Best Bet 1: New Zealand -17.5 @ $1.90 – Tab.com.au
NEW ZEALAND ($1.10) VS SOUTH AFRICA ($7.00)
South Africa (2017): WWWWWD
New Zealand: Kane Hames, Dane Coles, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Liam Squire, Sam Cane, Kieran Read (captain), Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Sonny Bill Williams, Ryan Crotty, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Damien McKenzie
Replacements: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Ofa Tunga’afasi, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Lima Sopoaga, Anton Lienert-Brown
South Africa: Tendai Mtawarira, Malcolm Marx, Ruan Dreyer, Eben Etzebeth (captain), Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi, Jean-Luc du Preez, Uzair Cassiem, Ross Cronje, Elton Jantjies, Courtnall Skosan, Jan Serfontein, Jesse Kriel, Raymond Rhule, Andries Coetzee
Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Trevor Nyakane, Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Francois Hougaard, Handre Pollard, Damien de Allende
Despite a first half scare in New Plymouth, the All Blacks found another gear in the second stanza en route to a six tries to one victory over the Pumas. The scoreboard probably wasn’t a fair reflection of the match, but the All Blacks dominated all key stats. What will be of some concern to Steve Hansen is the amount of times they continue to turnover the ball. It really is the difference between good victories and complete performances by New Zealand at present, but they still are finding ways to get the job done, as a good team does. Vaea Fifita had a dream starting debut, scoring one of the most memorable tries you’ll see from a backrower, amassing 113 running metres from 11 carries. The return of Liam Squire this week in the blindside position is an interesting one, but he did have a storming game against the Wallabies in Sydney. Long term, it is looking less and less likely that Jerome Kaino will remain in the picture. The injury to Joe Moody has forced Steve Hansen’s hand this week, handing Kane Hames his first Test start. He is a powerful scrummager and the stalwart and serial infringer Wyatt Crockett, will provide front row cover. Alongside Squire, Sam Whitelock and Sam Cane both come back into the forward pack in place of Luke Romano and Ardie Savea respectively. Aaron Smith and Ryan Crotty also regain their spots in the starting back line, with the both of their experience and decision-making a key cog in Hansen’s game plan. Rieko Ioane returns to the left wing, which shifts Nehe Milner-Skudder to the right wing. With Ben Smith now on a sabbatical, Damien McKenzie has been entrusted with the fullback jersey and he certainly justified his selection scoring a try and setting up another one with his electrifying speed and acceleration. Some might argue that his erratic nature is going to catch up with him one day, but his attacking prowess is hard to match in world rugby.
The Springboks performances have improved dramatically in 2017, winning five matches and drawing one, but they will be bitterly disappointed with the stalemate in Perth. Their opening 40 minutes was easily their worst half of rugby so far this season, with Elton Jantjies failing to stamp his authority on the match. They did show good character and composure to come back from 20 – 10 down with 30 minutes remaining, with Coenie Oosthuizen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jaco Kriel and Siya Kolisi leading the charge. The back three once again were dangerously exposed by their counterparts and something needs to change with Courtnall Skosan, Raymond Rhule and Andries Coetzee only making a combined 38 metres from eight carries on attack and missing seven tackles between them (Rhule the culprit with five). To make matters worse, in the six Test matches they have played together this season, they have only scored one try in comparison to the All Blacks nine, in just their last three Rugby Championship fixtures. Springbok coach Alastair Coetzee has made three changes to his team this week. The injured Coenie Oosthuizen (broken arm) has been replaced by Ruan Dreyer, Franco Moster replaces the physical Pieter-Steph du Toit and Jean-Luc du Preez comes in for the injured Jaco Kriel. Besides the halfback position, the back line remains unchanged for the seventh consecutive Test.
With Nehe Milner-Skudder lacking height and Damien McKenzie still finding his feet under the high ball, I expect the Springboks to aerially bombard New Zealand on Saturday. I’m certain that the Boks will look to employ their ‘rush defence’ by charging up out of the line to negate the time and space Beauden Barrett, Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty have with the ball. The Boks have the physicality to startle the All Blacks, but they will need to do it for 80 minutes or the instinctual minds of the men in black will find a way to cut them to pieces, especially out wide.
