2019 Rugby Championships.

Round One

The 2019 Rugby Championship kicks-off in Johannesburg at Ellis Park, or whatever it is called this week.  New Zealand referee Paul Williams will be the man with the whistle as the Springboks host the Wallabies. This game is scheduled to start at 17h05 local (SA Time) or 15h05 GMT if you are not a local.

The second match of the competition will be in Buenos Aires where Australian referee Angus Gardner will take charge of the Pumas v All Blacks match at Jose Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aires.  This game kicks off at 15h05 Local Time; which is 18h05 GMT; or 20h05 SA Time; and at 06h05 in New Zealand on Sunday, July 21.

Thoughts on the 2019 Rugby Championships.

The more I ponder the Rugby Championships and the games that lie ahead for our viewing pleasure and entertainment, the more I come to the conclusion that the entire exercise has become somewhat devalued as a Test level competition.

The RC is being squeezed in between the all-consuming monster that is Super Rugby, and the Rugby World Cup.

The competition has been truncated in order to fit into the schedule, devaluing it as a true Test of the relative strengths of the big four of the southern hemisphere.

There is a sense that Sanzaar insist on the competition being played, despite the looming Rugby World Cup. It seems that they are trying to milk as much money from the sponsors, broadcasters, and fans as is possible – even if the competition seems an exercise in futility at this time.

In addition to the abridged version on offer in 2019, we are being told that all three of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are using the competition for experimenting with selections, game plans, tactics and strategies.

South Africa have opening admitted to fielding something of a “B” team against the Wallabies, and sending their first choicers over to New Zealand to acclimatize and prepare for next week’s game. New Zealand’s form of experimentation involves replacing a load of first choice players with a host of others who would usually be reserves or youngsters being nurtured within the overall squad. 

Australia too, have admitted that they are in an experimental phase, although they do seem to be fielding the strongest team they have available at the moment, with the experimental aspect of their selections being focussed on testing combinations, rather than debutants.

Whichever way we look at the 2019 Rugby Championships, whatever the hype put out by Sanzaar’s spin doctors, and the false excitement in the various broadcasters’ studios, this year’s competition is nothing more than a glorified warm-up for the Rugby World Cup.

Much like South Africa’s run against Wales in the USA last year, the exercise seems to cheapen Test Match rugby.

Maybe I am too much of a traditionalist, maybe I value the status of Test matches too highly? Maybe I am an old fart that does not like the way rugby is being managed and marketed in the 21stcentury, but this is my thinking as we head into the 2019 Rugby Championships.

I will be watching the games with my focus on the players, team units, game plans and development for the RWC rather than as a Test match between rugby super powers.

The Weekend’s Tests:

Argentina v New Zealand 

Venue: Jose Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aires
Date Saturday 20 July
Kick-off 15h05 Local; 18h05 GMT; 20h05 SA Time; 06h05 NZ time Sunday, July 21
Referee Angus Gardner (Australia)
AR1 Andrew Brace (Ireland)
AR2 Alexandre Ruiz (France)
TMO Graham Hughes (England)

As I mentioned in my opening remarks, the Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans are undoubtedly experimenting with their squads and selections. Argentina do not have the same luxury of player resources, so their experimentation is more limited.

My contention that even the mighty All Blacks are experimenting is borne out by their selections for this game. They are fielding a team that features none of their automatic first choice selections such as  Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Joe Moody, Reiko Ioane and Ryan Crotty. I have no doubt that Steve Hansen wants to see how the team functions without the two regular captains that usually lead the side – Kieran Read or Sam Whitelock. He is looking for back-up leadership from Sam Cane, with Dane Coles and Brodie Retallick’s leadership qualities also under the microscope. He is looking to see whether the likes of Ben Smith, Beauden Barrett, and Aaron Smith can guide and mentor the relative rookies around them.

