There were two huge upsets in Round 4, with the Springboks defeating the All Blacks in New Zealand, picked by an optimistic 9% on Superbru, whilst only 27% predicted Argentina’s win over Australia.
This week, the two victorious teams return home looking to prove it wasn’t a fluke. Here are my predictions for Round 5 of the Rugby Championship.
South Africa v Australia
That win over New Zealand was so good for Rugby. Whatever people say about the privilege of watching one of the greatest-ever teams, sport becomes significantly less compelling when you know how it’s going to end. It may have been an off-day for the All Blacks, and they’ll probably learn from their mistakes and be even harder to beat in future, but it’s given the rest of the world hope a year from the Rugby World Cup.
But onto this weekend, and the Springboks need to show that it wasn’t a one-off rousing performance. A win this week would delight the home crowd in Port Elizabeth, where they have never lost a Test, and would set up a great finale to the tournament next weekend with the return fixture against the All Blacks. South Africa needs a strong Springbok side, as does the Rugby world, and I think they’ll defeat the Wallabies here to leave them bottom of the Rugby Championship table.
The Wallabies haven’t won in South Africa since 2011, and they are under pressure after a dreadful campaign. But like the Boks’ unexpected win a fortnight ago, a victory here for Australia would help people forget what has gone before, and restore some pride in the Wallaby camp. They’ll likely target the Boks’ back three, sending Israel Folau chasing high balls, but if the home side can defend as well as they did in Wellington and take their chances when they come, they should win.
South Africa by 9
Argentina v New Zealand
I’m finding the Pumas’ matches very difficult to predict at the moment, and their results have been all over the place. Home defeats by Wales and Scotland in June, but then turning over South Africa and then Australia away last time out.
Unfortunately for them they’ll be up against a hurting All Blacks side. New Zealanders don’t taste defeat very often, and so it hurts enormously when they do, and I would expect a response in Buenos Aires. They’ve made a few changes, with Sonny Bill Williams returning and TJ Perenara getting a chance to start at scrum-half, and I really think they’ll win comfortably.
New Zealand by 23
Follow Hutch on Twitter: @Hutch_James