I am really looking forward to the year-end internationals and matches don’t get much bigger than Ireland against South Africa in Dublin on Saturday.
The Irish had a slightly disappointing Six Nations campaign, but they beat France by 10 and England by 4 points at home in low scoring encounters. We only have to go back a year to when they stunned New Zealand in the USA and then gave them a stiff challenge back at home.
The Boks will be hoping for a much better showing than what they delivered on last years tour when they were beaten by the likes of Italy in a disastrous tour. They have shown signs of improvement this year with a comfortable mid-year home win over France and in the Rugby Championship they drew twice to Australia and were hammered away by New Zealand before nearly beating the All Blacks at home.
When I handicapped this game I made the Irish -6.5 points and I have been a bit surprised to see that punters in the Goodforthegame forum appear to be favouring the Boks at the current line of Ireland -3.5.
I am not sure what others are seeing in this Bok team that I am not and while heartened by their display at Newlands in their last start I feel they have it all to do against an Ireland team that are well coached and will be targeting this game as a make or break for their November schedule which includes lower profile opponents like Fiji and Argentina.
These sides last met in South Africa in 2016 and the Boks had to come from a test down to win the series 2-1. I happened to catch the highlights on Supersport and was reminded that the Irish won the 1st test despite playing some of it with 13 men and most of it with 14 after the Stander red card.
Ireland have won 3 of the last 5 games against the Boks in Dublin and the last of these wins came in 2014 when they won by 14 points. I am expecting something similar here and am all over the -3.5 Ireland meaning I need a home win by 4 points or more.
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This article was written for the CitiGaming supplement of the Citizen Newspaper and was published on the 9th of November 2017.