|Rugby Championship Match||Best Bets
|Australia v New Zealand
|Best: New Zealand -18.5 ($1.90)
Value: New Zealand 26-30 ($7.00)
|South Africa v Argentina
|Best: South Africa -2.5 ($1.90)
Value: South Africa by 6-10 ($5.00)
Australia v New Zealand
New Zealand v Australia: Saturday 5.35pm (AEST) at Westpac Stadium, Wellington
The Wallabies were humiliated in their own backyard last weekend, but revenge will be difficult to exact against the on-fire All Blacks in Wellington this Saturday.
Anton Lienert-Brown has earned a surprise call-up to debut in the All Blacks’ No.12 for the injured Ryan Crotty, while Israel Dagg and Ben Smith swap positions and Julian Savea starts on the wing for the injured Waisake Naholo. Despite still carrying a rib injury, Dane Coles has been named to start at hooker, while Joe Moody returns at prop in the only other change to the Kiwis’ pack. James Parsons and Seta Tamanivalu are newcomers to the bench.
Following injuries to Matt Giteau, Matt Toomua and Rob Horne last week, Quade Cooper is expected to get the troublesome No.12 jumper, while Samu Kerevi is tipped to replace Tevita Kuridrani at centre. Despite last week’s horrible display, few other changes are expected.
The archrivals have met 156 times, with New Zealand winning 107, Australia 42 and seven Tests drawn. On New Zealand soil, the All Blacks hold a 55-15-1 advantage. This is the first Bledisloe meeting in Wellington since the ABs’ 27-16 win in 2013.
Following a demoralising 3-0 series defeat to England, the Wallabies turned in their worst performance in years in a 42-8 loss to the All Blacks. Conversely, after an up-and-down whitewash of unfancied Wales, the All Blacks stepped up a couple of gears with a display of utter dominance, scoring six tries to one in Sydney.
The erratic Quade Cooper up against the debutant Anton Lienert-Brown is an individual clash that could bust the game wide open.
Stats That Matter
The Wallabies have won just one of their last 14 against the All Blacks, while they’ve lost 18 straight in New Zealand. New Zealand has an 11-5-1 advantage against Australia in Wellington – the Wallabies’ most productive destination in NZ – including 3-1 at Westpac Stadium. Australia is on a five-Test losing streak, while New Zealand has lost just two of its last 44 Tests. Four of the All Blacks’ last five wins over the Wallabies were by 13+ margins.
The Wallabies were a rabble last week, clueless with the ball in hand while dropping off tackles at an alarming rate without it. Hit hard by injuries and with several stars struggling form, Michael Cheika has few options at his disposal to bolster a side short on confidence. The All Blacks have only had to make a few minor tweaks, and should be able to pick up where they left off in Sydney in front of a packed house in Wellington. Beauden Barret was unstoppable last week, while the ABs’ offloading and support play was first-class. Unfortunately for the Wallabies, a similar blowout looms this weekend.
The Way It’s Shaping
New Zealand by 28
New Zealand -18.5 ($1.90)
New Zealand 26-30 ($7.00)
South Africa v Argentina
Argentina v South Africa: Sunday 3.40am (AEST) at Estadio Martearena, Salta
After getting out of jail against the Pumas at home last weekend, the Springboks face a difficult road trip to Salta in round two of the Rugby Championship.
Prop Vincent Koch has been named to make his first Test start for South Africa, replacing Julian Redelinghuys. Lourens Adriaanse takes Koch’s place on the bench. The rest of the starting line-up is unchanged, but Morne Steyn comes onto the bench at the expense of Juan de Jongh. Argentina is not expected to make any major changes.
The Springboks have won 21, lost 1 and drawn 1 in 23 Tests against the Pumas. South Africa is unbeaten in Argentina, boasting 10 wins and a draw in 11 away Tests.
Argentina was desperately unlucky to not chalk up their second straight win on South African soil last week, with the Springboks scoring two tries in the last 10 minutes – including the go-ahead score with less than two minutes left – to seal a heart-stopping 30-23 victory.
Opposing hookers and captains Adriaan Strauss and Agustin Creevy are both relentless competitors and outstanding leaders for their respective sides. In what shapes as a critical battle at scrum and lineout time, the No.2s will have a massive influence on this contest.
Stats That Matter
Six of the last seven Tests between the nations were decided by 1-12 margins. South Africa have scored 22+ points in 21 of their 23 Tests against Argentina. The Pumas have scored 17 or less against the Springboks in nine of the last 12 meetings. Three of the last four Tests in Argentina were decided by five points or less.
Argentina is tough place to play, and the Pumas showed last week they can more than match the heavyweight Springboks. But like the Jaguares in the Super Rugby competition – who make up most of the Test side – the Pumas have trouble closing out tight games, which this clash promises to be. The Jaguares were edged out in the closing stages several times this year, and it happened to the national side again last week at the hands of the cool-head South Africans. The Boks will be better for last week’s run, and while the home advantage narrows the gap further, the visitors should be able to get away with the victory.
The Way It’s Shaping
South Africa by 7
South Africa -2.5 ($1.90)
South Africa by 6-10 ($5.00)