feature alongside the evergreen and always consistent Adam Ashley Cooper, with Israel Folau, a certainty at fullback. As has been the case all season, Cheika has named a strong bench and they will most likely be needed in Auckland on Saturday.

Prediction:

Without lighting the world on fire, the Wallabies played a solid game last weekend in Sydney. Two great individual efforts from Sekope Kepu and reserve scrumhalf Nic White proved to be the difference, but it was their second half performance that kept them in the hunt for the Bledisloe Cup. The second half saw the Wallabies control 61% of possession and played in New Zealand’s half for 62% of the time by retaining the ball and using some pinpoint tactical kicks. It wasn’t all rosy for Australia however, as their discipline will need to improve with both Sekope Kepu and Nick Phipps each spending ten minutes in the bin in Sydney. The All Blacks are generally the best at exploiting the one-man advantage and I can almost assure you that they won’t let those opportunity slip in front of their home fans this weekend. The Michael Hooper and David Pocock in-tandem ploy worked a treat for the home team and with three man-of-the-match performances from three fixtures between them this season, you can see how valuable they are to their team’s Rugby World Cup hopes. In the backs, Matt Giteau continues to show his worth in multiple positions, Matt Toomua’s introduction always seem to swing things in the Wallabies favour whether it is with hard lines or deft touches and Israel Folau is as safe as a house under the highball at the back, whilst running lines that often bamboozles defenders.
Looking at last weekend’s defense by New Zealand, they were forced to make 40 more tackles than their opponents and missed 23, which is something you don’t see very often. On attack, the actually conceded less turnovers than the Wallabies and ran the ball more than 120 metres than the Wallabies with nine clean breaks, but they only managed two tries through debutant winger Nehe Milner-Skudder. This tells me that the Wallabies scrambled well in defense with the visitors lacking that clinical edge that is synonymous with All Blacks rugby. Along with the Wallabies, the All Blacks are the smartest and most innovative team in world rugby. The hours they spend analysing tapes and putting in place strategies to be one step ahead of their opposition has been evident for many, many years, so it will be interesting to see how they plan on stopping a confident Aussie outfit, particularly at the breakdown.

Deconstructing last weekend’s loss would’ve been something that really struck a nerve amongst the All Blacks and their highly expectant fan base. New Zealand hasn’t lost two games in a row since 2011, coincidentally the same stretch of games to the current situation. In the 2011 Rugby World Cup, I was there for the semi-final between these two powerhouses and it was amazing to see how the sea of black drowned out the Wallabies on the pitch. Yes, the All Blacks don’t look anywhere near where they were this time last year, but they are still a champion team with match winners from 1-23. The All Blacks have been better at bouncing back than almost any team in world sport. In 2008, the AB’s were faced with a similar situation and cruised to a 29-point victory the following week. Despite their extraordinary effort last week in Sydney, I’m not prepared to bet against the All Blacks at home in Auckland, but I do think the Wallabies will give the All Blacks a run for their money, creating additional nerves for both Wales and England ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

Predicted result: New Zealand to win @ $1.25 – Sportsbet

Argentina ($2.45) vs South Africa ($1.55)

Argentina will run out to a huge crowd at the Velez Sarsfield Stadium in Buenos Aires on Saturday night (local time) and they will face a seething Springboks outfit looking to turnaround their disappointments of last weekend. In Durban, Argentina put together 80 of their best minutes of rugby ever as they not only beat the Springboks for the first time, but they did so in outstanding fashion, 37 – 25, in a match that was never in doubt after the opening stanza. The Pumas seem to have their opponents measure at home, with the last four matches seeing the Springboks only win by a combined total of eight points.

Argentina Team:

Marcos Ayerza, Agustin Creevy, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Benjamin Macome, Tomas Lezana, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Martin Landajo, Nicolas Sanchez, Juan Imhoff, Juan Martin Hernandez, Matias Moroni, Santiago Cordero, Joaquin Tuculet

Reserves: Julian Montoya, Lucas Noguera, Juan Pablo Orlandi, Matias Alemanno, Pablo Matera, Tomas Cubelli, Juan Pablo Socino, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino

Daniel Hourcade continues his experimentation and rotation phase after making nine changes to his team for this week. The front row remains the same, with the only change in the tight five being that of Benjamin Macome replacing Guido Petti. The other two changes in the pack sees Tomas Lezana replace the impressive Pablo Matera and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe returns to openside flanker, pushing Juan Manuel Leguizamon to number eight. Martin Landajo and Tomas Cubelli continue to rotate at halfback and Nicolas Sanchez is given another opportunity to run the show at fly half. Juan Martin Hernandez moves to inside centre with Matias Moroni outside of him, with the latter replacing Marcello Bosch who was outstanding in Durban. Last weekend’s hattrick hero Juan Imhoff, who has a great strike rate at international level, partners former sevens ace Santiago Cordero and Joaquin Tuculet in the back three. The majority of last week’s starters who have been left out of the starting team find themselves on the bench.