The All Blacks have stuttered through 2017 so far, but one must remember that last year they came up against some sub-standard teams (Wales, Australia, South Africa, Argentina). This year they have been rocked by injury with Owen Franks and Joe Moody being ruled out for the season, as well as not being able to consistently call upon the likes of Jerome Kaino, Ryan Crotty and Ben Smith – all players who have been the backbone of New Zealand rugby for many years. Despite this, New Zealand have still shown that they can employ multiple game plans with success. This week, I expect the All Blacks will look to take on the Springboks physically and look to find mismatches in the wider channels. In doing so, this will deflate the visitor’s confidence over the course of the 80 minutes. The Springboks will no doubt believe they can win the set piece and tight phases, but they are lacking a reliable game-manager at flyhalf and a back line that is capable of outscoring the home team. The Springboks need to win this weekend to keep The Rugby Championship alive and although they have improved remarkably this season, I don’t see this as the Springboks team to score a rare win in New Zealand. In fact, I am predicting the All Blacks to completely blow them off the park in the second half, as they did with Argentina last weekend. They have far too many frightening game-changers and match-winners in their lineup for an untested Bok line-up to handle.
Predicted result: New Zealand to win @ $1.10 – Sportsbet
Best Bet 1: New Zealand -17.5 @ $1.90 – Tab.com.au
AUSTRALIA ($1.20) VS ARGENTINA ($4.60)
Replacements: Jordan Uelese, Tom Robertson, Allan Alaalatoa, Izack Rodda, Jack Dempsey, Nick Phipps, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete
Argentina: Lucas Noguera, Agustin Creevy (captain), Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Guido Petti, Matias Alemanno, Pablo Matera, Javier Ortega Desio, Tomas Lezana, Martin Landajo, Nicolas Sanchez, Ramiro Moyano, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Matias Orlando, Matias Moroni, Emilliano Boffelli
Replacements: Julian Montoya, Santiago Garcia Botta, Enrique Pieretto, Marcos Kremer, Juan Martin Leguizamon, Tomas Cubelli, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Matuel Montero
A draw is never easy to digest for any team, but I don’t think Australia’s performance against the Springboks was a step forward, or a step backward for that matter. Their inability to play for 80 minutes will be causing Michael Cheika and company, sleepless nights, having not been able to close out matches, two weeks in a row. Their physicality has certainly improved, led by giant lock Adam Coleman, who looks to have a long future ahead of him in the gold jersey. Against the Springboks, Bernard Foley found his kicking boots (5/5) and Israel Folau had an excellent night with ball-in-hand, amassing 96 metres from 10 carries. Reece Hodge was also impressive, not far behind Folau, with 75 metres from 7 carries. The Wallabies best player on the field for a third consecutive weekend was Kurtley Beale, a player worth every cent that he is paid at the moment. Three tries in three matches is no mean feat. His moment of brilliance got the Wallabies on the front foot and Michael Hooper also displayed what a courageous and gifted player he is, stopping the Springboks a number of times when they were hot on the attack and looking likely to score. Michael Cheika has made just the one change to the starting line-up, recalling Rob Simmons in place of Rory Arnold. On the bench, young lock Izack Rodda returns and former Melbourne Storm winger, Marika Koroibete is in line for his first Test match, wearing the 23 jersey. Koroibete has a great turn of pace and could be an interesting addition at the end of the Wallabies back line if he is afforded some time and space.
Argentina always find a way to lift against New Zealand as they love a physical, set-piece-oriented battle and that’s what they got in New Plymouth. Their ability to punch holes up the middle and utilise the sniping ability of Tomas Cubelli paid dividends and Nicolas Sanchez and the long-range kicking ability of Emilliano Boffelli punished any All Blacks ill-discipline. When deconstructing their performance, Argentina missed a competition-high 43 tackles against the All Blacks and their set piece was shaky, losing two lineouts and a scrum on their own feed. While they did cut down the number of penalties they conceded this week (10), the All Blacks appetite for scoring tries as opposed to taking penalty kicks, eventually took its toll on the tiring visitors. Daniel Hourcade has made three changes to his starting fifteen this week bringing in Tomas Lezana at number eight, Matias Orlando at outside centre and Ramiro Moyano on the wing. Joaquin Tuculet’s absence at fullback paves the way for Boffelli to get an extended run in the 15 jersey. Juan Maneul Leguizamon has also been recalled to the bench, offering Hourcade some starch and experience to call upon in the second half.
This is a match that Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade would’ve circled in his calendar as a game they really want to win. They know the Wallabies are far from playing their best rugby at present and will believe that their scalp is there for the taking. A loss for the Wallabies this weekend would ruin any sort of momentum they have built up over the past two weeks and will have the media calling for heads, should they not succeed. It’s difficult to pick how either team is going to play at the moment because they have both played well in patches, but the Wallabies need a win next to their name, especially in Canberra. I expect it to be tight early on, with the Wallabies to come over the top of the Pumas in the second half with a double-digit victory. I have to stay away from this match from a betting standpoint, just given the hot-and-cold nature of both teams so far in 2017.
Predicted result: Australia to win @ $1.20 – Sportsbet