Free Picks: Australia vs. South Africa 2013 Rugby Championship

Richard O'Hagan

Wednesday, September 4, 2013 7:08 PM GMT

Wednesday, Sep. 4, 2013 7:08 PM GMT

Can Australia finally get off the mark in the 2013 Rugby Championship, or will South Africa make it three wins out of three?

Don't forget to check out our New Zealand vs. Argentina match report, part of Round 3 of the 2013 Rugby Championship!

Australia will be hugely disappointed to be going into this game without a point to their name. With a new coach, Ewen McKenzie, in place and coming off a better than expected showing against the British and Irish Lions, they were hopeful of making a real run at the trophy this year.

However, they started poorly, a porous defence letting them down in their opening game against New Zealand and then turning in an improved but still unsuccessful performance in the return fixture the following week. Their only hope of even a share of the title is to win their remaining four games and hope that South Africa turn over the All Blacks – twice.

McKenzie makes just three changes for this game, the most significant of which sees fly half Quade Cooper make his first international start for 12 months. The New Zealand-born number 10, an enigmatic and sometimes divisive presence, was very definitely persona non grata by the end of the previous regime, but his experience and sleight of hand could be vital against a fired up Springbok side.

His inclusion also allows code-switching star Israel Folau to move to full back. His limited international experience in this game has been on the wing, but many believe that his best position is in the 15 jersey, which will allow the best opportunity for him to exploit his skills under the high ball as well as the electrifying pace which did so much damage to the Lions.

South Africa have also made changes, five of them for the side which played in Argentina last time out. Veteran hooker Bismarck du Plessis returns at hooker as the Springboks gear up to take on the much improved Australian pack, but the more significant change could be at full back, where Zane Kirchner returns from injury. Willie le Roux moves to the wing to accommodate him and with record-setting try-scorer Bryan Habana on the other flank the Springboks have given themselves a formidable back three capable of exploiting the defensive weaknesses that the All Blacks so cruelly exposed.

This promises to be one of the closest matches of this year’s Rugby Championship. Australia are currently 4/6 with William Hill to win, with South Africa 13/8 at Stan James. That makes for odd reading, because of the respective positions of the two sides in the table. Some will point to the fact that Australia have played their two hardest games and South Africa their two easiest; others will mention that the game is in Brisbane, with the famous ‘Wall of Noise’ support for the home team. Neither really adds up, though. On current form South Africa are the better team and therefore the better rugby pick.

There’s a very open first try scorer market on this game. Folau is favourite, but at 11/1 betting odds with Coral you can back a fair few candidates and still have a good chance of making a profit at the end of the day. If you were going to make just one bet then Habana at 12/1 with Paddy Power is the sports pick to go for. The veteran back is just too good at poaching tries to ignore.

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