Others who are being tested in this “warm-up” Test are the rookies such as Sevu Reece on the right wing and potential test debutants Atu Moli, Luke Jacobson, Josh Ioane and Braydon Ennor, who may all start off the bench. Of the eight reserves named for this Test, prop Nepo Laulala has the most test caps with 17, yet that figure is double the number held by the other seven players combined.

The Argentine have less scope for experimentation, but they do have the knowledge that 20 plus of their Puma squad play together as the Jaguares and thus know each other’s game and basic style intimately. They might bring in overseas players, but the lack of depth within their playing resources might well be their Achilles Heel. Many serious rugby thinkers believe that having too many players from just one club is a weakness at the international level.

This game may well provide some insight into the level of development evident in the Argentinean team, whilst telling us something about the depth in New Zealand rugby.

Selections:

Argentina:

Argentina have named 13 Jaguares in their starting XV for their Rugby Championship clash with New Zealand in Buenos Aires on Saturday.

Only tighthead prop Juan Figallo and fly-half Nicolás Sánchez named in the run-on 15 play for clubs other than the Super Rugby finalists.

Sánchez forms a half-back combination with Tomás Cubelli while Jerónimo de la Fuente and Matías Orlando combine in midfield.

The back three sees an all-Jaguares trio line up as Ramiro Moyano and Matías Moroni are the wings with Emiliano Boffelli at full-back.

Up front Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro and Agustín Creevy join Figallo in the front-row while Guido Petti and Tomás Lavanini are the lock duo.

Finally the in-form Pablo Matera continues alongside club-mates Marcos Kremer and Javier Ortega Desio as the loose trio

Argentina: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Matías Moroni, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Agustín Creevy, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Replacements: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Matías Alemanno, 20 Tomás Lezana, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, 23 Joaquín Tuculet

New Zealand:

The All Black matchday 23 sees a blend of experience and youth with five uncapped All Blacks named: wing Sevu Reece will both start make his Test debut, while the uncapped Atu Moli and new All Blacks Luke Jacobson, Josh Ioane and Braydon Ennor are all named on the bench. 

Balancing the rookies is the experience of Brodie Retallick, captain Sam Cane, the pairing of Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett and Ben Smith at fullback.

The backline suggests some experimentation with Lienert-Borwn and Laumape playing together while Ryan Crotty, Sonny-Bill Williams, and Jack Goodhue watch the game. Jordie Barrett has been included on the wing, while Reiko Ioane and George Bridge will watch from the grand stand.

Starting Ardie Savea at 8 also tells of Steve Hansen’s quest to find a back-up 8 for Kieran Read as Luke Whitelock and Akira Ioane are not in the AB squad. 

New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Jordie Barrett, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ofa Tuungafasi.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Atu Moli, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jackson Hemopo, 20 Luke Jacobson, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Josh Ioane, 23 Braydon Ennor.

Thoughts:

The All Blacks would usually go up against the Pumas with a certain level of confidence, but this Test may well be a bit different. All the talk of learning, experimenting, and finding out more cannot disguise the fact that the All Black bench is vastly inexperienced. The AB bench has often been the true strength of their team, bringing on salted warriors as finishers when the opposition are starting to run out of steam has often swung a fairly close game decisively in favour of the World Champions.

This All Black 2019 Rugby Championships team may well be severely tested later in the game.

The Pumas come into this game riding on a wave of Jaguares induced confidence as they prepare themselves for their first, and probably most difficult test before they head off for Japan and this year’s World Cup. The Jaguares make up the bulk of the Puma squad, and their focus on developing players while building on squad strengths will be evident in the Pumas side too. The Jaguares’ development has been reflected in the ever-improving results they have attained year after year, with a first Super Rugby final appearance in 2019.

The well drilled and disciplined Jaguares are supplemented by the inclusion of offshore-based players Nicolas Sanchez, Facundo Isa, Santiago Cordero, Ramiro Herrera and Juan Figallo, all of whom will bring fresh ideas and cross pollination of rugby thinking to the squad.