South Africa Team:

Trevor Nyakane, Adriaan Strauss, Marcel van der Merwe, Eben Etzebeth, Victor Matfield (Captain), Heinrich Brussow, Willem Alberts, Schalk Burger, Ruan Pienaar, Pat Lambie, Bryan Habana, Damien de Allende, Jess Kriel, Lwazi Mvovo, Zane Kirchner

Reserves: Schalk Brits, Tendai Mtawarira, Frans Malherbe, Flip van der Merwe, Pieter Steph du Toit, Cobus Reinach, Handre Pollard, Jan Serfontein

Springbok Coach Heyneke Meyer has made a number of changes this week, both injury-enforced and experimental. Trevor Nyakane, Adriaan Strauss and Marcel van der Merwe are all in need of game time and it would be fair to say that Vincent Koch had a torrid time at the office last weekend in Durban. Lock Lood de Jager has suffered a slight niggle and this gives Eben Etzebeth the opportunity to partner this week’s Captain Victor Matfield in the second row. Heinrich Brussow and Schalk Burger retain their places in the back row, however, this week they will be joined by the ‘bone collector’ in Willem Alberts. Alberts’ ability to get over the gain line will be extremely important in Argentina and England and it will allow the halfback Ruan Pienaar and Pat Lambie to get the front foot ball they haven’t had a lot of in recent weeks. Damien de Allende and Jesse Kriel are reunited in the centres, with the latter letting in three tries on his wing last weekend playing out of position. The back three also has a new look with Bryan Habana selected on the left wing, Sharks flyer Lwazi Mvovo on the right and Zane Kirchner returns to the Springbok team for the first time in a year. On the bench, Schalk Brits, Frans Malherbe and Jan Serfontein will all play their first minutes of the international season, and I feel as if the bench is stronger this week and will have a very important role to play.

Prediction:

Argentina will be looking forward to the return match at home this weekend, knowing that another win over the Springboks would really give South African rugby another shake up. The Pumas played an exceptional game of rugby on Saturday, the same way you would’ve expected the Springboks to play against them. They were powerful at scrum time, effective at the breakdown, ran incisive lines, kicked drop goals and landed long range penalty goals. The Pumas are generally strong at home, with hostile crowds often playing a part in the match. Only three weeks ago, the Wallabies cruised to an easy victory over the hosts and this is something that the Pumas will be well aware of. They will also know that there is nothing more dangerous than a Springboks team with their backs against the wall, so they will be well primed to make history in the nation’s capital.

The Springboks head into this match on the back of four successive losses to Wales, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina. Only once in South African rugby history have the Springboks lost five in a row and that was in 2006, under the guidance of Jake White. We all know that in the following 12 months, the Springboks improved and eventually won the 2007 Rugby World Cup, however, Heyneke Meyer doesn’t have the luxury of time this time around. In saying that, I truly believe that the Springboks aren’t as bad as their results suggest. Sure, last week was easily the worst game I have ever seen them play, however, combinations take time to settle and they just had a really, really bad night at the office. Deconstructing that match, the Springboks were heavily penalised at scrum time, allowing the Pumas easy kicking metres on too many occasions. Springbok defensive Coach Johan van Graan mentioned at half time that his team was failing to adapt to the northern hemisphere referee Romain Poite’s interpretations of the set piece. This would be of huge concern to South Africa, hence the two changes in the front row this weekend. With the Springbok pack going backwards, Ruan Pienaar and Handre Pollard were under the pump and both made uncharacteristic schoolboy errors. There was a sense of lethargy amongst the team and I am sure Heyneke Meyer and company would’ve knocked that out of his team this week at training.

This is going to be a fascinating contest with a number of questions still needing answers. Did the Springboks just have an off night in Durban, or do the problems lie much deeper than initially thought? Can the Argentinians backup their best performance ever at home in front of their boisterous fans? During the week, a ministerial board in South Africa said that Heyneke Meyer hasn’t done enough to bring about transformation in the Springbok setup. Coincidentally, this week a number of players of dark skin will receive starting caps. Yes, I agree that everyone deserves a chance before the Rugby World Cup, but the Springboks need a victory. I would love nothing more than to see a player like Lwazi Mvovo or Zane Kirchner shine, however, I just don’t think they cut it at this level. Kirchner’s positional play and ability under the high ball will be thoroughly tested this week, so it will be interesting to see how he fairs. Unfortunately, South African rugby isn’t about selecting the best team and that is something that eats away at Springboks fans each week. I truly believe that South Africa is too proud to let themselves slip to another defeat in Buenos Aires and although it won’t be a commanding win, I think they will edge an extremely physical encounter that will be determined by the forward battle, the breakdown and the impact of the bench. The fact that the match is being refereed by Glen Jackson (New Zealand), a Super Rugby referee, will also benefit the Springboks.

Predicted result: South Africa to win by less than ten @ $1.55 – Sportsbet

Author

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Glenn

Glenn has followed rugby union for 19 years and has expert knowledge on the game freely committing to over 500 viewing hours a year. Having played with and against some current Super Rugby players and International superstars, he understands the game, the players and the laws inside out. Having been born in South Africa, spent time in New Zealand and currently living in Australia, Glenn lives and breathes rugby. With so many different tournaments happening around the world simultaneously and the addition of Rugby Sevens to the Olympic program, there are always plenty of healthy betting options available. An obsession, a passion, call it what you will, Glenn enjoys sharing his insight, opinions and predictions with anyone who wants to listen.

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