The penultimate matches in the 2017 competition, with New Zealand going into the weekend played four, won four. Will this time be any different? Find out here as capper breaks down Round 5.
Games this weekend are as follows, all prices are from Bet365.
South Africa v Australia
Saturday 30th September, Bloemfontein, KO 16:05 (BST time)
Round 5 of the Rugby Championship sees South Africa host Australia in Bloemfontein on Saturday. When the teams met earlier in the tournament the game finished in a draw but despite a subsequent record hiding in New Zealand, the Springboks start as favorites at sportsbooks.
After the 57-0 humiliation at the hands of the All Blacks in Round 4, South Africa are now 8 points behind New Zealand in the standings but still hold the second spot in the table. The floodgates opened around 15 minutes into the game in Albany, the visitors were more than 30 points down by halftime and the All Blacks didn’t let up, making a mockery of the pre-match handicap which had been set at around 18.5 points.
South Africa return home for this game and the Round 6 clash with New Zealand in Cape Town. The All Blacks are highly likely to sew up the title later in the weekend (unless they come unstuck in Argentina) but given the Springbok are 3 points better off than the Wallabies, victory here would at least secure the runners-up spot.
Prior to the disastrous day in Albany South Africa were unbeaten in 2017 after recording a 3-0 clean sweep of France in June, back to back wins over Los Pumas in the first 2 rounds of this tournament and the draw in the first clash with Australia. On the betting front, they would have been worth backing on the handicap in all of those games.
Australia secured a first win of the tournament at home to Argentina last time out, finishing strongly after finding themselves behind at the halftime interval. They scored 6 tries to 2 against Los Pumas to secure a bonus point, cover the minus handicap set in the low teens and keep hopes of finishing as runners-up alive. Prior to the draw with South Africa, the Wallabies played the All Blacks twice and they impressed in 3 of the 4 halves of rugby. In Round 2 Australia was given the best part of 30 points start on the handicap in Dunedin and they came agonizingly close to pulling off a major upset, eventually going down 35-29 with the All Blacks scoring a late try. In Round 1 New Zealand had looked likely to inflict a major embarrassment on their rivals in Sydney before a second-half Wallaby fight-back reduced the deficit to 20 points (54-34).
The Wallabies haven’t won in South Africa in the four-nation Rugby Championship era and the 18-10 defeat at Loftus 12 months ago is the narrowest margin of 4 successive defeats. Their last victory in SA came in 2011 in Durban.
Odds for this game are South Africa -225, Australia +2200 and South Africa are priced at -7 points at -110on the handicap. I am going to back Australia +7 for my betting pick, not that I expect them to win but I do expect the game to be close between two evenly matched sides.
Argentina v New Zealand
Sunday 1st October, Buenos Aires, KO 11:40 pm (BST)
Round 5 of the Rugby Championship sees Argentina host New Zealand in Buenos Aires. The All Blacks have rested some of their regulars but the handicap suggests they should still win comfortably.
Los Pumas had their noses in front at half-time away to the Wallabies in the previous round but they came under serious pressure as the match wore on and ended up on the losing side once again. The 45-20 defeat leaves Los Pumas played four lost four with this game and another home fixture against the Wallabies to come. Anything other than a mighty surprise here will leave Argentina with the wooden spoon.
In Round 3 in New Plymouth Argentina were 22-15 in front before the All Blacks finished strongly to run out winners 39-22 ( pre-match handicap 29.5 points).
New Zealand’s 57-0 demolition of South Africa in Round 4 has put them in touching distance of securing the title. Indeed if the Sprinboks fail to beat Australia before this game takes place then New Zealand’s 8 point lead at the top of the table will already be sufficient ahead of their final match in Cape Town. The All Blacks have won all 4 of their matches so far and 3 were accompanied by a bonus point. After a tough season including the British and Irish Lions tests Sam Whitelock Brodie Retallick, Liam Squire, Sam Cane, Beauden Barrett and Ryan Crotty have been rested from the traveling party.
In their last 4 visits to Argentina in the Rugby Championship, New Zealand have recorded bonus-point wins and the average winning margin across those 4 games stands at 24 points. New Zealand have won all 24 of the other head to heads (any venue, any competition).
Outright odds here are prohibitive, New Zealand is -1200 to win the game and -22 at -110 on the points handicap. With New Zealand in their current form, and with players keen to impress on the side, -22 looks an eminently beatable handicap line.