The Rugby Championship returns to TV screens this weekend with the penultimate round of the competition. During week four, the All Blacks continued their impressive run of 15 victories with a win over the Springboks in Christchurch and the Wallabies secured a comfortable victory over the Pumas in Perth. As a result, New Zealand were crowned Champions of this tournament for the fourth time in five seasons. No one can argue with the results to date and this weekend the other three teams will be vying for second-best. This week we see the Springboks host the Wallabies in Pretoria, before the All Blacks make their way to Buenos Aires for a fiery clash with the Pumas. 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: Total Points Over (South Africa vs Australia) – Awaiting markets to be released
Best Bet 2: Total Points Over (Argentina vs New Zealand) – Awaiting markets to be released
Best Bet 3: NRC – Perth Spirit -8.5 (vs Brisbane City) @ $1.90 – Bet365
Best Bet 4: NRC – Sydney Rays -1.5 (vs Canberra Vikings) @ $2.00 – Bet365
*Additional plays may be added on twitter once all markets have been released
South Africa ($1.67) vs Australia ($2.120
The penultimate round of The Rugby Championship kicks off on the Highveld at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, where the mentally and physically bruised Springboks await the Wallabies. The Springboks are winless since week one of the competition where they beat Argentina, however, they have endured three straight losses to the Pumas (24-26), Australia (17-23) and New Zealand (13-43). The Wallabies also started their campaign poorly with two losses to New Zealand, both home and away, before a victory over the Springboks in Brisbane and a comfortable 36-20 win over the Pumas in Perth.
South Africa (2016): LWWWLLL
Tendai Mtawawira, Adriaan Strauss (Captain), Vincent Koch, Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Francois Louw, Oupa Mohoje, Warren Whiteley, Rudy Paige, Morne Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Juan de Jong, Jesse Kriel, Bryan Habana, Patrick Lambie
Substitutes: Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Julian Redelinghuys, Lood de Jager, Willem Alberts, Jaco Kriel, Willie le Roux, Lionel Mapoe
Australia (2016): LLLLLWW
Scott Sio, Stephen Moore (Captain), Sekope Kepu, Rob Simmons, Adam Coleman, Dean Mumm, Michael Hooper, Sean McMahon, Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Reece Hodge, Bernard Foley, Samu Kerevi, Dane Haylett-Petty, Israel Folau
Substitutes: James Hanson, James Slipper, Tom Robertson, Kane Douglas, Scott Fardy, Lopeti Timani, Nick Phipps, Tevita Kuridrani, Sefa Naivalu (one to be omitted)
Only three weeks ago, Australian rugby was heading for dire straits. Since then, the Wallabies have manufactured two wins against the Springboks and the Argentinians, but I don’t necessarily think that things are heading in the right direction. There is a lot of pressure within Australia for the Wallabies to win this match, as it would definitely be a step in the right direction. This is because of the fact that the Springboks are so bad at the moment. Some rugby scribes and ex-players have hailed them as the worst Springbok team ever. There has been no succession planning, there is no direction and the players simply aren’t cutting the mustard at the top level. The fact that the government and SARU aren’t aiding things or alleviating pressure is concerning, but not really a surprise.
After the last Test match between the Wallabies and the Springboks in Brisbane, I mentioned some of the Springboks real weaknesses: 1) Defense and 2) their kicking game and positional play. Against the Wallabies, Australia kicked to the South Africa 27 times and found the grass on 14 of those occasions, whereas, the Wallabies were able to catch 21 of the Springboks 29 kicks on the full. Most of those kicks went straight down the throat of Israel Folau, in my view, the best fielder of the high ball in the game. Why not kick the ball to Quade Cooper on the wing and force him to make a decision or take contact or attempt to find space once the defensive system is in two minds. Both teams will have done their homework, but the Springbok backline just doesn’t seem to have the attacking impetus of the Pumas or the All Blacks at the moment, so expect Genia, Cooper and Foley to launch balls at the men in green all night.
