Rugby Championship Round 1
Australia v New Zealand
|Australian Wallabies vs New Zealand All Blacks
8:00pm (AEST) Saturday 19th August 2017
at ANZ stadium, Sydney
|Best bet: Wallabies +16.5 ($1.90)
Value bet: New Zealand 1-12 ($3.50)
It’s that time of the year Rugby Fans – The Rugby Championship is back and volume 6 promises to be more exciting than ever. What a clash to get proceedings under when the two fiercest rivals in international rugby battle it out for the Bledisloe Cup.
The big selection call from Michael Chieka and his management team was handing a dream debut to Western Force centre come winger Curtis Rona. Rona will make up an attacking back three together with Henry Speight and fellow league convert Israel Folau. Other changes from the June series sees a brand-new centre pairing of Kurtley Beale and Samu Kerevi implemented. In the forwards, Sean McMahon is back and will start at number 8, the other major surprise sees former captain Stephen Moore selected to start over Tatafu Polota – Nau.
The All Blacks have made plenty of changes to their side that drew their last test against the British and Irish Lions. The major surprise was the selection of 21-year-old Damien McKenzie for his first ever test start, he will start at fullback with vice-captain Ben Smith shifting to the wing. Sonny Bill Williams also returns for his first game since his red card against the Lions and will partner the enigmatic Ryan Crotty in the centres. The forward pack remains relatively the same with the only real surprise being the axing of veteran Jerome Kaino. The Highlanders Liam Squire will start at blindside flanker in his place.
Last time they met
22nd October 2016 – All Blacks 37 – 10 Wallabies
Stats that matters
These two sides have met 158 times since 1903. New Zealand have certainly had the better of their trans-Tasman rivals winning 109 times compared to the Wallabies 42, there have been 7 draws.
Sydney has been a relatively happy hunting ground for the Wallabies. Since the year 2000 There have been 14 Bledisloe cup clashes in the harbour city with the Wallabies winning 6 to the All Blacks 7. There has been 1 draw.
Kurtley Beale vs Sonny Bill Williams
Two of the most recognisable names in the game will come head to head in the centres at ANZ stadium in a match-up that has the Wolf salivating. KB is back for his first Wallabies game since the 2015 RWC final. Since then he has snapped his patella tendon, led the London Wasps to the English premiership final and returned home with open arms. Chieka and the Wallabies will be hoping he can conjure up some of the match winning form he was producing before he departed. Another man with a lot to prove will be his opposite number – SBW. Sonny Bill’s one moment of stupidity virtually cost the All Blacks a Lions series and you can bet your bottom dollar that NZ fans have not forgotten.
Both sides are coming off disappointing June Series. The All Blacks were expected to whitewash the British and Irish Lions, but instead slumped to a 1-1 drawn series after being out muscled by the northerners. The Wallabies were far from impressive in June falling to an understrength Scotland before narrowly sneaking past Italy. They have the added advantage of having no Super Rugby commitments for the last 5 weeks and have had plenty of time to work on combinations.
How it’s shaping
Make no mistake this clash is far from a foregone conclusion. The Wallabies have as good a chance as any to knock the Kiwi’s off their perch and reclaim the Bledisloe in 2017. With no test at Eden Park and with the first of 2 tests in Australia, the Wallabies are every danger of producing a major upset over their arch rivals and go halfway to bringing the big trophy back to where it belongs after a 14 year hiatus. The Lions provided the framework and the Wallabies have had the last 4 weeks together to formulate and put into practice a plan on how best to rattle the greatest side in the world. If the men in gold are to start the Rugby Championship on a winning note they need to be clinical in their execution, you only get so many chances against the ABs and for once the Aussies need to take them with both hands. Having said that, the Wolf has looked into his crystal ball and sees the the All Blacks showing their class and getting home in a relatively tight one.
All Blacks by 9
South Africa v Argentina
|South Africa vs Argentina
Sunday 20th August 1:05am (AEST)
at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth.
The Springboks host the Pumas in game 2 of the Rugby championship in a match that is sure to be decided by the battle between the heavyweights up front.
Argentina have made 3 changes to the side that trumped Georgia in the last match of their June series. In the backline, mammoth winger Emiliano Boffelli returns and will form a dynamic wing partnership with the rapid Ramiro Moyano. Whilst in the forwards towering second rower Tomas Lavanini comes into partner Guido Petti in place of Matias Alemanno and flanker Pablo Matera takes over from Rodrigo Baez in the back row.
Three changes also to the Springbok side that knocked off the French in their last encounter. The major surprise was the selection of Cheetahs number 8 Uzair Cassiem as the back of the scrum. The other change in the pack sees the return of experienced tighthead prop Coenie Oosthuizen in place of Ruan Dreyer. Whilst in the backs Lions halfback Ross Cronje has been preferred to Francois Hougaard at 9.
Last time they met
27 August 2016 – Argentina 26 – 24 South Africa
Stat that matters
South Africa and Argentina will play in their eleventh encounter since Argentina joined the Rugby Championship in 2012. Of the previous 10, South Africa won seven with one match drawn and two losses coming in 2016 and 2017, the first ever Springboks losses against Argentina.
Elton Jantjies vs Nicholas Sanchez
It’s no surprise the Springboks return to form coincides with the selection of Elton Jantjies at flyhalf. The man is a genuine gun who knows how to steer a football side around the park. He will have his work cut out for him on Sunday morning (AEST) when he opposes Argentine veteran Nicholas Sanchez. Sanchez’s long kicking game and astute defence were a big part in the Pumas knocking off the South Africans this time last year and he will be trying to replicate that form in Port Elizabeth.
The Springbok looked back to their best after a lean trot in the June series. They beat a powerful French side 3-0 and looked strong doing it. On top of this, the Lions from Johannesburg went ever so close to claiming their maiden Super Rugby title before a red card ruined their chances against the Crusaders. The Pumas stumbled out of the blocks in 2017, falling to an understrength England side twice at home. They were able to turn this around and beat Georgia, but they will need to go to another level if they are to match the Springboks.
How it’s shaping
The Springboks have never lost in Port Elizabeth and the Wolf feels they will be far too strong for the Pumas this time around.
Springboks by 19.…