Rugby Championship 2017 – Week 2 Preview

Best Bet 1: South Africa -6.5 @ $1.82 – Tab.co.nz (2-unit play)

NEW ZEALAND ($1.02) VS AUSTRALIA ($13.00)

Round two of The Rugby Championship kicks off under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday evening when New Zealand faces Australia. The All Blacks will have the opportunity to win the Bledisloe Cup for the 15th consecutive time having demolished the Wallabies 54-34 last weekend in Sydney, in a fascinating match that saw a number of records fall. It was New Zealand’s six consecutive victory over Australia and they’ll be even more confident this week given their dominant record over the Wallabies in the Otago region, having won 11 of the 12 matches played, including the most recent outing in 2013 (41-33).

New Zealand (2017): WLDW
Australia (2017): WLWL

New Zealand: Joe Moody, 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, Ben Smith, Damien McKenzie

Replacements: Codie Taylor, Ofa Tunga’afasi,  Kane Hames, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Lima Sopoaga, Anton Lienert-Brown

Australia: Scott Sio, Stephen Moore, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Simmons, Adam Coleman, Ned Hannigan, Michael Hooper, Sean McMahon, Will Genia, Bernard Foley, Dane Haylett-Petty, Kurtley Beale, Tevita Kuridrani, Henry Speight, Israel Folau

Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Tom Robertson, Sekope Kepu, Rory Arnold, Lopeti Timani/Jack Dempsey, Nick Phipps, Reece Hodge, Curtis Rona

Prediction:

The first Bledisloe Cup match of the season was probably a fair reflection of where both teams are currently at en route to the next Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019. As predicted, the Wallabies lack of rugby over the past month was exposed by the visitors, as they simply couldn’t keep up with the All Blacks pace in the first half and their skills were ordinarily rusty. The men in gold were blown off the park in the first half and went into the sheds down 6-40, the most points they have ever conceded in a half of rugby. Sure there was a fightback in the second half, where the Wallabies actually outscored the All Blacks 28 – 14, however, the game was over and I liken it to Usain Bolt turning off the engines well short of the finish line. The All Blacks constructed some of the best rugby I have ever seen them play in those first 50 minutes and at one point, the infliction of the Wallabies biggest ever defeat was on the cards. However, the All Blacks feet came right off the pedal and interestingly, they lost the second half for their third consecutive match – the first time since 1996.

When you look at the statistics, the eight tries the Wallabies leaked were the most they have conceded for 81 years. Depending on which source you look at, the Wallabies missed anywhere between 30-48 tackles, which is nothing short of pathetic at Test level (or any level really). Debutant wing Curtis Rona, Henry Speight, Kurtley Beale and Samu Kerevi were guilty of missing 17 of them – at this level, they have to be better. To be fair, when Australia turned things around in the second half, they forced the All Blacks into making a number of uncharacteristic errors and they ended up missing 23 tackles of their own. As the old clichè goes, it really was a game of two halves, but it was a match that clearly highlighted the areas both teams need to work on. The Wallabies defensive system isn’t effective and this stems back to the June series, not just the match on Saturday. Defensive coach Nathan Gray is under real pressure to turn things around quickly and another poor effort in Dunedin could see the knives ready to strike at what is already a very shaky ARU headquarters. Their attack is certainly on the mend with Kurtley Beale back in the picture, but until they can get parity up front and compete at the breakdowns, many more dark days are ahead, especially when playing the likes of New Zealand, South Africa and the old foes from the northern hemisphere.

Looking at the team named this week by coach Steve Hansen, it comes as no surprise that the starting 15 remains intact, apart from the return of Dane Coles. Coles’ return from further concussion symptoms will be a blessing for the All Blacks and one which strengthens their pack even more. Chiefs prop Nepo Laulala has been a late inclusion for the injured Owen Franks. The impact, or lack thereof, of the bench in Sydney would’ve been very concerning for Hansen, but the shift from Codie Taylor to the pine and the return of the versatile Scott Barrett (lock/flanker) gives them more options and stability. Prop Kane Hames also looks set for some game time with Wyatt Crockett ruled out due to a head knock suffered in Sydney.

Last weekend’s dismal first half performance has forced Michael Cheika’s hand as Rory Arnold (bench), Samu Kerevi and Curtis Rona (bench) have all been dropped this weekend. Surprisingly, Rob Simmons who can’t even find a club for next season has been recalled in the forward pack. Cheika is going to need more production out of his back row of Hanigan, Hooper and McMahon at the breakdown this week as they were clearly outplayed by their opposition and in attack, where they only managed an embarrassing 18 metres from 21 carries. Brumbies outside centre Tevita Kuridrani comes in for a straight swap with Samu Kerevi which should strengthen their midfield and Dane Haylett-Petty has recovered from a bicep injury to come back into the team for Curtis Rona, who finds himself on the bench.

