The Rugby Championship returns for the final weekend of the 2016 edition of the competition. This year’s tournament has made for some interesting viewing, however, the advantage that New Zealand has over their counterparts seems almost insurmountable at this point. Last weekend at Loftus in Pretoria, the Springboks scraped their way to a tryless victory over the Wallabies, whereas the All Blacks only needed a purple spell of 10 minutes to help them see off the Pumas in Buenos Aires. This week we see the Springboks host the All Blacks in Durban, before the Pumas and the Wallabies make their way to London for a 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: NZ -11.5 (vs South Africa) @ $1.90 – Sportsbet
Best Bet 2: Australia -5.5 (vs Argentina) @ $1.90 – Sportsbet
*Additional plays may be added on twitter once all markets have been released
South Africa ($4.60) vs New Zealand ($1.20)
Test match rugby returns to Kings Park in Durban on Saturday night with a clash between South Africa and New Zealand. The Springboks once against escaped with an unlikely victory last weekend against the Wallabies in Pretoria, on the back of four penalties and two drop goals from Morne Steyn. The All Blacks didn’t find things as difficult in Buenos Aires, eventually winning 36-17 at the Estadio Amalfitani. The All Blacks have already secured The Rugby Championship, but they will be looking for a clean sweep in this year’s tournament and they have the added bonus of equaling the tier one record of 17 consecutive victories.
South Africa (2016): LWWWLLLW
Tendai Mtawawira, Adriaan Strauss (Captain), Vincent Koch, Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Francois Louw, Oupa Mohoje, Warren Whiteley, Faf de Klerk, Morne Steyn, Bryan Habana, Damien de Allende, Juan de Jong, Francois Hougaard, Pat Lambie
Substitutes: Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Julien Redelinghuys, Lood de Jager, Willem Alberts, Jaco Kriel, Lionel Mapoe, Willie le Roux
New Zealand (2016): WWWWWWWW
Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Matt Todd, Kieran Read (Captain), TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Waisake Naholo, Ryan Crotty, Anton Lienert-Brown, Israel Dagg, Ben Smith
Substitutes: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumauina, Liam Squire, Ardie Savea, Tawera Kerr Barlow, Lima Sopoaga, George Moala
It certainly was an improved performance from the Springboks against the Wallabies, but they still have a country mile to go to be considered in the same echelon as the All Blacks. The Springboks went back to their old ways of crash-and-bash, utilizing a stable platform and punishing the opposition with an accurate goal kicker. I have given Morne Steyn a lot of grief over the years, but he is very good at employing the brand of ten-man. The Boks still remained tryless which is a real concern given the fact that you simply have to score tries to beat the All Blacks. Their breakdown work was much improved with as many as six players winning turnovers. Adriaan Strauss was strong and contributed with some barnstorming runs, Francois Louw was ever present on the deck and Juan de Jong and Francois Hougaard managed to acquire a couple of steals as well. Another area that still remains a real problem is their tactical kicking. The All Blacks play the game at breakneck speed and it is imperative that the Springboks kick the ball into the stands or at worst find enough space to get their chase line set.
Last weekend, the All Blacks cantered to a comfortable five tries to two victory over Argentina. Of their 96 carries throughout the match, in which they yielded 623 metres (6.77m/carry), the All Blacks made 19 clean line breaks. That equates to one line break every five carries. Looking at these statistics, Steve Hanson would be reiterating how importance patience is knowing that if you hold onto the ball for five phases, you are almost guaranteed to breach the opposition’s defensive system. Any team that makes four changes to the starting 15 usually creates a bit of disruption in terms of fluency, especially when one of those players is the world’s best halfback in Aaron Smith. The players that slotted in performed admirably, with both TJ Perenara and man-of-the-match Anton Lienert-Brown having excellent matches. Not only did Lienert-Brown cross the chalk for the first try of the match, but he assisted in creating three others. The time he seems to have and the ability to execute under pressure is something that will hold him in good stead for a long a prosperous All Blacks career. Additionally, you have to think that after that performance, he now has the edge over Malakai Fekitoa.
