|Rugby Championship Match||Best Bets
|New Zealand v South Africa
|Best: New Zealand -22.5 ($1.90)
Value: New Zealand 26-30 ($6.50)
|Australia v Argentina
|Best: Argentina +10.5 ($1.90)
Value: Australia by 6-10 ($5.50)
New Zealand v South Africa
5.35pm (AEST), Saturday, September 17 at AMI Stadium, Christchurch
After consecutive losses on the road to Argentina and Australia, the Springboks face the toughest away assignment of them all up against the All Blacks this weekend.
Ardie Savea will get a long-awaited chance in the All Blacks’ No.7 jumper following Sam Cane’s injury withdrawal, while Matt Todd takes Savea’s place on the bench. Lima Sopoaga has replaced an injured Aaron Cruden on the bench in the only other change to the home side. Pieter-Steph du Toit replaces injured South African lock Lood de Jager, while Vincent Koch comes in at prop at the expense of Lourens Adriaanse. Malcolm Marx and Willem Alberts join the bench.
The archrivals have clashed in 91 Test matches, with New Zealand winning 53 to South Africa’s 35, and three drawn. The All Blacks won their last clash – the 2015 RWC semi-final – 20-18, following on from a 27-20 win in Johannesburg during last year’s Rugby Championship. Their last meeting in New Zealand was a narrow 14-10 win to the hosts in Wellington in 2014.
After two comprehensive thrashings of Australia, the All Blacks received a stern test for 40 minutes from Argentina, leading just 24-19 at halftime. But their class shone through after the break, powering to a 57-22, eight-tries-to-one victory. South Africa’s two matches against Argentina were shared one apiece, but they seemed on course for an away win in Brisbane last week after building an early 14-3 lead. They were held try-less thereafter, though, going down 23-17 to the struggling Wallabies.
Lions halfback Faf de Klerk has had a mixed Rugby Championship campaign, and he’ll need to rediscover the blistering form he displayed for the Lions during the Super Rugby season when he takes on the world’s best No.9, Aaron Smith.
Stats That Matter
New Zealand are 3-0 against the start during the 2016 Rugby Championship, while South Africa are 0-3 ATS. The All Blacks have a 30-9-2 home record against the Springboks and have won six straight on NZ soil. The ABs have won seven of their last eight and 11 of their last 13 against the Boks at all venues. South Africa have lost their last five in Christchurch. The last five Tests between the teams were decided by 11 points or less. The three matches involving the All Blacks in the competition so far were decided by 20+ margins; the other three games were all decided by seven points or less.
The All Blacks’ blistering form shows no sign of slowing down, while they’ll lose little by replacing Sam Cane with Ardie Savea. The world champs’ backline is unstoppable – with Julian Savea returning to form spectacularly to catch up to his on-fire teammates – and their pack is as dominant as it’s ever been. Meanwhile, the Springboks’ unsettled backline has struggled for cohesion, and their usually-dominant set-piece and breakdown play has been less than impressive. New Zealand should make short work of South Africa, who will stay in the contest for 40-50 minutes before getting overrun.
The Way It’s Shaping
New Zealand by 27
New Zealand -22.5 ($1.90)
New Zealand 26-30 ($6.50)
Australia v Argentina
8.05pm (AEST), Saturday, September 17 at nib Stadium, Perth
The Wallabies secured a much-needed win over the Springboks last week, but the plucky Pumas represent a tricky challenge in Perth this weekend.
Despite talk over Israel Folau’s move to centre, no changes are expected when Australian coach Michael Cheika names his team this week. The Quade Cooper-Bernard Foley combination improved markedly in its second outing. Flanker Juan Manuel Leguizamon, lock Tomas Lavini and wing Manuel Montero are all unlikely to return for Argentina at this stage after missing last week’s clash with the All Blacks.
Australia has won 19 and Argentina five of 25 previous Test encounters, with one match drawn. Australia’s record at home against Argentina is 11-1. The Wallabies prevailed 29-15 over the Pumas in last year’s World Cup semi-final, while they also won the sole Rugby Championship clash in 2015, 34-9 at Mendoza. The last meeting in Australia saw the Wallabies get up 32-25 on the Gold Coast.
Australia bounced back from 43-8 and 29-9 drubbings at the hands of the All Blacks to edge out South Africa 23-17, overturning an early 11-point deficit. Following their historic win over South Africa on home soil, Argentina took it to the All Blacks in Hamilton, scoring the first try and trailing by just five at halftime. They couldn’t keep pace with the world champs, however, eventually going down 57-22.
Quade Cooper was much better last week against South Africa, his second match back in the Wallabies’ No.10 jumper – but consistency hasn’t been his strong suit during a chequered career. Nicolas Sanchez has shown touches of class throughout the Rugby Championship, while his goalkicking for the Pumas has been typically first-class.
Stats That Matter
Australia are 1-2 against the start in the 2016 Rugby Championship, while Argentina are 2-1 ATS. The Wallabies have won 11 of their last 12 against the Pumas, and are on an 11-match winning streak at home dating back to 1983. Four of the last five Tests between the nations on Australian soil were decided by seven points or less. Argentina have won just one of 13 away games since joining the Rugby Championship in 2012.
The monkey is off the Wallabies’ back after six straight Test defeats, but there is still plenty of improvement required to reach the standard that saw the green-and-golds regarded as the world’s No.2 team last year. The Pumas are a dangerous opponent and gave the Wallabies a first-hand look at their brilliant counterattacking ability at the World Cup – the hosts need to be switched on defensively. Though better last week, Australia’s set-piece will also be put under the microscope against a powerful Argentina pack. Eighty-minute application is the Pumas’ bugbear, while the Wallabies have to start far better than they did against the ABs or Boks. Australia should get the win, but the visitors loom as a strong option against the line.
The Way It’s Shaping
Australia by 7
Argentina +10.5 ($1.90)
Australia by 6-10 ($5.50)