The following is preview with betting tips for Week 1 of the 2015 Rugby Championship. New Zealand has won all three previous tournaments since the four-team format was created, however with this being a World Cup year, many sides will be aiming to peak later in the year.
This year’s Championship has a reduced format, with each team playing each other once rather than twice. This is to create a longer preparation time ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, which starts on the 18th of September. New Zealand and Argentina will only get one home game compared to two for South Africa and Australia, so the latter two sides arguably offer better value in the futures market:
In addition to the Rugby Championship Tests, Argentina will host a second match against South Africa on the 15th of August. This will serve as a Rugby World Cup warm-up rather than as a Rugby Championship fixture. New Zealand will host Australia in Auckland on the same day, which will serve as a second Bledisloe Cup Test.
Most sides will be looking to peak in October rather than now, so we may see sub-par performances from the touring sides, much as we did in 2011 when South Africa and New Zealand fielded under-strength squads overseas. All four sides have already shown their intention to rotate players ahead of the World Cup.
New Zealand vs. Argentina
Friday, 17 July 2015 – 5:35 PM AEST
AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
The All Blacks have won all previous eleven Tests against Argentina on home soil. The most recent results in New Zealand are:
2014 – McLean Park, Napier – New Zealand 28-9 Argentina
2013 – Waikato Stadium, Hamilton – New Zealand 28-13 Argentina
2012 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington – New Zealand 21-5 Argentina
2011 – Eden Park, Auckland – New Zealand 33-10 Argentina
All Blacks Squad
The All Blacks have made six changes to the squad that mustered an unconvincing 25-16 win over Samoa last week. Many of the players that starred for the Highlanders and Hurricanes this season have been rested, with Aaron Smith, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa and Julian Savea among those not named. Nevertheless, this is a vastly experienced squad. One Highlander that will feature is winger Waisake Naholo, who will make his All Blacks debut this week. Ma’a Nonu shifts to outside centre this week to accommodate Sonny Bill Williams in what will be a powerful midfield.
15. Israel Dagg, 14. Waisake Naholo, 13. Ma’a Nonu, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 11. Charles Piutau, 10. Daniel Carter, 9. TJ Perenara, 8. Kieran Read, 7. Richie McCaw (c), 6. Jerome Kaino, 5. Brodie Retallick, 4. Luke Romano, 3. Owen Franks, 2. Keven Mealamu, 1. Tony Woodcock
Reserves: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Nepo Laulala, Jeremy Thrush, Liam Messam, Andy Ellis, Colin Slade, Ryan Crotty
Los Pumas have rested four frontline players: midfielder Juan Martin Hernandez, No.8 Leonardo Senatore, flanker Pablo Matera and lock Tomas Lavanini. Nevertheless this is still a strong squad.
15. Joaquin Tuculet, 14. Horacio Agulla, 13. Marcelo Bosch, 12. Jeronimo De la Fuente, 11. Santiago Cordero, 10. Nicolas Sanchez, 9. Tomas Cubelli, 8. Facundo Isa, 7. Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 6. Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 5. Guido Petti Pagadizabal, 4. Manuel Carizza, 3. Ramiro Herrera, 2. Agustin Creevy (captain), 1. Marcos Ayerza.
Reserves: Julian Montoya, Lucas Noguera, Nahuel Chaparro Tetaz, Benjamin Macome, Javier Ortega Desio, Martin Landajo, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino
With many Highlanders and Hurricanes players sidelined, this fixture will provide an opportunity for the likes of Israel Dagg and Charles Piutau to showcase their credentials ahead of the World Cup. This fixture will be the last at AMI Stadium for Richie McCaw and Daniel Carter, so the two Cantabrians will be looking to leave Christchurch on a high.
Los Pumas will again play to their strengths and adopt a forwards-dominated approach. They have stated their intention to win the battle of the breakdown and will also look to target the All Blacks scrum as a way of establishing control in the Test.
With the All Blacks starting as 1.04 favourites there’s very little value in the head-to-head market unless you fancy Argentina at 13.00. Pinnacle Sports haven’t published any markets yet but keep an eye out for them because they have a habit of not offering head-to-head markets if they don’t give any chance to the underdog. Off the top of my head I can’t remember a single fixture where they opted not to offer a head-to-head market and the underdog won.
