South Africa is unquestionably the second best team in rugby union right now and it is worth backing at odds of 1.67 with Stan James to beat Wales at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
Wales has not had much joy against South Africa, with the Dragons having lost 24 of their 26 matches against the Springboks, including going down 16-17 during the 2011 Rugby World Cup in which they ended up reaching the semi-finals.
Although Wales is the Six Nations champion, it is the third strongest side in Europe according to the International Rugby Board rankings that take into account all matches played over a prolonged period. According to the IRB’s number crunchers, Wales is sixth in the world on 81.36 rating points and South Africa is second on 87.86 rating points. The statisticians says that home advantage is worth three rating points in its system so, even allowing for the game taking place in Wales, the Dragons are big underdogs in the eyes of the people who keep the rankings up to date.
Bookmakers are betting on the match between Wales and South Africa as though the Springboks will win it by a penalty goal so clearly, given the head-to-head record between the teams and the IRB rankings, there is an argument for the Springboks being overpriced at odds of 1.67 to prevail.
England may have been lucky to beat Australia seven days ago – the Wallabies were robbed by a number of contentious video referee decisions – but Stuart Lancaster’s side has a decent chance of covering the spread versus Argentina at Twickenham because bookmakers are asking it to give up only 13 and a half points. Ladbrokes is offering odds of 2.00 that England defeats Argentina by more than two converted tries.
According to the IRB rankings, England is the world’s number three team on 86.31 rating points and Argentina is ranked in 10th position on 75.50 rating points. So the IRB’s number crunchers are expecting England to win and win well. Also, Argentina tends to produce its worst results against sides that are able to match it up front. For example, witness how Argentina lost 13-73 away to South Africa during this year’s Rugby Championship. England’s pack of forwards is top class, particularly at scrum time, and so one ought to be looking to back the home team to cover the spread. And remember that any sports event between England and Argentina carries a bit of spice because of the 1982 Falklands War and the 1986 FIFA World Cup tie in which Diego Maradona’s Hand of God goal was the difference. Very few people in England acknowledge that Maradona scored one of the world’s greatest-ever goals four minutes later, beating Peter Beardsley, Terry Fenwick, Peter Reid and Terry Butcher (twice) before dribbling round Peter Shilton and slotting the ball into the back of the net.
England toured Argentina earlier this year and won both of the Test matches – 32-2 in Salta and 51-26. The sides that will run out at Twickenham will be vastly different to the ones that contested the games in South America five months ago – England was missing its British and Irish Lions stars and Argentina went into the Rugby Championship with a fresh look – but those are the kind of margins that one should expect when the Three Lions play the Pumas in England.
After all, the difference between England’s touring party and its full-strength team is probably greater than that between the side that Argentina put out in June 2013 and the one that it will field at Twickenham. Bookmakers should have installed England as 25-point favourites so back Lancaster’s men to out one of their country’s old enemies to the sword.
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