Despite all of the media hype building up the Wallabies chances in Sydney, I don’t think they believed they could actually win and that wouldn’t have changed ahead of this week’s match. The issues that are plaguing them currently aren’t things that can be fixed overnight and while there has to be an improvement this week, they have next to no chance of pushing the Bledisloe Cup to a game three decider. The odds suggest that the All Blacks are playing a minnow, which is a damning indictment on the state of rugby union in Australia at the moment. Cheika’s selections continue to baffle everyone outside of the playing group, but they have a good opportunity to restore some pride in the gold jersey. It will be a fantastic atmosphere under the roof in Dunedin on Saturday and with the All Blacks brand also hurting due to a few unsavoury off-field issues lately, they will be looking to win back their fans with a dominant display. Unfortunately for the Wallabies and their fans, it is almost set in stone that the visitors are going to be in for another heavy loss.

Predicted result: New Zealand to win @ $1.02 – Sportsbet

Best Bet 1: South Africa -6.5 @ $1.82 – Tab.co.nz (2-unit play)

ARGENTINA ($3.40) VS SOUTH AFRICA ($1.33)

The second week of The Rugby Championship will conclude in Salta, where Argentina host South Africa on Saturday night (local time). The Springboks impressed many last week with their 37-15 victory over the Pumas, on the back of a herculean effort up front. As expected, it was a very physical encounter, but Argentina are a different beast at home and will take confidence from their 27-25 victory over South Africa at this very venue, last season. The Springboks will be playing in red for the first time in their history, to celebrate 25 years of South African rugby unity since the Boks first Test after isolation in 1992.

Argentina(2017): LLWL
South Africa (2017): WWWW

Argentina: Lucas Noguera, Agustin Creevy (captain), Ramiro Herrera, Matias Alemanno, Tomas Lavanini, Pablo Matera, Tomas Lezana, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Tomas Cubelli, Juan Martin Hernandez, Emilliano Boffelli, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Matias Orlando, Ramiro Moyano, Joaquin Tuculet

Replacements: Julian Montoya, Santiago Garcia Botta, Enrique Pieretto, Marcos Kremer, Javier Ortega Desio, Martin Landajo, Nicolas Sanchez, Matias Moroni

South Africa: Tendai Mtawarira, Malcolm Marx, Coenie Oosthuizen, Eben Etzebeth (captain), Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi, Jaco Kriel, Uzair Cassiem, Ross Cronje, Elton Jantjies, Courtnall Skosan, Jan Serfontein, Jesse Kriel, Raymond Rhule, Andries Coetzee

Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Trevor Nyakane, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jean-Luc du Preez, Francois Hougaard, Curwin Bosch, Damien de Allende

Prediction:

Like Australia, Argentinian rugby isn’t in the best place currently, at least from a performance and results standpoint. They have failed to take their game to the next level and their disciplinary issues continue to work against them conceding 12 penalties to only six from the Springboks in Port Elizabeth. Their once dominant scrum copped the full brunt of a powerful Springboks eight and their inability to get their offload game going off Martin Landajo cost them a lot of forward momentum. They did open the scoring with a great counter-attacking try and winger Emiliano Boffelli’s five-pointer showcased the importance of perfecting the catch-and-pass. Looking at the six changes to the team named by Daniel Hourcade this week and based off last week’s performance, I expect the Pumas to go on an aerial assault as they did last year in Salta.  They need to dominate territory and this might be the best way to get them to the right parts of the field. The front row inclusions of Lucas Noguera and Ramiro Herrera will also bolster the scrum.

As aforementioned, the Springboks scrum laid the platform at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and they were incredibly dominant constantly pushing the Pumas backwards. What was most impressive was that the replacements continued in the same vein. After a wayward first throw by hooker Malcolm Marx, the Springboks went on to win their next ten line-outs. Marx is an extremely impressive player and one of the only Boks vying for a world fifteen player. Additionally the home side forced a number of turnovers at the breakdown which allowed them to win the possession (55%) and territory (69%) battle. Since the return of defensive guru Brendan Venter to the Bok setup, the Springboks have only conceded 56 points in four Test matches this year (14 per match). It comes as no surprise that Springbok coach Alastair Coetzee has only made the one injury-enforced change bringing in Francois Hougaard for the injured Ross Cronje at halfback.

Salta is going to be a hostile environment for the Springboks and the home team will raise their game in front of their home fans. By no means are the Springboks a finished product because they are still streets behind the All Blacks and even the standards they set themselves, but they are now playing with confidence and belief and will be looking forward to their first overseas challenge of the season. The Pumas are going to ask some serious questions and test the Springboks new mettle, but I can’t see the Springboks dropping this match against a team that is down on confidence.

Predicted result: South Africa to win @ $1.33 – Sportsbet

Best Bet 1: South Africa -6.5 @ $1.82 – Tab.co.nz (2-unit play)

Author

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Glenn

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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