With Super Rugby done and dusted, attention turns to the Rugby Championship, and as the Northern Hemisphere starts to gear up for the new season, it’s time to wake this blog from its summer slumber.
Here are my predictions for Round 1 of the Rugby Championship.
Australia v New Zealand
There have been several times over the last few years when the All Blacks have given the rest of the rugby world some hope, by being beaten or showing one or two signs of weakness. England’s win at Twickenham in 2012, Ireland’s win in Chicago, and now the Lions drawing the series against most people’s expectation.
So does Australia have a chance? I don’t think so. The All Blacks look significantly better up front than Australia, and whilst Kurtley Beale, Samu Kerevi and Israel Folau will offer some threat out wide, they are unlikely to get much ball without challenging New Zealand up front. Ireland and the Lions showed that a competitive set piece and ferocious line speed in defence can upset the All Blacks’ rhythm, but I can’t see where that will come from looking at the line ups.
My Superbru prediction: New Zealand by 16
South Africa v Argentina
There’s generally more optimism around the Springboks after the Lions’ performances in Super Rugby, but then some dismay this week on seeing that only 6 Lions had been named in the Test team to play the Pumas this weekend.
Argentina won in South Africa in this fixture two years ago – shortly before the Boks lost to Japan in the World Cup – but I fancy the home side to win this weekend. The Jaguares were slightly hot and cold in Super Rugby this season, and many of the players were involved in the home series defeat to a very fresh-faced England team, and they are missing some of the firepower they brought to the World Cup in 2015.
I’m going to pick the same margin as above, and feel like the gulf in class between the two sets of teams is about the same.
My Superbru prediction: South Africa by 16
What are your predictions?
Follow Hutch on Twitter: @Hutch_James