Rugby Championship 2016 – Week 1 Preview

The Super Rugby season is in the rear view mirror and the fifth edition of The Rugby Championship gets underway this weekend. The first week of Test matches between the four southern hemisphere powerhouses sees Australia host New Zealand in a rematch of the Rugby World Cup Final, before we head to Nelspruit where South Africa will be preparing for a physical encounter with the Argentina, another rematch for the 3rd/4th place playoff at last year’s global showpiece. The tournament has been won by New Zealand three times, however, last year Australia lifted the trophy for the first time in a shortened version of the competition. Not a lot lives up to Test match rugby and I am excited for the coming months. Don’t forget to follow me (@S15_TheProfits) for game coverage, expert insight or just for a chat and fingers are crossed for a fascinating weekend of International rugby.

Best bet 1: New Zealand 1-12 @ $2.60 – William Hill
Best bet 2: South Africa 13+ @ $1.96 – Crownbet

Additional Plays to be posted when all markets are released

Australia ($2.90) vs New Zealand ($1.41)

The Rugby Championship kicks off on Saturday night with the first match being played between Australia and New Zealand at ANZ Stadium in Sydney. The Wallabies started their 2016 season in disastrous fashion after getting whitewashed by England two months ago. The All Blacks showed the world once again why they are the reigning Rugby World Cup Champions with three comfortable wins over Wales in New Zealand. Last season, the Wallabies managed to steal a Kiwi scalp in Sydney (27-19), before the All Blacks dominated the Test match at Eden Park the following weekend (41-13) and then in the Rugby World Cup Final, 34-17.

Australia (2016): LLL

Scott Sio, Stephen Moore (Captain), Sekope Kepu, Kane Douglas, Rob Simmons, Ben McCalman, Michael Hooper, David Pocock, Will Genia, Bernard Foley, Dane Haylett-Petty, Matt Giteau, Tevita Kuridrani, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Israel Folau

Substitutes: James Slipper, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Alan Alaalatoa, Dean Mumm, Scott Fardy, Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua, Rob Horne

New Zealand (2016): WWW

Wyatt Crockett, Nathan Harris, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Sam Cane, Kieran Read (Captain), Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Waisake Naholo, Ryan Crotty, Malakai Fekitoa, Ben Smith, Israel Dagg

Substitutes: Codie Taylor, Kane Hames, Charlie Faumauina, Liam Squire, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Aaron Cruden, Julian Savea


The Bledisloe Cup is a trophy that the All Blacks hold in the highest regard and one that the Wallabies haven’t been able to embrace since 2002. Every year, the Australian media conjures up articles and hype around ‘this being the year where things change’, but the team fails to back it up with two winning performances, or even one on most occasions. To put it into perspective, the Wallabies have only won six of their last 34 Test matches against the All Blacks, with all of those games being won on Australian soil.

Michael Cheika and the Wallabies have had a number of camps throughout the Super Rugby season and few extra weeks to prepare with the New Zealand teams doing so well in Super Rugby. They should be well aware of each of their individual roles this weekend, however, I have to question their match fitness. Overseas-based players like Genia, Giteau and Adam Ashley-Cooper haven’t seen action since May. The talking point after the team was announced has been around the selection of Ben McCalman at six instead of Scott Fardy. I think this is a good call. Kane Douglas does a lot of the cleaning out, but offers very little from a ball-carrying standpoint (5 carriers for 5m in Super Rugby). Rob Simmons also lacks any real size or pace to dominate the advantage line, so Ben McCalman will be used as a ball-runner off Genia and Foley. Hooper will also have a license to roam around the field, with Pocock providing the brick wall in defense and ability to win turnovers at the breakdown. It’s good to see Will Genia back from France and it will be interesting to see if he brings his running game to Sydney, something the Wallabies have been missing with Nick Phipps at the helm. Matt Giteau’s left boot and game management ability will aid Bernard Foley and it will be interesting to see if he can rejuvenate Tevita Kuridrani, a player who has fallen of the radar a bit this season at outside centre. Israel Folau has a big match ahead of him and his positional play will be tested, especially given the fact that his territorial and line-kicking isn’t of the highest standard. However, he will make metres and is always a good anytime try-scorer option. The bench or the ‘finishers’ as Michael Cheika likes to call them is strong, with Quade Cooper likely to see some minutes as the new ‘Kurtley Beale’.