They will be looking to test this All Back combination right to the final whistle.

The form of the Jaguares must also be considered against the inevitable ring-rust of the All Blacks. This is even more of a problem than usual as they have left out eight of the in-form Crusaders who might well have been expected to start this Test if things were less “experimental” in the run-up to the RWC.

I must express a note of caution here. 

The Jaguares form may well translate into a better prepared and focussed Argentinean team, but there is also a very serious reality that must be taken into account. International rugby, Test Match rugby, is a vastly different game to that which we see in the top regional or domestic tournaments. The on-field intensity is much higher, the pace of the game so much faster, the focus more single-minded and the calibre of the opponent is commensurately higher, the skill, knowledge and experience of the opposition is so much deeper, and the margins for error are much much smaller.

A composite team, drawn from across an entire county, brings together the best of the best, with different thinking, different experiences, and fresh ideas.

The whole is often so much stronger than the sum of its parts.

History has not been kind to matchday squads that feature 20-plus players from the same team.

A national team drawn almost exclusively from one franchise, club, or provincial team often ends up trying to replicate what they do to succeed at club level. Invariably, they discover that their own thinking is somewhat mired in their own back yard and often different to that of international opponents.

Without a doubt, the Jaguares have learned, and grown in Super Rugby. They have found discipline, teamwork, and have learned how to construct a win. They have developed the ability to close out a game, they have grown a more aggressive defence and found a level of belligerence that had hitherto been absent. 

But that’s in Super Rugby. 

International rugby demands a wholly different level of discipline, teamwork, focus, intensity, aggression, belligerence and accuracy.

Can the Jaguares make the step up?

That question will be answered during the Rugby Championship,?

Pablo Matera, Emiliano Boffelli, Tomas Lavanini, Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, Matias Orlando, Matias Moroni and Guido Petti are all core players in the Jaguares’ successes in 2019. A year where they managed to beat three of the five New Zealand Super Rugby franchises and topped the South African conference.

They will all be on the field to face the All Blacks, which might be familiar territory, except for the fact that the All Blacks have left out 8 of the Crusaders, with just two from the Super Champions in the match-day 23 to face the Pumas.  Just Sevu Reece starting and Braydon Ennor, when he comes off the bench, will be familiar faces from the final a couple of weeks ago.

The lack of Crusaders in the All Black line-up reinforces the contention that a composite team, drawn from across an entire county, brings together the best of the best, even when the All Blacks do appear to be experimenting!

At the risk of being repetitive, the whole is often so much stronger than the sum of its parts!

Factors worth considering are that the Pumas will be a known entity. With 13 Jaguares in the starting line-up their team, their likely game plan and tactics and individual players will not be a mystery to the All Black planners and plotters. Forewarned is forearmed. The All Blacks will know exactly what they are facing.

The Argentinean planners and plotters have a more difficult task at hand. They have to analyse New Zealanders based on what they might bring into the composite that is the All Blacks. They have to assess a wholly different set of problems.

Of course, the Argies do have one thing in their favour. The All Blacks are notorious slow starters in the Rugby Championships and mid-year Tests as they often take a while to shake off ring rust and for new combinations to gel.

The first 40 minutes will present the Pumas with their best chance ever to gain a scoreboard advantage over an All Black outfit – we already know that the ABs are likely to start clicking into gear in the second 40. If the Pumas can gain a significant head start, and then defend as well as the Jaguares did in Super Rugby….

I am not going to bother with a man-by-man analysis of the two teams. We know the players well enough, and we know that one team is in a rich vein of form while the other is going to be looking to find a rhythm and settle into their units.

The final outcome of this game rests on two factors –

  1. Can the Jaguares step up a couple of levels to Test match rugby?
  2. How soon will the All Black machine find its rhythm and get all the gears turning in the same direction.

Answer those two questions and you could predict a winner.

