Death, taxes and New Zealand wins in rugby. Those are some of life’s certainties and the All Blacks are racing certainties to take another Rugby Championship title, with the best price offered of 1/7 for them to have another trophy by the end of the mid-summer highlight.
They look too strong for the chasing pack once again, although it will be interesting to see how Australia, boosted by a Blesidoe Cup win against their great rivals, and a progressive looking South Africa side that appears to be relishing the guidance of new coach Rassie Erasmus. South Africa are interesting 9/5 shots to finish second given that handicaps in matchups between them and Australia have all been in single figures, and that looks the best outright bet with both sides potentially posting a tougher challenge to New Zealand than last year.
2 pts South Africa to finish second to New Zealand (9/5 general)
Australia v New Zealand
Australia come here with real confidence thanks to their win in the third match between the two last year in Brisbane, due reward for a strong performance in last year’s Rugby Championship game when the two met in Dunedin. This fixture last year saw one of the most dominant performances of the year as New Zealand had eight tries on the board before an hour, but in the two games since the Wallabies went down by just six points in Dunedin and also won the third encounter.
New Zealand’s test series against the Lions could have given them an edge but Australia will not lack for match fitness after a hard-fought series against Grand Slam winners Ireland and whilst they lost the series the aggregate score was 55-55. The achievement of the Waratahs to make it to the semi-finals in Super Rugby should also encourage, with Michael Cheika’ key in all in form for this clash. To add to this, Australia held a trial match against an Australian Super Rugby XV to prepare.
Michael Hooper’s recovery from injury means that he will partner with David Pocock in one of the few backrow partnerships that can trouble the All Blacks and they won’t need many chances to get the ball to Will Genia and Bernard Foley, both of whom are having stellar seasons; This is a big game for Reece Hodge in the centres but he does have the influences of Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau around him.
New Zealand won their series with France 3-0 although refereeing decisions played a big part than many naturals will have wanted with a doubleheader of decisions changing their first and second tests when two sendings off essentially ended the games before they really pulled away 49-13 France.
In comparison to last year, many players started the series without a large amount of gametime and we should expect better from players such as Brodie Retallick, Jack Goodhue, and Joe Moody for a start here.
The side is now dominated by the Crusaders outfit that has down the last two Super Rugby titles and whilst they did have home advantage for the knockouts, their brutal beatings of the Hurricanes and Lions set a huge marker with Jack Goodhue, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, Richie Mo’unga, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor and Joe Moody all starring in their own way.
It is no surprise they are favourites but a handicap of 13 looks competitive for Australia and this could be an open counter. New Zealand to win by 1-12 points could be the value bet if the Wallabies are on their game.
Rieko Ioane scored five of New Zealand’s 19 tries against France and is a fair price at 10/11 to get on the scoresheet again, but Ben Smith scored in two of the three tests and both times he was first on the scoresheet. He’s 5/2 to score anytime and 18/1 to score first with SkyBet, although there is no each/way betting with them.
For Australia, Israel Folau is the obvious choice. The fullback runs his mouth off the pitch but remains world class on it.
1 pt New Zealand to win by 1-12 points (21/10 Betfair Sportsbook)
1 pt Ben Smith to score first (18/1 Sky Bet, 10/1 Paddy Power each/way)
1 pt Israel Folau to score a try (5/2 Betfred)
South Africa v Argentina
South Africa have had their ups and downs over the last year but under Rassie Erasmus they can be expected to progress and they have more going for them than Argentina, who have a new coach in Daniel Hourcade.
A change was desperately needed after a dire run of results saw the sack for Allister Coetzee whose only two wins in last year’s Championship came against the Pumas and the change has been dramatic based on the evidence of their 2-1 series win over England.
It should be said that England were struggling when they arrived and are not the same team as last year, but the improved performances are notable, and Argentina are in the same situation. An excellent season for the Jaguares had raised expectations ahead of their summer but they were blown away by Wales in their two test series despite a number of inexperienced caps for the visitors and then Scotland came and added on the punishment.
Mario Ledesma led the Jaguares to the quarter-finals in Super Rugby so is ideally placed to take straight over and improve the visitors, which ought to keep punters wary about underestimating them too much over the course of the coming weeks.
However, the first assignment could well be the hardest and travelling to a South Africa side with a winning feeling will be very tough and the hosts have lots of weapons. Faf de Klerk ran riot against England in June and looks big to score anytime at 10/3 whilst Willie Le Roux is one of the world’s best fullbacks, playing behind Makazole Mapimpi and Aphiwe Dyantyi on the wings, and they can get in behind Argentina.
The Springboks can win by 11-20 points, and also by more than 13 in the winning margin markets.
1 pt South Africa to win by 11-20 points (11/4 Betfair)
1 pt South Africa to win by 13+ (8/11 general)
1 pt Faf De Klerk to score a try (10/3 SkyBet)