Best Bet 1: Total Points Under 54.5 (South Africa vs Australia) @ $1.91 – Sportsbet
SOUTH AFRICA ($1.40) VS AUSTRALIA ($3.00)
South Africa (2017): WWWWWDL
Australia (2017): WLWLLDW
South Africa: Tendai Mtawarira, Malcolm Marx, Ruan Dreyer, Eben Etzebeth (captain), Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi, Francois Louw, Uzair Cassiem, Ross Cronje, Elton Jantjies, Courtnall Skosan, Jan Serfontein, Jesse Kriel, Dillyn Leyds, Andries Coetzee
Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Steven Kitshoff, Trevor Nyakane, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jean-Luc du Preez, Rudy Paige, Handre Pollard, Damien de Allende
Replacements: Stephen Moore, Tom Robertson, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Simmons, Lukhan Tui, Ned Hanigan, Nick Phipps, Samu Kerevi, Henry Speight (one to be omitted)
I saw the Springboks record-breaking defeat against the All Blacks coming from a mile away and it truly was a dark day for South African rugby. The men in green started off strongly, dominating territory, possession, and the scrum, but their performance quickly unravelled under the pressure that all other opposing teams have felt. Their set piece was meant to be their strength, but the visitors lost five of their nine lineouts and three of their six scrums. They had no creativity on attack and on the day, not one of their players would’ve been selected in the All Blacks squad. Very few Springboks can hold their head up high after that performance and the fact that coach Alastair Coetzee came out after the match and said their were positives to take from the encounter, baffles me. I really believe that players like Uzair Cassiem, Francois Hougaard, Elton Jantjies, Courtnall Skosan, Andries Coetzee and Raymond Rhule aren’t cut-out for this level on their recent performances. Rhule in particular should never play for the Springboks again. How he gets selected after statistically being the worst defender in Super Rugby is beyond me and he backed up that title by missing nine tackles and giving away three penalties in New Zealand. Their outside backs have still only managed to score one tries from seven Test matches this season and they lack the size, power, positioning and the X-factor that you require at this level. In my eyes, it was a performance that officially ended the New Zealand vs South African rivalry and it was the first time in 107 Test matches that the Springboks were held scoreless. It comes as no surprise that Alastair Coetzee has made four changes this week, but really it should’ve been a few more. The only change in the starting pack sees the return of Francois Louw to openside flanker and Chiliboy Ralepelle comes onto the bench as a reserve hooker. Ross Cronje returns to steady the ship at halfback after illness kept him out of the last match and Dillyn Leyds replaces Raymond Rhule on the wing. Lleyds’ inclusion is long overdue and anyone who watched the Stormers over the past couple of seasons in Super Rugby will be aware of him, as he has a similar playing style and versatility to Willie le Roux.
After a scrappy opening first half that saw the Wallabies head into the sheds down 10 – 13 to the Pumas, the home side put together their best half of rugby to completely demolish Argentina, 45 – 20. The Wallabies set-piece fired on all cylinders, winning seven of their eight line-outs and all ten of their scrums. Their discipline was superb, only giving away six penalties, the home team dominated the breakdown and Bernard Foley rolled back the clock with a man-of-the-match performance setting up a try and scoring 15 points off the boot. Kurtley Beale had an unusually subdued performance, but Israel Folau continued his try-scoring streak, this time crossing the chalk on two occasions and massing a game-high 114 metres from 11 carries. The second half was definitely a step in the right direction, but inconsistency has plagued the Wallabies all season, so I won’t say they are out of the danger zone just yet. I thought Michael Cheika would show faith in his troops, but true to his style, he has surprised by naming three rookies to make their starting debuts. Reds lock Izack Rodda comes into the second row and Ned Hanigan’s starting time on the side of the scrum looks to be over, with Waratahs teammate Jack Demsey selected at blindside flanker. In the back line, the Fijian flyer, Marika Koroibete replaces Henry Speight. He has speed to burn and could be what the Wallabies need on the right wing.
Many will remember the last time the Wallabies played in Bloemfontein, where the Wallabies escaped with only their third win on the Highveld, 41 – 39 on the back of a monstrous Kurtley Beale penalty goal. Both teams have shown glimpses of what they are capable of in 2017, but more often than not their inconsistency, decision-making and poor execution at crucial times has cost them. This is a hard match to predict given that the Springboks are a dangerous outfit at home, especially when their backs are against the wall. This is a must win match for them and a loss here, would really erase any progress they have made from the depths of their 2016 season. It is well documented that the Wallabies usually slip up at altitude, however, they will believe they can win this match, but they’ll have to replicate their up-front dominance or they’ll be behind the eight ball and the crowd will give the Springboks an edge. Throwing three starting debutants into the cauldron is a questionable tactic from Cheika. South Africa start as heavy favourites in this match because of Australia’s lack of success in South Africa (ony scoring 50 points across their last five Test matches in the Republic). Not a lot separates these two sides at the moment, so Australia to cover the handicap (+7.5) is tempting, but in the last ten matches, only one game has gone over the current total points market, so ‘unders’ is more palatable for me.
