Black night looms unless the Wallabies are at their best
The move from the Tri Nations to an expanded Rugby Championship does many things. One of them isn’t opening up the title odds by bringing Argentina into the equation.
Rank outsiders at $81, the focus will rightly be on New Zealand ($1.50), Australia and South Africa (both $4.75) to take out the competition in its inaugural year.
Back to Los Pumas in a minute – but the focus right now is the All Blacks and Wallabies who meet at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.
Any way you look at it the game sets the scene for the whole series for Australia.
Win in Sydney and there’s actually some scope to take out the Bledisloe for the first time since 2002, and perhaps even the tournament. The home side will bank on a two from three start with the All Blacks to follow at Eden Park where they haven’t won since 1986. Next is a winnable game against the Springboks in Perth.
The additional Test against the All Blacks in Brisbane on October 20 represents the first time the green and gold have enjoyed two home games in a best of three series since 1998 – a year they won Bledisloe.
Recent history backs up the All Blacks ($1.45) being commanding favourites over Australia ($2.75). The Kiwis have enjoyed a 20-6 run in the past decade. Three Wallabies wins have however come in Sydney during this time, suggesting where’s there’s light – and perhaps a hard pitch – there’s hope. Problem is even if the home side avoid an attritional battle in the forwards they’ve got two monsters in Ma’a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams in the centres. The match-up with relative lightweights Anthony Faingaa and Rob Horne could be brutal. Kurtley Beale offers X-factor but with no James O’Connor and no spot for Quade Cooper on the bench it shapes as a Black night.
South Africa also start their campaign this weekend with a match against Argentina. The Springboks ($1.15) haven’t lost to the Pumas ($5.50) in 13 attempts and it’s hard to see that changing in Cape Town. The retirement of Victor Matfield hurts but coupled with the unavailability of Juan Smith and Schalk Burger the Boks may be a bit green for an overall this year. If nothing else this match should at least offer indication of what we can expect from the once forgotten child of world rugby during this tournament.
What we do know is the Argies appreciate the familiar. They’re good at home and also against France (where almost their entire squad plays). It’s safe to forget about an away victory for them this year –but look closely at the form lines when they’re on their own patch. They’ve never beaten the All Blacks either but the last two home losses were by four and six points respectively while they’ve enjoyed four wins over the Wallabies. The banana skin match for Australia could be the last game of a long campaign when they tackle the Pumas on October 6 in Rosario.1,074 views