A key area of focus this week will be the lineouts. In comparison to their counterparts, the Wallabies have been underperforming in this area, averaging only 80% on their own throw. Coming up against Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit, one would expect the two lineout specialists to really challenge the Wallabies calling and accuracy. However, for the first time in 2016, the Wallabies were perfect on their own lineout against the Pumas and it doesn’t come as a huge surprise given the ‘specialist’ selections made by Michael Cheika. The majority of their ball was sent to the back and I can see this being replicated in Pretoria. The Wallabies need to run the Springboks around because their defensive structure isn’t currently capable of withstanding multiple phases and/or sharp changes of direction.
Another area the Wallabies will need to work on will be their discipline. From their four matches so far, Australia has given away four yellow cards and in a hostile environment like Loftus, that will cost you points on the scoreboard – especially with Morne Steyn selected at flyhalf.
Looking at the team named by Alastair Coetzee, the forward pack remains the same, whereas the backline has three changes. The Lions halves pairing of Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies who had such a good Super Rugby season have been dropped completely after some poor performances. The France-based Johan Goosen also finds himself in the same boat after being replaced by Patrick Lambie, a player who has had a long injury layoff due to concussion. The bench has also received a flush out with five changes occurring. Bongi Mbonambi returns to the bench in a strange call, alongside the other front row replacements of Steven Kitshoff and Julian Redelinghuys. The rest of the bench includes the towering Lood de Jager, Willem Alberts, Jaco Kriel, Willie le Roux and Lionel Mapoe. If the mercurial fullback Le roux manages to get some game time, it will be his first minutes of the tournament.
Michael Cheika has once again opted for consistency after his team’s two-match winning run. The injury to David Pocock gives Sean McMahon, a player who I am a big fan of, another shot at the cementing a spot in the back row. Dean Mumm remains on the side of the scrum despite missing more tackles than any other Australian last time out, but his inclusion does strengthen the lineout. Will Genia and Quade Cooper continue to develop as a safe halves pairing, with Foley and Kerevi once again selected in the centres. I still question whether fullback is Israel Folau’s best position, given the fact that he has to cover so much ground. On the wing or even in the centres, Folau would be able to use his power and explosiveness, but Cheika obviously knows his strengths and skill sets very well having coached him at both provincial and national level. At the time of writing, the bench hasn’t been finalised, but there is a chance that Rebels speedster and recently converted Australian (originally from Fiji), Sefa Naivalu will receive his first Test cap.
The Wallabies haven’t won in South Africa since 2011 and even worse, they have never beaten the Springboks in Pretoria. In saying that, the Springboks have been hapless in 2016 and one would think that they will need more than just the home ground advantage to come up trumps in this match. The loss of David Pocock is influential and can’t be underestimated. It is a difficult match to predict, so on a dry track in Pretoria I will opt for the total points over market. If I had to choose, I would back the Springboks 1-12 because I can’t seem them blowing the Wallabies off the park, but it will be a match that once again highlights the huge distance both Australia and South Africa have to make up on New Zealand.
Predicted result: South Africa to win unimpressively @ $1.67 – Sportsbet
Best Bet 1: Total Points Over (South Africa vs Australia) – Awaitng Markets to be released
Argentina ($11.00) vs New Zealand ($1.05)
Argentina will play just their second match at home this weekend when New Zealand returns to the Jose Amalfitani Stadium in Buenos Aires on early Sunday morning. Argentina has stipulated that two wins in The Rugby Championship is their goal, with one win already accounted for against South Africa. Prior to the week’s break, Argentina were outplayed by the Wallabies in Perth and they were also given a touch up by New Zealand the week before in Hamilton (22-57). Argentina has never beaten New Zealand, either at home or away.
