The following is preview with betting tips for Week 2 of the 2015 Rugby Championship, which features the Springboks versus the All Blacks and Los Pumas versus the Wallabies.
South Africa vs. New Zealand
Saturday, 25 July 2015 – 5:05 PM SAST (Sunday 1:05 AM AEST)
Emirates Airline Park (Ellis Park), Johannesburg
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
The Springboks have a 25-1-20 record against the All Blacks on home soil. Below are the most recent results in South Africa.
2014 – Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg – South Africa 27-25 New Zealand
2013 – Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg – South Africa 27-38 New Zealand
2012 – FNB Stadium, Johannesburg – South Africa 16-32 New Zealand
2011 – Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth – South Africa 18-5 New Zealand
Note the All Blacks fielded an under-strength team, with 2011 being a World Cup year
2010 – FNB Stadium, Johannesburg – South Africa 22-29 New Zealand
The Springboks have made nine changes to the side that lost to Australia last week – three to the pack, one the backs and five to the bench. A number of the changes are injury enforced, with Marcell Coetzee, Victor Matfield and JP Pietersen out injured. The rest are part of a rotation policy ahead of the World Cup. Schalk Burger will captain the side in the absence of Victor Matfield and Jean de Villiers. Heinrich Brussow will get his first start in four years. Vincent Koch is poised to make his Test debut from the bench.
15. Willie le Roux, 14. Cornal Hendricks, 13. Jesse Kriel, 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Handre Pollard, 9. Ruan Pienaar, 8. Schalk Burger (captain), 7. Francois Louw, 6. Heinrich Brussow, 5. Lood de Jager, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Reserves: Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Vincent Koch, Flip van der Merwe, Warren Whiteley, Cobus Reinach, Pat Lambie, Lionel Mapoe
All Blacks Squad
Eight changes, mostly for rotational purposes, have been made to the side that started against Argentina last week, with five of those changes coming in the backline. Lima Sopoaga will make his All Blacks debut at fly-half and will link up with his Highlanders teammate Aaron Smith at halfback. Conrad Smith comes in at outside-centre with Ma’a Nonu shifting to his preferred inside-centre position. Waisake Naholo has been ruled out of the World Cup after suffering a broken leg against Argentina. He has been replaced on the wing by Ben Smith, with Julian Savea continuing to being rested.
In the forwards, Liam Messam comes in at blindside flanker, with Jerome Kaino sitting out this round. James Broadhurst will make his debut in place of Sam Whitelock, while Dane Coles comes in for Keven Mealamu, who is also being rested.
15. Israel Dagg, 14. Ben Smith, 13. Conrad Smith, 12. Ma’a Nonu, 11. Charles Piutau, 10. Lima Sopoaga, 9. Aaron Smith, 8. Kieran Read, 7. Richie McCaw (captain), 6. Liam Messam, 5. James Broadhurst, 4. Brodie Retallick, 3. Owen Franks, 2. Dane Coles, 1. Tony Woodcock
Reserves: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Samuel Whitelock, Victor Vito, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Malakai Fekitoa
The Springboks suffered a last-minute defeat to the Wallabies last week but the scoreline didn’t reflect the whole picture, with the Springboks well on top until they rung the changes early in the second half and swapped out their entire front row. Up until that point they were a cut above the Wallabies as they dominated the scrum and breakdown.
The All Blacks bounced back from a disappointing outing against Samoa by putting in a commanding performance against Argentina last week. Once they ironed out a few early kinks the side looked fluid in attack. Their line-out maul defence the only sour note of the performance, with Agustín Creevy’s two tries punctuating what was otherwise a dominant All Blacks display. While Argentina did rest three forwards last week the All Blacks will nevertheless be pleased with their dominant scrum, which always bodes well leading into a Test against South Africa.
The All Blacks lost this fixture 27-25 last year, which was their only defeat in 2014. With this being their only fixture against the #2 side in the World before the World Cup, the All Blacks will see it as an opportunity to reaffirm their #1 world ranking. The Springboks, meanwhile, will be keen to pick up a win at home to build confidence and momentum heading into September.
They may be the #1 and #2 ranked sides in the World, but the All Blacks have dominated the Springboks in recent years, winning nine of their last eleven clashes, with one of those two defeats coming when the All Blacks fielded a weakened team ahead of the 2011 World Cup. On South African soil, however, the honours have been even over recent years, with both sides winning three of the last six, four of the last eight, five of the last ten and six of the last twelve fixtures.
Interestingly, over the last twelve fixtures in South Africa, when the hosts have won it has been by 6.8 points on average, while New Zealand have won by 12.8 points on average. Half of New Zealand’s recent wins in South Africa were by 13 or more points, while South Africa have only won by more than 12 points once, which was when New Zealand fielded a weakened side in 2011.
Emirates Airline Park (Ellis Park) is a daunting venue for any team, so I would be surprised if the All Blacks walk away with a 13+ victory this weekend – something they have never done at this venue. The All Blacks are also fielding a debutant at fly-half and the Springboks will arguably be the more desperate side this weekend.
