|Rugby Championship Match||Best Bets
|Argentina v Australia
|Best: Australia -6.5 ($1.90)
Value: Australia 11-15 ($6.00)
|South Africa v New Zealand
|Best: New Zealand 13+ ($2.05)
Value: New Zealand by 16-20 ($6.00)
Argentina v Australia
Sunday 5.30am (AEST) October 9 at Twickenham, London
Australia are aiming to end a largely disappointing Rugby Championship campaign on a high when they take on Argentina on the hallowed turf of Twickenham.
No major surprises are expected in Argentina’s line-up, which is yet to be named. Australia’s backline is unchanged, but there are two changes in the pack with Lopeti Timani replacing Sean McMahon at No.8 and lock Rory Arnold coming in for Rob Simmons.
The teams have met 26 times previously, with Australia winning 20 Tests to Argentina’s five, with one match drawn. The Wallabies have won both encounters at neutral venues, at the 1991 and 2015 World Cups – including a 29-15 semi-final result at Twickenham in last year’s tournament. The Wallabies prevailed 36-20 in Perth last month.
The Pumas went down 36-17 to the All Blacks at home last week – their fourth loss in five Rugby Championship games thus far – thanks to a burst of five tries by the visitors late in the first half and early in the second.
The Wallabies’ two-Test winning streak, beating South Africa and Argentina at home, came to an end after being shut out 18-10 by the try-less Springboks in a dour Pretoria clash.
Blockbusting No.8 Facundo Isa has been identified by Australia as the Pumas’ dangerman, and the recalled Lopeti Timani has his work cut out matching Isa’s impact.
Stats That Matter
Australia are 2-3 against the start in the 2016 Rugby Championship, while Argentina are 3-2 ATS in the tournament. The Wallabies have won three in a row against the Pumas by margins of 14+ points. Australia has won 12 of their last 13 against Argentina. The Wallabies won four of their five games at Twickenham at last year’s World Cup, with their only loss coming in the final against the All Blacks. Australia have won only two of their last nine Test matches.
The Wallabies will be disappointed with last week’s effort after making up some much-needed ground during their home schedule against South Africa and Argentina. But they should find the going much easier against a flighty Pumas outfit at a neutral venue – where Michael Cheika’s team has enjoyed some recent success – this weekend. The Pumas struggle keeping their minds on the job for 80 minutes, and if the Wallabies can at least hold their own in the lineouts and at scrum time, they should be able to rack up a comfortable win with more space out wide than they were afforded last week.
The Way It’s Shaping
Australia by 12
South Africa v New Zealand
Sunday 2.05am (AEST) October 9 at Kings Park, Durban
The All Blacks are chasing a world record-equalling 17 straight Test victories when they take on the Springboks in Durban to close out their Rugby Championship campaign.
South Africa brought in Morne Steyn at flyhalf and Pat Lambie at fullback last week, and the win over Australia should ensure those key men hold their places. Halfback Rudy Paige has been ruled out, with Faf de Klerk or winger Francois Hougaard set to wear the No.9. But the Springboks have problems out wide with Jesse Kriel and Bryan Habana in serious doubt and Lwazi Mvovo unavailable.
Jerome Kaino is racing the clock to return from a shoulder injury, with Liam Squire filling the No.6 last week. Aaron Smith has been sent home for an off-field indiscretion, which will see TJ Perenara retain the halfback duties after Smith was rested last week. Waisake Naholo looks set to return from injury at the expense of Julian Savea.
The archrivals have met 92 times, with New Zealand winning 54 Tests to South Africa’s 35, and three drawn. On South African soil, the Springboks lead the count 25-21-2. The All Blacks won 41-13 in Christchurch last month, 20-18 in last year’s World Cup semi, and 27-20 in their 2015 Rugby Championship clash in Johannesburg.
The Springboks bounced back from three straight away losses – culminating in a heavy 41-13 defeat to the All Blacks – with a dour 18-10 win over the Wallabies in Pretoria last week.
The All Blacks remained unbeaten with a comfortable 36-17 win over Argentina in Buenos Aries in Week 5, blowing their opponents away with a five-try burst in 17 minutes in an otherwise disjointed contest.
The No.15 battle between the dynamic Ben Smith and the steady tactician Pat Lambie is a contrast in styles, representing the approach of their respective teams. Both have an incredibly important role to play in this clash.
Stats That Matter
New Zealand are 4-1 against the start during the Rugby Championship, finishing just half a point shy of the start last week. South Africa are 1-4 ATS, beating the line for the first time in the competition last week. The All Blacks have won 12 of their last 14 against the Springboks, but in the last eight in South Africa the teams have won four each. Nine of the last 12 Tests in the Republic featured 1-12 margins. The Springboks have won five of their eight Tests against the ABs at Kings Park. The All Blacks have won all of their 2016 RC games by 19+ points. NZ is on a 16-Test winning streak, and have lost just two of their last 47 Tests.
The Springboks returned to the winner’s circle with a 10-man rugby plan, failing to score a try but booting the Wallabies into submission. Those tactics will be less effective against a relentless All Blacks side that excels at capitalising on their attacking opportunities and won’t get bullied physically by the Boks at the set-piece or the breakdown. The world champs’ backline is on fire while it’s difficult to see where the hosts’ tries will come from – particularly with some key men out wide likely to be ruled out. The Kiwis should coast past the 10.5 start in this one, despite having a hostile Durban crowd to deal with.
The Way It’s Shaping
New Zealand by 17