New Zealand won the third Bledisloe Cup test of the year by the skin of their teeth but Al Blacks fan will be anticipating a much easier time against Argentina as the Rugby Championship returns.
Steve Hansen’s side were scarcely believable when they thrashed the Wallabies top open the Championship, scoring a point a minute for the first 50, and after that all the talk had been about just how big the winning margin would be in Dunedin.
But the Wallabies came roaring back, taking a 17-0 lead that was cut down to 17-14 at half time, and then showing the mental fortitude to come back and take the lead twice in the second half, including with under five minutes to go thanks to a fine try by Kurtley Beale. However, the cool of the All Blanks and the kicking of Beauden Barrett, who also scored two tries, including the match-winner with three minutes to go, was the eventual difference in another thrilling test.
That Wallaby backlash was a commendable effort from Cheika’s men, but bookmakers expect things to be easier for them against the Pumas.
It hasn’t been a great 2017 for Argentina, who lost two tests to a hybrid England side and then came off comfortably beaten when they faced South Africa over the first two weeks of the Championship. They got within a converted try with 20 minutes to go in Port Elizabeth but never truly had the Springboks flustered and two late tries were due reward for dominance in the physical aspect of the game.
More worryingly, in their home game their indiscipline cost them with Thomas Lavanini and Juan Manuel Leguizamon being sent to the sin bin and Lavanini being sent off for a deliberate knockdown which was his second yellow card offence. That helped the Springboks to another handsome win where once again their pack (which does appear refreshed) dominated, but if they are as reckless once again then the All Blacks will likely have a field day.
The All Black backs have had a field day over the first two matchdays with 13 tries between them, and the anytime tryscorer market could well be the best option once again. Every member of the first-choice backline has dotted down at least once and the two wingers could be most likely to fill their boots with Rieko Ioane having three tries to his name already, Ben Smith’s sabbatical could allow Damian McKenzie to thrive again like he did in the first test, and it also brings back the quick footed and silver stepped Nehe Milner-Skudder back into the fold, the Hurricane wing should be ready to fill his boot on his return to the international stage.
and then the success that Elton Jantjies had should encourage Beauden Barrett to get involved once again and look for tries.
In terms of the winning margins, a handicap of 30 points appears fair given that South Africa beat Argentina by 22 and 18 points in their two games and those who are more conservative might try to dutch the 21-30 and 31-40 winning margins.
1 pt New Zealand to win by 21-30 points (10/3 Betfair)
1 pt New Zealand to win by 31-40 points (7/2 Betfair)
1 pt Nehe Milner-Skudder to score a try (8/11 general)