There’s nothing like upsetting the World Cup champions to restore some positive vibes around the Wallabies. Michael Hooper’s Australians have now won a couple of really tight ones against South Africa and France this season which is great to embed in the DNA of any side. So can the Wallabies topple the Springboks for a second time at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday in The Rugby Championship?
Sat, September 18, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane 5.05pm (AEST)
We found a $5 winner on the Gold Coast last weekend with the tip for the Wallabies to win by 1-12 points. The sports bookies got that one wrong. That same margin bet is still the best value for this Test with the Wallabies at $4.20 (TAB) to win in a close finish. The Springboks are $2.70 to win by 1-12 so you can conceivably still win by backing both.
There are some significant factors in play. The Wallabies love playing at Suncorp Stadium with the fast surface and a close, uplifting atmosphere that pushes the team to the final minute of the first half and to the 80th minute. It resonates in nine straight wins at Suncorp Stadium (including two over the All Blacks) when the Wallabies’ overall record worldwide over the same period is much closer to 50 per cent. The early 5.05pm kick-off will suit the Aussies with almost afternoon conditions enhancing their greater ball-in-hand strategies. That said, the Wallabies kicked more than normal against the Springboks last weekend and will again on Saturday to grab territory and keep the game out of their own half. As well as Tate McDermott has been playing, the change-up to start Nic White is still a strong move. He has a better kick and pass.
McDermott’s sniping when injected for the final 30 minutes against some big, tiring South African bodies can be a game-changer. You have to like the call to start prop Taniela Tupou. He was the big presence in that dominant scrum on full-time that helped win last weekend’s Test. We haven’t mentioned Quade Cooper yet. He had a marvelous game to beat the Boks last weekend and much of it was built around not overplaying his hand. There were no fending contacts with the defence and ball-dangling arms looking to squeeze 50-50 offloads. He played smart, passed sharply, used Samu Kerevi well and has never kicked better for the sticks (eight-from-eight). From the South African side, flyhalf Handre Pollard has rarely kicked worse (four-from-seven) and they only lost by two points.
It might have been Cooper’s boot that got the Wallabies home last weekend but the pack was mighty. Earning scrum penalties, Izack Rodda pinching a lineout throw, Rob Valetini throwing himself into it, Hooper winning turnovers and making some good metres...give the pack kudos. There will be a fierce bounce-back from the Springbok forwards and you’d expect that halfback Faf de Klerk isn’t going to twice kick out on the full. Some will call the Boks’ game plan boring but efficiently doing what you do best is also called playing smart. The Boks really do miss injured Cheslin Kolbe’s ability to score a try from nothing. The Boks scored three rolling maul tries off lineouts on the Gold Coast and will happily score four at Suncorp without throwing a single pass if they have to for a win. That’s why it’s imperative the Wallabies kick well to keep play down the other end. The Wallabies are up for another good showing at their favourite ground.
Sat, September 18, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane 8.05pm (AEST)
The All Blacks have made mass changes, 11 in all from the side that beat Argentina 39-0 on the Gold Coast. This is not disrespect but the practical reaction to having to play five Tests in a row, a six-day turnaround and needing the right petrol to meet the South Africans in back-to-back Tests on September 25 and October 2.
Playing stocks are ridiculously high when Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett aren’t at flyhalf and you still get to pick quicksilver Damian McKenzie. It’s the same in the backrow where bringing in Hoskins Sotutu and Ethan Blackadder is hardly going backwards.
The Argentinians will challenge the revamped All Blacks pack at the set pieces and make life difficult for new All Blacks hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho. You have to back an All Blacks’ win but it’s hard to see value at $1.85 for the Kiwis to cover a 25.5-point start (TAB). Better to look for a try-scorer.
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