Argentina (2016): WWLLWLL
Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Agustin Creevy (Captain), Ramiro Herrera, Javier Ortega Desio, Matias Alemanno, Pablo Matera, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Facundo Isa, Tomas Cubelli, Nicholas Sanchez, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Matias Moroni, Santiago Cordero, Joaquin Tuculet
Substitutes: Julian Montoya, Lucas Noguera, Enrique Pieretto, Marcos Kremer, Leonardo Senatore, Martin Landajo, Gabriel Ascarate, Matias Orlando
New Zealand (2016): WWWWWWW
Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Owen Franks, Patrick Tuipulotu, Brodie Retallick, Liam Squire, Ardie Savea, Kieran Read (Captain), TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Julian Savea, Ryan Crotty, Anton Lienert-Brown, Israel Dagg, Ben Smith
Substitutes: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Sam Whitelock, Elliot Dixon, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Lima Sopoaga, Damien McKenzie
Argentina won’t have to watch too many tapes to figure out how they are going to tackle the All Blacks this weekend after their impressive opening half in Hamilton a few weeks ago. They need to continue to terrorise the opposition at the breakdown, offload the ball in contact to increase the speed at which the All Blacks needs to make decisions and deliver a stable platform in the scrums and at lineout time. Easier said than done really because to date, only the All Blacks are capable of maintaining that sort of intensity for 80 minutes. The Pumas like to get the ball in the hands of their big ball-carrying forwards. Agustin Creevy (44), Pablo Matera (46) and the impressive Facundo Isa (62) have done a good job at getting their team front-foot ball. However, it is their execution that continues to let themselves down as they often push the pass and lack patience going through the phases.
New Zealand currently top all major attacking statistics including tries (24), clean breaks (64), carries (528), metres made (2335 – 4.42m/carry) and defenders beaten (116). The only area where the Pumas currently trump them is when it comes to offloads. To put things into perspective, the All Blacks have scored more than three times as many tries as their opposition (7). The strength of New Zealand’s backline is evident by the fact that Israel Dagg, Ryan Crotty and Ben Smith have all scored three tries to date, with Julian Savea back in form crossing the chalk on four occasions. From a set piece perspective, the All Blacks have been near faultless with a 92.9% lineout success (1st) and 90% scrum time retention (1st), and this is without a doubt an area that the visitors will look to target the hosts first and foremost.
Argentina Coach Daniel Hourcade has made three changes to the starting team that went down to Australia in Perth. Lock Guido Petti reenters the fray and his bulk and size will be much needed against the All Blacks. His inclusion shifts Javier Ortega Desio to the back row, which sees Juan Manuel Leguizamon pushed to the reserves. Martin Landajo continues his rotation with Tomas Cubelli at halfback with the former entrusted with the number nine jersey in Buenos Aires. On the wing Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino has been replaced by Ramiro Moyano. Jeronimo de la Fuente, the man with one of the best names in world rugby finds himself on the bench for the first time in this year’s Rugby Championship.
With the Championship won, All Blacks coach Steve Hanson has rung the changes for his team that will battle Argentina. The four changes to the starting 15 include Patrick Tuipulotu being injected into the second row (shifting Sam Whitelock to the bench) and Liam Squire replaces the injured Jerome Kaino in the six jumper. In the backs, TJ Perenara starts only his third Test match at halfback with Aaron Smith rested for the clash. Anton Lienert Brown is also in line for his fourth Test cap at outside centre, with Malakai Fekitoa not featuring in the match day 23. The spine of the team remains the same and the bench has a fresh young face on it in Damien McKenzie. The Chiefs ace has had a superb season in 2016 and I expect him to be at least a 50 Test capper during his career for the All Blacks.
It’s going to be a great game to watch. There will be some argy-bargy, there will more than likely be some laser interferences from the crowd and their will be a great brand of running rugby on display. However, when you stack each other up side-by-side, throw in the All Blacks historical advantage and current form – there can only be one winner. Once again, the Pumas will put up a spirited challenge for the opening half hour, before the All Blacks machine kicks into gear and silences the crowd en route to a double-digit victory in Buenos Aires and position themselves one win away from equaling their tier-one record of 17 consecutive victories.
Predicted result: New Zealand to win @ $1.05 – Luxbet
Best Bet 2: Total Points Over (Argentina vs New Zealand) – Awaiting markets to be released