After the Rugby World Cup, the All Blacks lost almost a thousand Test caps of experience and although Wales had them under some pressure in June, they found a way to bounce back and bounce back emphatically. After Steve Hansen’s team announcement on Thursday, Kane Hames (bench) will become the sixth debutant this season if he sees game-time. Some key figures have been lost, but the conveyor belt of talented rugby players continues to produce more than capable replacements. The loss of Dane Coles at hooker is huge. He was courageous for the Hurricanes in the Super Rugby final, but a rib injury has cost him a place this weekend. Nathan Harris, his replacement, has had some wraps on him, but I personally haven’t seen enough to say he deserves to be a long-term back-up option. Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock are quickly becoming the Victor Matfield-Bakkies Botha combination of world rugby and Jerome Kaino, Sam Cane and Captain Kieran Read are a very settled and dangerous back row.

The reliable Aaron Smith will play inside of Beauden Barrett, the Super Rugby player of the season and the Wallabies will need to be very wary of his running and kicking game. Ryan Crotty and Malakai Fekitoa have been singled out as potentially weaknesses for the All Blacks in the centres, but I feel if Cheika really thought that was the case he would’ve started with Israel Folau at 13. Waisake Naholo and Ben Smith on the wings would easily walk into a world XV and Israel Dagg has turned back the clock with some very solid Super Rugby performances this year. The selection of both Liam Squire and Ardie Savea on the bench signals to me that Hansen is concerned about the Wallabies breakdown strengths and if Hooper and Pocock are dominating, expect them to come on. TJ Perenara, Aaron Cruden and Julian Savea are seasoned All Blacks and very handy replacements on the pine.

The mind games between the coaches have been in play for a number of weeks. There is talk that the pressure is on the All Blacks, but I would beg to differ. The All Blacks are under pressure every week given the successful brand that they have created over the last three decades – the spotlight is always on them. On the other hand, the Wallabies are coming off a 3-0 series whitewash to England and their Super Rugby teams underperformed. Michael Cheika will be using this as an opportunity, but a few more poor performances and questions will start to be asked, especially having brought back the European-based players. If the Wallabies are going to beat the All Blacks, this is the game to do it. The match is being played at ANZ Stadium, the one ground in world rugby that the All Blacks haven’t owned. In saying that, their record still stands at seven wins, seven losses and one draw. The Wallabies will look to target the All Blacks scrum, the breakdown and Waisake Naholo under the highball, whereas I see the All Blacks looking to control possession and territory to take the crowd out of it and will look to force the Wallabies into making errors that they can capitalise on. The Wallabies leaked far too many points against England. The Kiwis have occupied the Bledisloe Cup for the last 13 years, they are back-to-back World Champions and they have shown an ability to analyse, evolve and grow into a beast that very rarely gets tamed. I can’t see them running away with it, but I can’t bet against the All Blacks this weekend, even in Sydney.

Predicted result: New Zealand to win @ $1.42 – Luxbet

Best bet 1: New Zealand 1-12 @ $2.60 – William Hill

South Africa ($1.23) vs Argentina ($4.00)

The second match of The Rugby Championship comes to us from the rarely visited Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, where South Africa hosts Argentina. The Springboks are coming off a sketchy series win over an understrength Irish outfit in June, where they were forced to win the final two Test matches to take the series. Argentina secured a narrow six-point victory over Italy, before squaring a two-Test series with the French (30-19/0-27). Last year, the Springboks lost their first ever match to Argentina, before bouncing back with a 26-12 win in Argentina, followed by a 24-13 win in the 3rd/4th playoff at the Rugby World Cup.