Argentina vs. Australia
Saturday, 25 July 2015 – 7:40 PM ART (Sunday 6:40 AM AEST)
Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Los Pumas have a 4-1-5 record against Australia on home soil. Below are the results since Argentina joined the Rugby Championship.
2014 – Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza – Argentina 21-17 Australia
2014 – Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast – Australia 32-25 Argentina
2013 – Gigante de Arroyito, Rosario – Argentina 17-54 Australia
2013 – Subiaco Oval, Perth – Australia 14-13 Argentina
2012 – Gigante de Arroyito, Rosario – Argentina 19-25 Australia
2012 – Skilled Park, Gold Coast – Australia 23-19 Argentina
Coach David Hourcade has overhauled the line-up, making five backline changes and two changes to the forwards. Some are injury-enforced while others are for rotational purposes.
Juan Imhoff will start on the wing with Santiago Cordero shifting to fullback. Gonzalo Camacho comes in on the other wing at the expense of Horacio Agulla. In the centres, Marcelo Bosch and Jeronimo De la Fuente make way for Matias Moroni and Juan Pablo Socino. Martin Landaj gets the start at halfback with Tomas Cubelli dropping to the bench.
In the forwards, lock Tomas Lavanini and flanker Javier Desio come in to replace Guido Petti Pagadizabal and Juan Manuel Leguizamon respectively.
15. Santiago Cordero, 14. Gonzalo Camacho, 13. Matias Moroni, 12. Juan Pablo Socino, 11. Juan Imhoff, 10. Nicolas Sanchez, 9. Martin Landajo, 8. Facundo Isa, 7. Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 6. Javier Desio, 5. Tomas Lavanini, 4. Manuel Carizza, 3. Ramiro Herrera, 2. Agustin Creevy (captain), 1. Marcos Ayerza
Reserves: Santiago Iglesias, Francisco Nahuel Tetaz, Matias Diaz, Leonardo Senatore, Tomas Cubelli, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Lucas Amorosino
In a continuing effort to test combinations ahead of the World Cup, Michael Cheika has made a raft of changes to the squad from last week. Quade Cooper, Michael Hooper and Sekope Kepu have been dropped to the bench while Scott Higginbotham, James Horwill and Drew Mitchell have been left out of the squad altogether. In addition, Will Genia (knee), Rob Horne (calf) and Matt Giteau (sternum) have been ruled out through injury. In terms of combinations, only the locking pair of Will Skelton and Rob Simmons have retained their partnership. Kurtley Beale has returned from injury and has been named on the bench. Greg Holmes gets his first start since 2007, with the set-piece likely to be important this weekend.
15. Israel Folau 14. Adam Ashley-Cooper 13. Tevita Kuridrani 12. Matt Toomua 11. Joe Tomane 10. Bernard Foley 9. Nick Phipps 8. Ben McCalman 7. David Pocock 6. Scott Fardy 5. Rob Simmons 4. Will Skelton 3. Greg Holmes 2. Stephen Moore 1. James Slipper
Reserves: 16. Tatafu Polota-Nau 17. Scott Sio 18. Sekope Kepu 19. Dean Mumm 20. Michael Hooper 21. Nic White 22. Quade Cooper 23. Kurtley Beale
Apart from a five minute passage of play when Agustín Creevy scored two tries from line-out mauls, Los Pumas were clearly second best last week against the All Blacks. They looked disorganised and were unable to repel the fluid All Blacks attack. For a team that prides itself on its forwards prowess, Argentina will also be disappointed by their scrum, which looked weak against New Zealand. They were up against the best side in the world, however, and Los Pumas did rest four front-line players for that clash. They won this fixture against Australia last year and will be hoping to pick up a win this week in what is arguably their only winnable fixture of this year’s Rugby Championship.
Australia won on the score-sheet, but the win almost felt like a loss last week, with the Springboks dominating proceedings until they rung the changes, including swapping out their entire front row. Up until that point the Springboks were clearly the better side at the breakdown and at scrum time. Quade Cooper had a mixed night at fly-half, with Matt Toomua looking more convincing when he replaced him in the second half. To be fair to the Wallabies, however, the Springboks did have a game under their belts already while the Wallabies can always be forgiven for showing some rust in their first Test of the season.
Michael Cheika is again experimenting with the squad this round, with some players who performed well last week, like James Horwill and Michael Hooper, being demoted. This approach is understandable, with Cheika probably more inclined to experiment against the Pumas than against the All Blacks where the Wallabies could risk a morale-sapping thrashing if they’re not at their best. No doubt the Wallabies will be looking for an improved forwards performance this week, with Los Pumas likely to provide them with a stern test. This may be the last chance for the likes of Will Skelton to impress, while David Pocock will be looking to assert himself as Australia’s number one openside flanker.
The Wallabies have won nine of their last ten against Argentina, however their one defeat was also their most recent meeting, at this very venue last year. With the Argentinan squad not yet announced at the time of writing, I’m not willing to comment yet on winning margins. Instead I would back the Wallabies in the head-to-head at 1.48 (CrownBet).