Given Argentina has lost its previous four fixtures in New Zealand by 23 (2011), 16 (2012), 15 (2014) and 19 (2015) points, Los Pumas look to be reasonable value at the +24.5 line at 1.92 (Luxbet).
The Under 50.5 points selection with Sportsbet is also worth a shout given Argentina’s forwards-dominated approach and the fact that the four previous fixtures between the two in New Zealand all went under this total.
The All Blacks were rusty last week while Argentina tend to come out of the blocks quickly so I also like Argentina to score first at 3.00 with bet365. Los Pumas were the first to score in each of their last three visits to New Zealand.
Australia vs. South Africa
Saturday, 18 July 2015 – 8:05 PM AEST
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
The Wallabies have a 22-1-12 record against the Springboks on home soil. The most recent results in Australia are:
2014 – Patersons Stadium, Perth – Australia 24-23 South Africa
2013 – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane – Australia 12-38 South Africa
2012 – Patersons Stadium, Perth – Australia 26-19 South Africa
2011 – ANZ Stadium, Sydney – Australia 39-20 South Africa
2010 – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane – Australia 30-13 South Africa
The Reds pair of Quade Cooper and Will Genia have been given a chance to showcase their credentials ahead of the World Cup, with Bernard Foley missing out on the matchday squad. Toulon-based Matt Giteau has been named in the starting lineup for the first time since 2011, with his teammate Drew Mitchell starting from the bench. In the forwards Michael Hooper has been named at openside flanker, with David Pocock set to make an impact from the reserves.
1. James Slipper, 2. Stephen Moore (captain), 3. Sekope Kepu, 4. Will Skelton, 5. Rob Simmons, 6. Scott Fardy, 7. Michael Hooper, 8. Scott Higginbotham, 9. Will Genia, 10. Quade Cooper, 11. Rob Horne, 12. Matt Giteau, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 14. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 15. Israel Folau
Reserves: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio, Greg Holmes, James Horwill, David Pocock, Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua
Schalk Burger has been given a surprise start at No. 8 after an impressive display in the Springboks’ rout of a second-rate World XV last weekend. Damian de Allende starts again at inside-centre, with Jean de Villiers still working his way towards full fitness after knee surgery.
15. Willie le Roux, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Jesse Kriel, 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Handré Pollard, 9. Ruan Pienaar, 8. Schalk Burger, 7. Marcell Coetzee, 6. Francois Louw, 5. Victor Matfield (captain), 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Reserves: Adriaan Strauss, Heinke van der Merwe, Frans Malherbe, Lood de Jager, Oupa Mohoje, Cobus Reinach, Pat Lambie, Lwazi Mvovo
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika can focus solely on the Wallabies now that he has parted ways with the Waratahs. He took over in October last year after Ewen McKenzie’s sudden resignation and had very little time with the squad ahead of their 2014 end of year tour, in which the Wallabies won just one of four games. The Wallabies have now won just one of their last seven Tests, which is their worst run of form since 2005. Normally, Cheika would be keen for the Wallabies to perform well in the Rugby Championship to build momentum again. The World Cup is looming, however, and given the selection of Quade Cooper over Bernard Foley, it appears Cheika is more focused on testing combinations in search of the right formula ahead of September.
The Springboks have named a strong team and while generally they have been poor in Australia, the side will take confidence from their 38-12 win over the Wallabies at this venue two years ago. They also have a game under their belt, having played a World XV last week, so the Springboks may start faster than the Wallabies on Saturday.
The Wallabies have won five of their last six at home against the Springboks, however they have won just one of their last seven Tests. The fact that both sides will also have one eye on peaking later in the year also muddies the water.
The 3.5 line is interesting because only one of the last nine and two of the last eighteen fixtures between the two were settled by three or fewer points, suggesting if you want to back Australia at 1.62 (CrownBet) you might want to consider them -3.5 at 1.92 instead. With the World Cup looming there’s less pressure on winning the Rugby Championship this season, which may lower the chances of a closely fought tussle.
Given the Springboks have a recent game under their belt I expect fewer cobwebs from them than the Wallabies. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Springboks get off to a faster start so I would back South Africa +3.5 at 1.60 in the First Half Handicap market (Betstar / Bookmaker / Ladbrokes).
If you’re interested in betting in the head-to-head market, note that Ladbrokes have a promotion where they will refund head-to-head wagers up to $100 if your team loses by 6 points or less.