Pumas and All Blacks to exceed expectations

Rugby Championship

Rugby Union
Published: 15/09/2012

It is the fourth round of the inaugural Rugby Championship and there is one favourite crying out to be opposed against the spread and one favourite worthy of handicap support.

The bad favourite is Australia, which entertains Argentina on the Gold Coast in the first match between the countries since Rugby World Cup 2003. Bookmakers have installed the Wallabies as around 12-point favourites and, although the hosts deserve to be the market leaders, a dozen points is a lot of them to give up against the hugely physical Pumas.

Without wishing to be unkind, Australia is not playing good enough rugby union to have anyone other than its most fervent fan backing it against such a large spread.

The Wallabies were absolutely no match for the All Blacks, both in Sydney and Auckland, and they were far from great in beating South Africa 26-19 in Perth last weekend. On a line through the Springboks, they should be giving away no more than a single-digit start to Argentina and it is telling that many of Australia`s forwards are talking up the Pumas pack, almost as if they are getting in their excuses early.

Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau has come out and labelled Argentina`s eight forwards as the best collective south of the equator which, if you know anything about the mindset of Australia`s rugby union team right now, is not a good thing. Polota-Nau and his Wallabies colleagues are not being polite for the sake of it. There is real concern within the camp.

The Wallabies will not relish the physicality of the Pumas, who played the conditions in Wellington last weekend and got under the skin of the All Blacks to such an extent that they were only four points adrift of the world champions with 15 minutes to go. Eventually, they slumped to a 5-21 defeat.

Argentina cries out to be supported in receipt of 12 points. The spread, theoretically, is four or five points too wide and Australia, without its first-choice halfback and a lot of regular forwards, may not have the firepower to score sufficient points to reward its handicap followers.

The Rugby Championship`s other match this weekend sees New Zealand tackle South Africa in Dunedin. The weather in the South Island city is wet and windy but the new Forsyth Barr Stadium has a retractable roof which, according to reports, will be closed for the duration of the match, a situation that will suit the All Blacks more than the Springboks.

Bookmakers are asking New Zealand to give up around two converted tries to South Africa and, while 14 looks like a lot of points, the All Blacks on a dry track and chastened by their close call versus Argentina are worth backing to cover the spread against a struggling Springboks side.

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer has spoken like a loser in the days leading up to the Dunedin match, saying that the Springboks will need plenty of luck to beat New Zealand on home soil. That is not the attitude that one wants to see and hear from the leader of a proud rugby union nation.

The Springboks are making all the noises that one associates with a team beaten before the first whistle. If they are not in the right head space - and that seems to be the case - they could cop a hammering from an All Blacks side eager to make amends for playing without much cohesion last weekend.

Superstar five-eighth Daniel Carter is still out of the New Zealand but the recall of Piru Weepu at halfback is a plus, with the haka leader rewarded for his excellent performance off the bench versus the Pumas. His promotion is welcome.

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Any odds displayed within this article were correct at the time of publishing (15/09/2012) but are subject to change.

15/09/2012     © Frixo 2019

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