A dramatic fourth round of the Rugby Championship saw Australia’s fortunes dip as they lost their third game of the tournament at home to Argentina, while South Africa bounced back from their Brisbane loss to record a historic win in New Zealand.
Springboks v Wallabies Rugby Championship Prediction and Preview
Now the Springboks and the Wallabies go head to head again, but this time it is Rassie Erasmus’ side who hold the upper hand.
Head to Head Record
The rivalry between Australia and South Africa goes all the way back to their first competitive fixtures in 1921, when a South African XV toured Australia, winning all three Tests. Australia have earned their revenge since, but over the years, this has been a fixture in which South Africa have enjoyed the greater success, winning 49 matches to Australia’s 37 with 3 games drawn.
Traditionally, South Africa’s home advantage has been more significant than Australia’s. Although the Springboks have struggled on Australian soil in recent years – winning only once since 2005 – their record in Australia overall is good, with 24 wins from 43 games. By contrast, Australia have only managed to win 10 out of their 46 encounters with the Springboks in South Africa.
The last three editions of this fixture have been packed with entertainment. Last season, South Africa earned a draw in an end-to-end game in Perth before fighting back from a half-time deficit to draw the return game in Bloemfontein. And earlier this month, there was another gripping encounter in Brisbane, which saw Australia hold on in the face of a late Springboks surge to win 23-18.
Last Ten Meetings
September 2018: Australia won 23-18 in Brisbane
September 2017: Match drawn 27-27 in Bloemfontein
September 2017: Match drawn 23-23 in Perth
October 2016: South Africa won 18-10 in Pretoria
September 2016: Australia won 23-17 in Brisbane
July 2015: Australia won 24-20 in Brisbane
September 2014: South Africa won 28-10 in Cape Town
September 2014: Australia won 24-23 in Perth
September 2013: South Africa won 28-8 in Cape Town
September 2013: South Africa won 38-12 in Brisbane
Going into the game in Wellington last weekend, South Africa’s form had been patchy under new coach Rassie Erasmus. A series victory over England was a good start, but that was followed by a defeat in Argentina and the disappointing loss in Brisbane, which even prompted Erasmus to suggest his job was under threat ahead of the game against the All Blacks. What followed was a famous triumph as the Springboks held off a late charge to record their first win in New Zealand since 2009.
Australia came into this year’s Rugby Championship in no kind of form. Prior to the opening game against New Zealand, they’d won just one game in seven, and had endured a thrashing by Scotland and a home series defeat by Ireland. A hard-fought victory over the Springboks in Brisbane suggested they could turn things round, but that optimism was dispelled by a 23-19 home defeat to Argentina which leaves them in a desperate fight to avoid the wooden spoon.
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South Africa have been dealt an injury blow at centre, as both of the men who started against New Zealand, Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am, will be out for this game. There is better news on the right wing, where S’bu Nkosi looks likely to return to the side after recovering from injury. Erasmus also has a dilemma at loose-head prop. Steven Kitshoff has started the last two games for the Springboks, but the more experienced Tendai Mtawarira may be in line for a recall.
For Australia, there are two new faces in Michael Cheika’s squad. Rebels flanker Angus Cottrell could be in line to make his test debut against South Africa, although Cheika also has other options in the back row in the shape of Caleb Timu and Ned Hanigan. The other new pick is scrum-half Jake Gordon, who appears to have moved ahead of Joe Powell in the pecking order. In the front row, hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa has been preferred to Tolu Latu.
Australia head to Port Elizabeth facing realistic prospects of finishing bottom of the Rugby Championship for the first time in the tournament’s history, and the omens aren’t good. Last week’s defeat to Argentina undid all of the good work that the Wallabies had put in to defeat South Africa in Brisbane, and the ugly scenes after the game won’t have helped lift the mood of Australian rugby.
By contrast, the Springboks are flying at the moment. Winning the Rugby Championship still looks a long shot, but victory in this game could even set up a potential thriller in the final match against New Zealand, although that would require Argentina to pull off a shock against the All Blacks.
The Springboks coaching staff will be focused on ensuring that there is no post-Wellington hangover, and any opponents boasting Michael Hooper and David Pocock in their ranks cannot be underestimated. But Australia’s current form and their record in South Africa do not inspire confidence. Back the home side to cover a seven-point handicap with some ease.
Back South Africa -7 points at 10/11
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