South Africa (2016): LWW

Tendai Mtawawira, Adriaan Strauss (Captain), Julian Redelinghuys, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Francois Louw, Oupa Mohoje, Warren Whiteley, Faf de Klerk, Elton Jantjies, Bryan Habana, Damien de Allende, Lionel Mapoe, Ruan Combrinck, Johan Goosen

Substitutes: Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jaco Kriel, Rudy Paige, Juan de Jongh, Jesse Kriel

Argentina (2016): WWL

Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Agustin Creevy (Captain), Ramiro Herrera, Matias Alemanno, Tomas Lavanini, Pablo Matera, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Facundo Isa, Martin Landajo, Nicholas Sanchez, Manuel Montero, Juan Martin Hernandez, Matias Orlando, Santiago Cordero, Joaquin Tuculet

Substitutes: Julian Montoya, Felipe Erregui, Enrique Pieretto, Guido Petti, Javier Ortega Desio, Tomas Cubelli, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Ramiro Moyano


South Africa currently sit third in the World Rugby rankings, trailing both England and New Zealand. They had to overturn a 3-19 deficit in the second Test against the Irish before eventually winning the series. The Springboks are in a bit of a predicament at the moment because they are trying to adopt a more expansive game plan, but when it didn’t bear fruit against Ireland, they reverted back to the crash-and-bash, forward dominant strategy. The Springboks only lost one lineout the whole series against the men in green and they managed to set a solid platform at scrum time. They will need to improve at the breakdown after only winning six turnovers the whole June series and I don’t know if Oupa Mohoje is the man to support Francois Louw in that role. I would look at using Jaco Kriel, a player who has a 90%+ tackle success rate and an ability to pilfer balls when his team needs it the most. The halves duo of Faf de Klerk were upstaged by TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett in the Super Rugby final, so their big match temperament is questionable and they do have a point to prove. Damien de Allende in the centres has failed to live up to the hype of 2015, but Lions centre Lionel Mapoe continues to improve and a few good performances would see him nail down the 13 jumper. Bryan Habana returns to the side for the first time since last year’s RWC, with livewire Ruan Combrinck selected on the other wing. Fullback and prodigious talent Johan Goosen returns to the Springbok setup for the first time since 2014. While in South Africa and playing for the Cheetahs, he consistently dealt with injuries, but this year in the Top 14 (French competition), he showed how far he has come, especially with his maturity and versatility, playing at 10, 13 and 15 – still only at the age of 23.

Argentina is currently ranked ninth in the World Rugby rankings. Although I don’t think it is an accurate representation, it does highlight their inconsistency over the past 12 months. However, they will be buoyed by the fact that they won this corresponding fixture last year – their first ever win against the Springboks. It is important to note that like the All Blacks, the Argentinian Rugby Board made a decision to only select players for the national team who ply their trade in Super Rugby. Therefore, the Jaguares will basically be playing the Springboks this weekend and given that they finished 13th place (4 wins from 11). The Pumas like to play a forwards-based game, centralising a lot of their efforts on the scrum, or as they call it, the ‘bajada’. Captain Agustin Creevy is the heart and soul of the team after he took this mantle from previous captain, flanker Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe. He will be celebrating his 50th cap this weekend. They have a number of youngsters in the pack, but their discipline is something that concerns me, particularly locks Tomas Lavanini and Guido Petti (bench), who gave away a number of penalties, yellow cards and red cards during the Super Rugby season. Tomas Cubelli will bring a lot back to Argentina having plied his trade for the Brumbies in Canberra this season, but he will start from the bench. The Springboks will need to be will need to be weary of his snipes around the ruck and Martin Landajo’s quick taps. Nicholas Sanchez is an astute playmaker and they have real gas out wide Santiago Cordero and Joaquin Tuculet, two Sevens experts.

During the Super Rugby Season, the Jaguares were too impatient on attack and were often guilty of pushing the pass, looking for that miracle ball. If they adopt that same mentality in Nelspruit, the Springboks will more than likely pounce and pressure them territorially and on the scoreboard. The Pumas have set themselves a goal of winning two games this tournament and this is certainly one that they will have pencilled in. When the Argentinians put on the blue jersey, it is ‘life and death’, and the passion that they sing the anthem with will show it. It’s hard to say how the Springboks are going to play, given their erratic nature, but the players they have in key positions and their X-factor should hold them in good stead to win by double digits on Saturday night.

Predicted result: South Africa to win @ $1.36 – Sportsbet

Best bet 2: South Africa 13+ @ $1.96 – Crownbet



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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