Prediction:

I am struggling to find anything in their track record that suggests the Pumas can make the giant step up to international level. Last year they were woeful, despite the increasing success of the Jaguares in Super Rugby. This year they might well be a notch or three better, but they are playing the All Blacks, and those rookie youngsters pulling the famous black jersey on for the first time will be prepared to die for the silver fern. They are guided by some of the most seasoned and toughest team members in all of rugby.

For that reason I am going with the All Blacks, by 12 points.

South Africa v Australia

Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Date Saturday 20 July
Kick-off 17h05 local (SA Time); 15h05 GMT; 01h05 Australia Time Sunday, July 21)
Referee Paul Williams (New Zealand)
AR1 Matthew Carley (England)
AR2 Karl Dickson (England)
TMO Rowan Kitt (England)

So much has been said and written about Rassie Erasmus’ decision to split his squad and send a bunch of seasoned veterans off to prepare to face the All Blacks over in new Zealand. Some suggest that this is lunacy, and South Africa needs to field the best possible team against every opponent, others suggest that the decision is a wise one as it affords the entire Springbok squad the opportunity to build experience and knowledge.

Some even suggest that fielding an experimental “B” team against the Wallabies is disrespectful.

I am not so sure.

When I look at the team Erasmus has chosen to field against the Wallabies, there is a certain wisdom in his selections – Some of his key players, Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Tendai Mtawarira, Lood de Jager, Bongi Mbonambi, Warrick Gelant and Jesse Kriel have all recently returned from injury that kept them on the sidelines for much of the Super Rugby season’s closing rounds. They will be fresh, albeit some might have a fitness issue later in the game. They do need the game time, both now, and for the World Cup.

Others are returning from overseas and have all had a week or three to rest up and recuperate after their season up north. They too will be fresher than the locally based players who have just walked out of a long and draining Super Rugby campaign. They will need game time to get back into the South African mind set and game plan. We think of Francois Louw, Rynhardt Elstadt, Vincent Koch, Marcell Cotezee, Cobus Reinach and Frans Steyn.

So, while this might be something of a “B” team, it is still an outfit loaded with class and first choice players getting up to speed. Backing them are the reinforcements brought home from overseas, and it makes a lot of sense for the coach to see what he has got available!

The Wallabies have just one “returning” player in their squad, Nick White. The rest of the playing squad are known entities, both to their own coach, and also to the Springboks.

There may be plenty of method in coach Erasmus’ madness.

Selections:

South Africa:

Eben Etzebeth will again take on the role of Springbok captain for Saturday’s Rugby Championship Test against Australia in Johannesburg.

Two players, Rynhardt Elstadt and Herschel Jantjies will make their Test debuts at Ellis Park.

Etzebeth takes over the captaincy from regular skipper Siya Kolisi, who is recovering from a knee injury. 

Aphiwe Dyantyi was also not considered for selection because of a hamstring injury. 

Elstadt  and Jantjies are the only two uncapped players in the starting team, while Lizo Gqoboka is also set to earn his debut off the bench.

Elstadt is picked at No 6 flank in a loose trio that also includes Pieter-Steph du Toit and No 8 Francois Louw.

Herschel Jantjies will play alongside the Elton Jantjies in a new-look halfback combination.

On the bench there is also a return to the Bok fold for a number of familiar faces. They are Marcell Coetzee, Cobus Reinach, the mercurial Frans Steyn and Dillyn Leyds.

The Springbok pack for Saturday’s match on the Highveld is hugely experienced, sharing 394 caps. Etzebeth has 75 caps to his name, his lock partner Lood de Jager is set to make his 39th appearance while Tendai Mtawarira has already played in 107 Tests.

South Africa: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazola Mapimpi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Francois Louw,  7 Pieter-Steph du Toit , 6 Rynhardt Elstadt , 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Trevor Nyakane , 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17  Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Marcel Coetzee, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Dillyn Leyds.

Australia

The Wallabies have picked something of a mixed bag for the first Test of the Rugby Championships.

