Free Picks: New Zealand vs. South Africa 2013 Rugby Championship

Richard O'Hagan

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 8:54 PM GMT

It is the first clash of the titans of the Rugby Championship this weekend, as favourites New Zealand host table-topping South Africa.

Don't forget to check out our Australia vs. Argentina match report, part of Round 4 of the 2013 Rugby Championship!

The 2013 Rugby Championship hasn’t gone exactly to plan. It was supposed to be something of a stroll in the park for New Zealand, an easy contest or six for the reigning world champions against three sides who haven’t had the best of times recently. Instead, they don’t even find themselves topping the table and had to battle through a tough game against the weakest side in the competition in Round Three.

South Africa top the table by virtue of their two bonus point wins, at home to Argentina and away to Australia. They will be buzzing after their first win on Australian soil in this competition, and indeed their first win there this century. The clinical way in which they absorbed Australian pressure for the first two-thirds of the game and then destroyed them with the speed of their attacks thereafter will have put the All Blacks in mind of…well, themselves, really.

From New Zealand’s perspective, they will have been surprised by how hard they were pushed by Argentina last weekend. Admittedly the weather conditions in Hamilton were not good, but they should not have been that much of a leveller when the best side in the world had almost a full strength XV out against a side which had until then been perceived as being on the slide.

Perhaps more significantly, the All Blacks also lost their captain, Richie McCaw, during that game. Having taken a part of the winter off to ensure that he was at full fitness for this competition, McCaw and New Zealand will be gutted to now miss at least a month with damaged knee ligaments. The All Blacks have a readymade replacement in Waikato flanker Sam Cane, so often McCaw’s deputy over the past couple of years,. But Cane's been short of match practice over the past few months (even Waikato used him as an impact replacement during the final weeks of the Super Rugby competition) and he’s going to have to go the full 80 minutes against the brilliant Francois Louw and the rising star of South African play, Silya Kolisi. It is a big task.

Nonetheless, sports betting markets have the All Blacks as big favourites to win this game, putting them at 1/4 odds with most bookmakers. South Africa, meanwhile, are a surprisingly generous 3/1 at BetVictor.

Not only that, but the same bookmaker will give you 9/1 betting odds on a South African victory from behind, with New Zealand leading at the interval. In fact, if you’re prepared to risk the All Blacks leading all the way not happening (at odds of just 4/6), then the prices are at 6/1 bar this event, which has to be worth considering.

Then, if you really fancy the Springboks’ chances of just shading this one, then you can get 13/2 almost across the board upon them winning by between 1 and 5 points. Again, though, the odds on a home win for the All Blacks are, as ever, not generous and you might then need to look elsewhere still if you want to back them.

In that case, your safest rugby pick is almost certainly the first scoring play market. A penalty goal for the home side is always a good one to go for in any game, but especially where the hosts are short priced favourites anyway. At 13/8 with Bet365 that still won’t yield a huge return, but it is the best bet you are going to get on the All Blacks this time out.

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