Boks to cap off week from hell for Wallabies

The Rugby Championship

Rugby Union
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Published: 28/09/2012

Australian rugby union has had a week from hell so it makes sense to oppose the Wallabies, both straight up and against the spread, when they tackle the Springboks in Pretoria.

Bookmakers have installed South Africa as the 4-9 match favourite, with Australia receiving around a converted try in handicap betting on the Rugby Championship game.

They do not seem to have gone hard enough on the Wallabies, whose preparations have been interrupted by the outbursts of injured five-eighth Quade Cooper, first on Twitter and then on Australian television in an extraordinary interview.

Cooper used the online social networking service to tell his more than 500,000 followers that he was frustrated with what he described as a "toxic environment" within the Australian Rugby Union, the sport`s domestic governing body. Also, he criticised Australia`s style of play under Robbie Deans.

But Cooper`s Twitter comments were nothing compared to the bombshell that he dropped on Australian television. The controversial Reds fly-half said that he would have refused to play versus the Springboks had he been fit and selected.

Deans and the Wallabies players in South Africa have had to field question after question regarding Cooper in the lead up to Saturday`s big game and surely it has proved to be a most unwelcome distraction ahead of a major examination.

About the only positive thing to have come out of the Cooper affair is that it has taken away much of the attention that would be on Kurtley Beale otherwise. Deans is taking a huge gamble on playing the Waratahs back at five-eighth because James O`Connor is injured and he has decided that he wants to play Berrick Barnes elsewhere. Pretoria is not the ideal place for anyone, particularly someone as inconsistent as Beale, to play their first Test match as a fly-half.

Everything needs to go right for Australia to defeat the Springboks in Pretoria. It is significant that while the Wallabies have won seven of the last eight clashes between the southern hemisphere superpowers, their only loss was a 33-41 reverse at Loftus Versfeld in August 2010. Indeed, never have they beaten the Springboks in the capital.

Back South Africa to put the icing on what has been a bad week for Deans by beating Australia by double digits.

Argentina entertains New Zealand in the other game in the penultimate round of the inaugural Rugby Championship, a match for which the Pumas are around 14.5-point underdogs.

The ledger between Argentina and the All Blacks stands at 14 wins to New Zealand and one draw but, based on a 14.5-point line, the Pumas would have rewarded handicap backers in five of the six meetings played in the South American country.

The All Blacks have not been at their fluid best during the Rugby Championship, winning their four games but not scoring more than 27 points in any match. Daniel Carter is back at five-eighth for the raging favourites and that is a plus for them but Argentina has a very good pack of forwards and they are worth a small interest in receipt of such a large start.

The Pumas are even more formidable than they were going into their previous six home games versus New Zealand so history suggests that they have a good chance of winning against the spread even if a straight-up success is pretty unlikely.


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