Fijian-born Isi Naisarani has been named to make his Wallabies debut, while a number of front row injuries see rookie prop Harry Johnson-Holmes parachuted straight into the squad after only arriving in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

Veteran loosehead James Slipper will make his return to Test rugby after more than two years out, which included a ban for cocaine use, while UK-based scrumhalf Nic White will earn his first Wallabies cap in almost four years with Will Genia coming off the bench.

Tevita Kuridrani will partner newly-appointed vice-captain Samu Kerevi in the midfield, resuming their combination for the first time since 2017, while Tom Banks gets his first start at fullback after an impressive Super Rugby season.

Bernard Foley will wear No.10 after Brumbies playmaker Christian Lealiifano was sent home mid-week with a shoulder injury.

Despite the team not being at full-strength, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said they would be going all out for the win as they looked to build momentum into September’s World Cup.

Australia: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Reece Hodge, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nic White, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Rory Arnold, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Will Genia, 22 Matt To’omua, 23 Kurtley Beale.

Thoughts:

The Wallabies have spent two weeks in South Africa, acclimatizing to the altitude of the Highveld, an indication of how seriously they are taking this game. They view this fixture against the so-called Springbok “B” team as a chance to break the Ellis Park hoodoo that has haunted them since 1963. As someone pointed out elsewhere, when they take the field on Saturday it will be precisely 20 420 days since they last won a game at Ellis Park.

Their plans took a bit of a knock when they were forced to send home their in-form flyhalf, Christian Lealiifano, as well as his fellow Brumby, prop Scott Sio, and Tah’s prop Tom Robertson after all suffered injuries at training. Their star winger Marika Koroibete also returned home for the birth of his second child. Despite the departure of some of their bigger names, they are still eyeing that Springbok scalp. This is, after all, a Springbok “B” team………….

“B” that as it may, they are still up against a fairly formidable Springbok outfit, more especially so in the forwards. That pack features five regular Test starting players in Francois Louw, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, and the Beast, Tendai Mtawarira. Two more feature in Match Day 23 line-ups with regularity, both Trevor Nyakane, Bongi Mbonambi are regular bench players, with only the 29-year old Rynhardt Elstadt a rookie at this level.

They face up to a Wallaby pack consisting of a debutant Isi Naisarani at 8, with Michael Hooper and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto forming an untested loose trio. Salakaia-Loto is a relative youngster at 22, and often plays lock rather than on the blindside. He does have 11 Wallaby caps to his credit, and he adds a lineout option to challenge the height of Pieter-Steph du Toit at the back of the lineout. The tight five features two solid locks, Rory Arnold and Izack Rodda who will look to dominate the lineouts as they did in Super Rugby, while the front row seems just a little on the light side with Sekope Kepu, the aggressive Folau Fainga’a, and the returning veteran James Slipper.

The Springboks just seem better equipped up front.

The tussle in the lineouts will be interesting, with Etzebeth, De Jager and Du Toit fronting up to Arnold, Rodda, and Salakaia-Lotto.

Rolling mauls will be interesting too. Arnold has been integral to the success of the Brumby rolling maul, with an almost ghostlike ability to sneak through the middle of the maul and contest the ball. The Wallabies may well have the edge here as the Springboks are without their primary maulers, Kitshoff, Snyman, Marx, and Malherbe.
Perhaps the real weakness in the Springbok lineup is to be found in the half-backs. The very young and inexperienced Herschel Jantjies partners the most unpredictable flyhalf in all of creation. If Elton Jantjies is on song, he can be quite brilliant, but when he has an off-day, and there are plenty of them, he is horrendous. Many are asking whether it would not have been a better idea to give Curwin Bosch a run at flyhalf instead of the Wayward One?

South African supporters will be hoping that the Elton of the two Jantjies will not suffer from another case of the BMT jitters…..

They face the journeyman play of Bernard Foley and the often overtly aggressive Nick White. 