Predicted result: South Africa to win a nail-biter @ $1.40 – Sportsbet
Best Bet 1: Total Points Under 54.5 (South Africa vs Australia) @ $1.91 – Sportsbet
ARGENTINA ($9.00) VS NEW ZEALAND ($1.06)
The final match of round five in this year’s Rugby Championship sees Argentina host the high-flying All Blacks at the Estadio Jose Amalfitani on Saturday night (local time). Two weeks ago, the All Blacks handed the Springboks a rugby lesson and burst their false bubble of belief and confidence with a clinical, 57 – 0 shutout in Albany. Once again, the Pumas started strongly securing a half-time lead against the Wallabies, before a second half surge from the home team handed Argentina their biggest defeat of the season (20 – 45). The Pumas gave the All Blacks a scare three weeks ago in New Plymouth, however, the All Blacks ended up 37-22 victors. The last twelve fixtures between these two have seen an average score line of 15 – 36, in favour of the men in black.
New Zealand (2017): WLDWWWWW
Replacements: Julian Montoya, Santiago Garcia Botta, Ramiro Herrera, Marcos Kremer, Javier Ortega Desio, Martin Landajo, Juan Martin Hernandez, Santiago Cordero
New Zealand: Kane Hames, Dane Coles, Nepo Laulala, Luke Romano, Scott Barrett, Vaea Fifita, Matt Todd, Kieran Read (captain), Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Sonny Bill Williams, Anton Lienert-Brown, Waisake Naholo, Damien McKenzie
Replacements: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Ofa Tunga’afasi, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Ngani Laumape, David Havili
It was a long time coming, but the All Blacks finally clicked in Albany and put together a dominant 80-minute performance en route to a 57 – 0 victory over the Springboks. They won the physical game and the set-piece battle allowing their dangerous backs to outclass their Springbok counterparts. It was a match where the home side showcased all of their skills creating a highlight reel that will be remembered for a long time to come. What the players and the coaching staff (Wayne Smith in particular) will be most happy about is their defence, as they continually put the Springboks under pressure and put on a counter-attacking clinic. Given the heavy workload Steve Hansen’s men have been exposed to this year (Super Rugby, British & Irish Lions tour etc.), he has opted to leave five first choice players in the New Zealand to keep them fresh for the remaining six Test matches of the season. Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick, the best locking pair in world rugby will get to spend extra time with their families, alongside Liam Squire, Sam Cane and Ryan Crotty. It has given a number of players, namely Vaea Fifita another opportunity at this level and I’m sure he and the others will make the most of their opportunity. Looking at the match-day squad, Steve Hansen has made nine changes. Crusaders locks Luke Romano and Scott Barrett come into the second row, with Fifita, Matt Todd and captain Kieran Read selected in the back row. The two changes to the back line see Anton Lienert-Brown returning to partner Sonny Bill Williams in the centre and Waisake Naholo comes in for Nehe Milner-Skudder on the right wing. On the bench, Crusaders utility David Havili looks set to earn his first cap, which is just reward for an outstanding season of Super Rugby.
The Pumas head back to Argentina still searching for their first victory of the Season against a tier-one nation and have the unenviable task of facing the red-hot All Blacks. The last two matches have seen them head into the halftime break ahead of the All Blacks and the Wallabies respectively, before capitulating when it really mattered. What this says to me is that their fitness isn’t up to scratch and they simply don’t have the firepower off the bench to continue on with the job. Time and time again, I harp on about their poor discipline, but it is also a factor that is costing them games. Not being able to call upon players based on Europe has certainly decreased their output, but that restriction doesn’t look like changing any time in the near future. Daniel Hourcade has made four changes to his team to face the All Blacks this time around. Tomas Lavanini and Juan Manuel Leguizamon return to the pack in place of Matias Alemanno and Javier Ortega Desio and in the back line, Tomas Cubelli gets the nod over Martin Landajo and Joaquin Tuculet comes in for the injured Ramiro Moyano.
The All Blacks have shown their class over the past couple of months, bouncing back from their 1-1 series draw against the British & Irish Lions. Their coaching staff have continued to blood inexperienced players, yet they continue to improve and play the game how it should be played. The Argentinians are going to come out firing in that first 20 minutes this weekend, but once the All Blacks weather that storm, they should be able to cruise to a comfortable 20+ point victory and secure their fifth Rugby Championship with a week to spare.
Predicted result: New Zealand to win @ $1.06 – Sportsbet