Ewen McKenzie’s nightmare start to coaching Australia could be about to get even worse as the Wallabies travel to Cape Town to play South Africa three weeks after the Springboks won the reverse Rugby Championship game by a record score.
McKenzie could not help himself in the media conference not long after the final whistle signalled Australia’s 12-38 loss to South Africa in Brisbane, lamenting the efforts of his Wallabies players and suggesting that he may have to dumb down his tactics in order for his team to grasp them.
It was a remarkable spray from a coach as considered in his view as McKenzie and, given the manner in which Australia struggled to beat Rugby Championship lightweight Argentina in its next home match, one could say that it did not have the desired. Sure, Australia won by 14-13 but a one-point home victory over Argentina cannot be celebrated as a triumph, particularly as the Wallabies were lucky.
Now Australia heads across the Indian Ocean to face a South Africa side that firmly believes that it has the wood on the Wallabies after smashing it at the breakdown earlier this month. Australia conceded 18 turnovers to South Africa’s 12 and, although the Wallabies made the Springboks made 35 more tackles, the hosts scored no tries and the visitors scored four tries. Basically, Australia gave away too much ball and did not have the ability to puncture South Africa’s defence, with the Springboks restricting the Wallabies to the four penalty goals that Christian Lealiifano kicked perfectly.
Australia flanker Michael Hooper has declared that he and his Wallabies teammates will be flying into the breakdowns at Newlands but that sounds little more than paper talk. So comprehensive was South Africa’s victory over Australia at Suncorp Stadium that it is unthinkable that the Springboks will lose in front of their Cape Town fans. Since South Africa returned to the international sports arena, the Springboks have played Australia’s Wallabies six times at Newlands, winning all bar the first clash in 1992. South Africa beat Australia 29-17 in Cape Town four years ago and a repeat of that result on Saturday 28 September 2013 would see the Springboks cover the spread with most bookmakers.
Backing South Africa against Australia on a handicap line of 11 points at odds of 2.00 with Sportingbet appeals in the circumstances. All bar one comparative form line from this year’s Rugby Championship puts South Africa miles in front of Australia and that is without accounting for the benefit that the Springboks derive from playing on home turf. And remember that South Africa was unfortunate not to push New Zealand closer than 15-29 in Auckland two weeks ago, with Springboks hooker Bismarck du Plessis being sent off early in the second half when the All Blacks led only 10-17.
Of the South Africa versus Australia exotics, the Wallabies have scored only four tries in their four Rugby Championship games this year – one fewer than Argentina and a dozen off the pace that South Africa has set. Also, Australia’s last six scores against South Africa, irrespective of venue, have been 20, nine, nine, 19, eight and 12. It really does look as if Australia will struggle to score 10 points in the entire match, let alone beat South Africa to the milestone. Coral is offering odds of 1.44 that South Africa wins the race to 10 points and that is a non-handicap way of getting with the Springboks at something like a half-decent price.
New Zealand’s All Blacks travel to Argentina to take on the Pumas in the other Rugby Championship game, with the Rugby World Cup champions giving up about two converted tries on handicap lines. New Zealand has either kicked Argentina’s butt or struggled to get over the line in South America – for example, the All Blacks won 54-15 last year but only 25-19 the year before that – but, if one had to bet, the Pumas in receipt of 15.5 points at odds of 1.91 with Bet365 would be the call. Argentina lost 13-28 in New Zealand three weeks ago and the Pumas do not have to deal with All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw for the return match in La Plata.