Springbok coach Alastair Coetzee has made just the two injury-enforced changes to the lineup this week. The forward pack remains untouched after a strong outing against the Wallabies, however, halfback Rudy Paige has failed to meet the concussion protocols and will be replaced by Faf de Klerk. Morne Steyn retains his position at flyhalf, although Damien de Allende comes in for the injured Jesse Kriel at centre, which sees him now combine with his Stormers teammate Juan de Jong. Bryan Habana and Francois Hougaard have swapped wing jumpers. Despite the risky nature of a 6-2 forwards dominated bench, Coetzee has persisted with this approach for the All Blacks. It almost cost the Springboks last week when flanker Jaco Kriel was forced to play on the wing. Either way, Coetzee is preparing his men for a very physical contest.
Once again All Blacks coach Steve Hanson has rung the changes for this weekend’s matchup. Same Whitelock comes back into the tight five alongside Brodie Retallick, with the impressive Patrick Tuipulotu dropping out of the squad all together. In the back row, Jerome Kaino returns from injury to pack down at blindside flanker and Crusaders openside Matt Todd will receive only his fifth Test cap having debuted for the All Blacks in 2013 against the French. TJ Perenara retains his place at halfback with Aaron Smith serving a suspension handed by the senior members of the squad for some toilet antics in Christchurch. He lines up alongside his club teammate, Beauden Barrett who I believe is a shoo-in for the World Rugby Player of the Year in 2016. Ryan Crotty and Anton Lienert-Brown have excelled as an unlikely centre pairing and I am interested to see how Waisake Naholo goes having returned from injury, giving Julian Savea the week off.
The All Blacks hold the South African Test match in the Republic in high regard. They have a long history of playing in South Africa and haven’t always gotten the results they are after. This season is different. The All Blacks seem to have elevated their game to a new level post-RWC, whereas, the Springboks are committing fundamental errors and struggling to adopt a new high-tempo game plan. The Springboks have the physicality and set piece to cause the All Blacks some problems, but New Zealand’s backline will more than likely run rings around their opposition. The last time the Springboks faced the All Blacks in Durban, they were victorious in 2009 (31-19), but the All Blacks have won ten of the last 12 matches against the Springboks and four of the last six matches in South Africa. Despite the changes this week, the All Blacks are deservedly the heavy favourites and the fact that they have won ever match since last year’s RWC Final by more than 13 points (9 games) has me believing that they’ll do it again.
Predicted result: New Zealand to win @ $1.20 – Sportsbet
Best Bet 1: NZ -11.5 (vs South Africa) @ $1.90 – Sportsbet
Argentina ($3.05) vs Australia ($1.38)
The final match of the tournament takes place at Twickenham in London, with a clash between Argentina and Australia. Argentina opted to play their final home match in England and it is the first time a Rugby Championship team has done so. The Pumas were spirited last week in their 17-36 defeat to the All Blacks, but they couldn’t contain the might of the All Blacks, particularly for a ten-minute period that saw the visitors run away with it. Australia will also be hurting after suffering their sixth loss of the season, this time to the Springboks at altitude on the Highveld.