There can be no doubt that White will be looking to rattle Herschel Jantjies from the outset. He has the nous to understand the pressure on the debutant, and the aggro to ramp up the pressure.

The two scrumhalves play different games, White is a very good kicking scrumhalf and has great on-field nous, while Jantjies is more opportunistic around the edges and likes to play quick front-foot ball to his flyhalf. Both have a good service. 

The Springbok midfield is solid enough, with Andre Esterhuizen a journeyman ball carrier and very solid defender. He is very much a physical presence, not the cleverest of 12s, he does not have the best passing game. Jesse Kriel has come on in leaps and bounds in 2019, and has become a very good finisher, if he gets the ball. The South African midfield has a look of muscle rather than brain. The Springboks are up against the form ball-carrier and line-breaker in Aussie rugby, Samu Kerevi, alongside Tevita Kuridrani – perhaps the two biggest dangermen in the Aussie line up. Kerevi is probably the best counter to the muscle of Esterhuizen at 12, as he brings his 108kg frame into contact situations with forceful running. He too does not have the best passing game, but I have no doubt that he will be running at Elton Jantjies in the 10 channel. The Springbok flyhalf is something of a turnstile on defence, with the worst tackle stats in Super Rugby for two consecutive years!

Out wide the Springboks have the pace of Nkosi, Mapimpi, and Gelant who will test their opposing numbers on attack, but might be a little light on defence. The Wallabies will be trying to find new plays and tactics in the “World After Folau” era that has dawned rather unexpectedly in this RWC year. Tom Banks gets a crack at filling some very big shoes, and has shown plenty of potential and enterprise, although there are still weaknesses and rough edges to his game. His defence is a little suspect, but then so was that of Israel Folau.

Reece Hodge and Dan Haylett-Petty on the wings are no out-and-out speedsters. Hodge is more of the muscular finisher type wing, while Haylett-Petty brings mongrel and commitment. Neither have the pace to catch Nkosi or Mapimpi if the two South Africans get a start on them.

Warrick Gelant has promised much but not quite delivered. Much of his career has been plagued by injury, and he has developed a disturbing penchant for shimmying, goose-stepping, and double-pump dummying before he starts running. A kind of hesitation-waltz moment every time he gets the ball. He may think it bamboozles opponents, but the overt trickery does nothing more than give focussed opponents the opportunity to close the distance with him.

The Springbok fans will be hoping that he concentrates on the basics and leaves the trickery for Super Rugby games.

A critical factor in any Test is the impact you expect from the bench. Here the Springboks do seem to have far more at their disposal, from the old head of Schalk Brits to the vast experience of Frans Steyn, from the quiet power of Vincent Koch to the young muscle of Lizo Gqoboka. The ghostlike qualities of Dillyn Leyds and the mongrel of Cobus Reinach, and then the quality of Marcel Coetzee and the lineout ability of Marvin Orie.

They face the inexperience of Jordan Uelese, and Harry Johnson-Holmes, the muscle of Taniela Tupou, lineout skills of Rob Simmons, the mongrel of Jack Dempsey, the experience and guile of Will Genia, the skills of Matt To’omua, and the unpredictable Kurtley Beale.

I know which set of reserves I would prefer to have sitting on my bench.

In the final analysis, these are two teams that are both somewhat experimental in their approach. The Springboks overtly so, the Wallabies more by force of circumstance than as a deliberate tactic.

Who will rule at Ellis Park?

Prediction:

I have seen that a number of overseas publications are calling this one for the Wallabies. I have no doubt that they have a chance, but I do believe that the Springboks will enjoy the home ground advantage, and are a slightly better balanced outfit than the visitors.

Much of the outcome depends on the team that clicks into gear quickest and finds some rhythm while shaking off the inevitable ring rust.

Despite their “B” team moniker, I do think the Springboks have too much depth, and a quality bench which may well make the big difference on Saturday.

The Springboks, by 10.