The Southern Hemisphere’s annual international rugby tournament is back in 2022 and everyone is asking the one important question, “what’s wrong with New Zealand?”
After a series defeat at the hands of the Irish where the all conquering All Blacks looked human for the first time in what feels like an eternity, many will be wondering if the door might open up for another nation to steal the title here.
It gets underway in the early hours of Sunday morning in Nelspruit with the reigning world champion South Africans hosting the New Zealanders with both sides desperate to stake an early claim.
Then in Argentina, the Wallabies will be out for their first away win against the South Americans since 2018.
We’ve got your match previews and best bets below so read on and see who we are backing.
Sunday 7 August, 1:05am, Mbombela Stadium
It’s not very often that the All Blacks will go into a game like this as underdogs, but such is the perceived state of that side that you have to think twice before jumping on the value.
After all, the Springboks are coming off an impressive series win over Wales in their first action of 2022.
When they met last year on the Gold Coast, the Springboks snuck home 31-29 but they will have to find a way to overturn a poor run of results at home against the All Blacks.
Their last home win was in 2014, but this is a very different All Blacks side.
It would not surprise me one bit to see the New Zealanders come out with a laser focus and run riot but for once, I’ll have to be convinced to give the All Blacks the benefit of the doubt.
Back South Africa to Cover -2.5 @ $1.95
Sunday 7 August, 5:10am, Estadio Malvinas Argentinas
Last time the Wallabies were in Argentina, they were forced to battle and scrap their way through a kicking duel between Reece Hodge and Nicolas Sanchez who both went 5/6 on the day.
Hodge missed a penalty three minutes from full time to force both sides to settle for a 15-15 draw, a year later, the sides drew 16-16 in Sydney.
In the past, the Wallabies have been forced to start their Rugby Championship tournament against the All Blacks, so this should be seen as a great opportunity for Dave Rennie and company to start their campaign on a high note.
However it would be naive to suggest that the Wallabies are going to do this in a canter, and this game should go down to the wire.
Back Australia to Win by 1-12 @ $2.80
Thanks to September’s Rugby World Cup, a shortened edition of The Rugby Championship kicks off this weekend with the four Southern Hemisphere sides all looking to kick start their preparations for Japan.
In a departure from recent seasons, instead of facing one another, Australia and New Zealand will travel overseas to face South Africa and Argentina for the opening round.
Things get underway at Emirates Airlines Park as the Springboks host the Wallabies in the early hours of Sunday morning before Argentina takes on the all conquering All Blacks.
Check out our previews and betting plays for both Rugby Championship matches this weekend.
Sunday 21 July, 1:05am, Emirates Airlines Park
South Africa 35 – Australia 17
What can you expect from two sides that have so many question marks hovering over them right now?
Australia only has five tests to get itself right before it takes on Fiji in Sapporo on September 21 so there’s not much time to waste for Michael Cheika.
At full strength, you could argue that these two sides are pretty much equal in terms of skills but there’s a big difference between what comes out on paper and what we see on the park.
With the Springboks likely swapping players in and out throughout the tournament, it would not be at all surprising if they find themselves battling for results as they try and find the best available lineup instead of going all out for what is New Zealand’s trophy to lose.
South African coach Rassie Erasmus has already said he will be rotating his side so this might be Australia’s best chance in a very long time to start the Rugby Championship on a winning note.
It’s only going to be a small bet considering the wide range of variables going into this game, but I’ll take the value on offer and back an Australian victory.
Back Australia to Win @ $2.63
Sunday 21 July, 4:05am, Estadio Jose Amalfitani
Argentina 16 – New Zealand 20
The Jaguares came oh so close to topping the Crusaders in the Super Rugby Final and while a win in the opening round of the Rugby Championship wouldn’t result in anything tangible switching hands, it would be a big confidence booster for the evolving side.
It won’t be a full strength squad with Steve Hansen resting some of his key players from the long trip to Argentina, including skipper Kieran Read, as he tries to keep players fresh after a taxing Super Rugby campaign, especially for members of the Crusaders and Hurricanes.
That’s not going to be enough to convince me a monumental upset is on the cards in this game, Argentina has never beaten the All Blacks at senior international level.
In fact, the only time they haven’t been beaten in the 28 games was a draw in Buenos Aires in 1985.
Historically these Rugby Championship clashes between the sides tend to result in All Blacks victories, usually with margins around 20 points.
This one could be a little bit closer though with the All Blacks calling on their (very deep) pool of reserves.
I’m happy to back the Jaguares to keep it close against an All Blacks side that has not won the Southern Hemisphere competition in each of the last two World Cup years.
Back Argentina to Cover +13.5 @ $1.91