Argentina (2016): WWLLWLLL
Lucas Noguera, Agustin Creevy (Captain), Ramiro Herrera, Guido Petti, Matias Alemanno, Pablo Matera, Javier Ortega Desio, Leonardo Senatore, Martin Landajo, Nicholas Sanchez, Manuel Montero, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Matias Orlando, Matias Moroni, Joaquin Tuculet
Substitutes: Julian Montoya, Santiago Garcia Botta, Enrique Pieretto, Marcos Kremer, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Tomas Cubelli, Jeronimo de la Fuente/Gabriel Ascarate, Ramiro Moyano/ Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino
Australia (2016): LLLLLWWL
Scott Sio, Stephen Moore (Captain), Sekope Kepu, Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman, Dean Mumm, Michael Hooper, Lopeti Timani, Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Reece Hodge, Bernard Foley, Samu Kerevi, Dane Haylett-Petty, Israel Folau
Substitutes: James Hanson, Tom Robertson, Alan Alaalatoa, Kane Douglas, Scott Fardy, Leroy Houston, Nick Phipps, Tevita Kuridrani, Sefa Naivalu (one to be omitted)
The Argentinians have done a lot better in this tournament than I initially thought they would. To come directly out of Super Rugby into the Test cauldron and really challenge the All Blacks, sometimes more so than what Australia and South Africa have done this season, is impressive. Their forward play has been good and Agustin Creevy and Facundo Isa are two players that would push for World XV squad inclusions. It was a four-minute spell that cost them the match, where the All Blacks were able to run in three tries. Interesting to note that the majority of these tries were leaked through the backline. What would probably concern coach Daniel Hourcade the most is that the Pumas had 59% of possession. The All Blacks press defence was just a little bit too fast for the Pumas on this occasion, but the home team did protect the ball better than they have in previous weeks.
As aforementioned, the Wallabies will be gutted having let Pretoria’s match slip by the wayside. The Wallabies dominated the attacking statistics with regards to tries (1:0), carries (112:92), metres made (480:332), defenders beaten (21:11), clean breaks (10:7) and even conceded less turnovers than the Springboks (11:13). Defensively, the Wallabies had to make less tackles than the Springboks (82:116), they missed less (11:21), but they were completely dominated at the breakdown. The loss of David Pocock was always going to be influential, although to be fair, Sean McMahon had a strong game before going off injured. The Wallabies lineout faltered again losing three balls on their own throw, but their scrum remained sturdy. Discipline was a problem as the Wallabies conceded 10 penalties and Israel Folau was forced to sit on the sideline for ten minutes after a rather dubious incident with a Bryan Habana chip and chase.
Argentinian coach Daniel Hourcade has made four changes to the starting fifteen with a couple of players facing late fitness tests. Loosehead prop Lucas Noguera takes over from Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro and Leonardo Senatore comes in for the impressive Facundo Isa who has been ruled out through injury. In the backline, Matias Moroni comes in for the try-scoring machine Santiago Cordero and Manuel Montero replaces Ramiro Moyano on the other wing. The bulky winger has had success against the Wallabies before, but he does have to pass a late fitness test, alongside Nicolas Sanchez. Given the late assessments, the makeup of the bench is unknown.
Michael Cheika has made just the two changes to the starting 15 this week with both of those in the forward pack. The tallest Wallaby of all time, Rory Arnold will start alongside Adam Coleman in the the biggest second row of all time, with Rob Simmons likely to drop out of the squad. David Pocock and Sean McMahon’s injury has opened up the door for Brumbies utility forward Lopeti Timani to take his place at the back of the scrum. Timani is a huge presence around the paddock and will adopt a Wycliff Palu approach and hopefully without the excessive injuries. The backline remains unchanged, which is a little bit surprising as I thought there might be a positional swap with Dane Haylett-Petty and Israel Folau at wing and fullback. It isn’t surprising that Cheika is starting to be more consistent with his selections given the fact that he has blooded 10 new players this year and the fact that some of those players are showing signs of improvement.
I always love watching matches between the Wallabies and the Pumas because the Pumas generally feel like they can beat Australia and Australia feels like they should account for the Pumas every time. Given Australia’s large expat population living in London, this will feel more like a home game for the Wallabies. If the Pumas can bring the intensity to this match that they have shown against the All Blacks and produce a big effort up front, the Wallabies could come unstuck. However, I just can’t see the Pumas winning this match with a number of their stars under injury clouds and I think Australia’s structure and continuity will get them over the line.
Predicted result: Australia to win @ $1.38 – William hill
Best Bet 2: Australia -5.5 (vs Argentina) @ $1.90 – Sportsbet