Couch Critic puts up his best bets for the international rugby matches taking place on Saturday 17th August including New Zealand v Australia, South Africa v Argentina and Wales v England
Confidence of a Kiwi backlash was miss-placed as New Zealand were well and truly handed a hiding. Yes there was a detrimental red card but the fact of the matter was that the lethal version of the New Zealanders was nowhere to be seen. In Argentina there was further Salt(a) in my wounds as the Boks were on another level in dismantling their South Americans opponents.
New Zealand vs Australia (Saturday @ 09:35) - Auckland
Eden Park will play host to one heck of a fiery re-match between these two old rivals. The Aussies were able to physically get stuck into the All Blacks to a level we’ve hardly seen from them before. Strangely enough Hansen hasn’t really rung the changes. Seevu Reece and George Bridge will get runs on the wing whilst Sonny Bill returns in midfield. In the pack there is only the injury-enforced inclusion of Tuipulotu and a chance for Nepo Laulala to impress.
A four-point win over Argentina, a draw against South Africa and egg on the face against the Wallabies. We are now only a few test weeks away from entering the Rugby World Cup and the All Blacks go into the big event with seemingly more questions than answers. Can the duel-playmaker role with Mo’unga-Barrett hit its straps in time? Is Ardie an effective openside? Is there enough depth without Brodie and Scot Barrett? Can SBW find his best? Is the Kiwi pack still dominant enough to lay a solid platform for them to play from? The men in Black will be under pressure to comfort their supporters on some of these topics with what they produce at Eden Park.
The Aussies were able to physically get themselves up and impose themselves on the New Zealanders. The liked of Samu Kerevi, Koroibete, Naisarani and Tolu Latu have brought the physicality but now they need to show that they can back it up from one week to the next. Nic White and James O’Connor were interesting selections from Cheika and both came good last week – but was it purely a flash in the pan or can they back it up this week?
Verdict: There is no more hiding for Hansen and his chargers. The All Black coach said they would target the Bledisloe Cup and that they would peek for the World Cup… Well Steve, your time is running out and you need to start answering some questions between those white lines on the pitch.
South Africa v Argentina (Saturday @ 17:05) – Pretoria
South Africa sewed up the Rugby Championship with a clinical victory over the Argentines last week. This time around Los Pumas have to travel away from their home comforts but they do so to face a very experimental Bok outfit.
Verdict: Argentina will not be satisfied with their performance last week and they can’t afford another hammering at the hands of the Springboks. All of the Argentines involved in this one should be going to the World Cup whilst the same can’t necessarily be said of the home side. The South Americans should put up a spirited fight, at least initially.
WALES vs ENGLAND (Saturday @ 15:15) – Cardiff
A somewhat experimental English team had too much fire power for the Welsh last week. This time around Wales will enjoy the home advantage but they also have to square off against a strong looking England side who appear to very much be in full-on World Cup mode already. At the current price England offer some value.
Note, odds quoted are available at the time of writing but are subject to change