The Wallabies are stepping into a potential ambush in Mendoza with the clash against Argentina on Sunday morning (AEST). The Pumas are now coached by former Wallabies boss Michael Cheika, who both understands how the Aussies tick but has also been responsible for instant success with his new team.
The opening weekend of The Rugby Championship also pits the chastened All Blacks against world champions South Africa at high altitude.
What’s in store? Jim Tucker previews the action with his Argentina vs Australia preview and betting tips below!
Argentina vs Australia Rugby International
Estadio Malvinas, Mendoza, Sunday August 6, 5:10am (AEST)
The Wallabies should still be cursing letting England off the hook after leading the recent series 1-0. Coach Dave Rennie cursed wasted chances in the two losing Tests that followed as well as not making more of counter-attack opportunities and smarter choices off turnover ball.
There are some key personnel changes. Losing powerhouse centre Samu Kerevi (knee) for the rest of the season is a massive blow because he was such a reliable metre-gainer. Most of all, it means that the Kerevi-Quade Cooper combination, which absolutely clicked last season, won’t get on the park at all in 2022.
Cooper is back for this Test after July’s calf issues. That is a massive plus for the creativity it will add to the side with his silky passing, organisation and game management. All those things are still work-ons for young Noah Lolesio.
Flyhalf Cooper will have some running punch outside him with Hunter Paisami at inside centre and a hungry back three (Tom Wright, Jordie Petaia and Marika Koroibete) looking to roam.
The pack looks strong even after losing Dave Porecki (concussion) at training this week. The addition of new cap Jed Holloway in the backrow adds an extra lineout jumper of quality. He is a good ball-carrier and link player. At 29, he’s also experienced enough not to be fazed by the zealous pro-Pumas crowd. Fans have resorted to lasers trained on goalkickers to put them off in the past.
The Wallabies will need to step up at scrum time which is a traditional Argentinian strength. Having prop Taniela Tupou come off the bench should guarantee the Wallabies’ scrum stays secure throughout.
The Wallabies got excellent punch from their bench, most notably in the Perth Test against England when their three tries were all scored by super subs. Again, having Tupou, lock Nick Frost and backrower Pete Samu on the bench makes the “finishers” look an asset.
Argentina’s last victory on Argentinian soil over the Wallabies was at the same ground in 2014 with a 21-17 win.
The Pumas have been revitalised under Cheika. They came back from 28-13 down in the deciding Test against Scotland in July to win with a try on the bell. That’s a super turnaround considering the Pumas lost all six of their matches in The Rugby Championship when based in Queensland last year.
The three Tests against Scotland were the squad’s first Tests on home soil for nearly three years because of COVID. The joy was unbridled so the Wallabies will have to contend with passion and power at full blast.
The Pumas have some real trumps in winger Emiliano Boffelli and rising young flyhalf Santiago Carreras.
We all saw how good flanker Pablo Matera was for the Crusaders when he shared in a Super Rugby Pacific title. He's back playing for his country. He’s world class.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie believes the Pumas are kicking less under Cheika. What they will do well...pick-and-drive passages in the Wallabies quarter and going up the middle with neat passing interchanges and offloads.
This one is going to be close. The Wallabies will have to be on to avoid an ambush.
At TAB.com.au, hooker Folau Fainga’a at $2.40 for an “Anytime Try” is a good bet because the Wallabies will try driving mauls off 5m lineouts. Australia to win by 1-14 at $2.40 is solid too because there is no way this will be a blowout.
Argentina at $3.50 to win by 1-14 points is teasing value for anyone sensing a Wallabies’ slip-up.
Wallabies 1-14 points
$2.40 (3 units)
South Africa v New Zealand Rugby International
Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit, Sunday August 6, 1:05am (AEST)
The All Blacks have rarely copped a spray like the one since they lost the series to Ireland. Assistant coaches have been sacked, head coach Ian Foster is fighting for his coaching life and players are feeling the heat too.
Coach Foster has made four changes to the starting line-up which lost the final Test to Ireland last month. Only lock Brodie Retallick is missing for an injury reason. Hooker Codie Taylor, prop Nepo Laulala and winger Sevu Reece have missed out. Lock Scott Barrett, tank-like hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho, prop Angus Ta’avao and winger Caleb Clarke come in.
At high altitude, the ball travels further so there is great value on a smart long kicking game which brings the 50-22 into play more. The Kiwis have to modify their game to win this. Can they is the big question.
It’s rare to ever see the All Blacks as outsiders in a Test so take the $2.05 for a bounceback win. The Springboks will be physical and box-kick happy but expect a Kiwi rally.
The 'Boks have named a pack built around their 2019 World Cup champions. Faf de Klerk is back at halfback but wing wonder Cheslin Kolbe is missing with a broken jaw. So disappears much of the team's ad-lib backline sparkle.
New Zealand WIN
$2.05 (3 units)