The final round of the 2021 Rugby Championship is upon us and while first and last place on the log has been decided – New Zealand and Argentina respectively – the ‘Boks and the Wallabies can each finish either second or third depending on how results go this weekend. Here is a look at the two matches on tap.
New Zealand VS South Africa – Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
A 78th minute Jordie Barrett penalty snatch a 19-17 win for the All Blacks in Townsville last Saturday as the Springboks saw victory escape them against the No. 1 ranked team in the world. The win was enough to seal the Rugby Championship crown for New Zealand as the 100th Test between the two nations because the type of gritty, kick-heavy game that a lot of us expected coming into it.
The All Blacks have made a number of changes to their starting XV for this one in the wake of a performance that coach Ian Foster saw as a little disappointing. There are changes on both wings as Sevu Reece and Rieko Ioane will wear the 11 and 14 jumpers in place of George Bridge and Will Jordan, both of whom struggled under the high ball last time out. The always reliable Anton Lienert-Brown will play at outside center, while Brad Weber comes in at Scrum-half.
The Springboks make just two changes – both enforced through injury – with Ox Niche replacing Frans Malherbe at prop and Jasper Wiese providing a loose-forward option on the bench ahead of Marco van Staden. This means that the Springboks are sticking to their tactical guns of putting air under the ball to force mistakes, even as they are on their worst losing run in recent memory. I expect the All Blacks to win this again, but with the way South Africa plays it will be a close score. Take the ‘Boks +9.5 at 9/10 with BetXchange.
Australia VS Argentina – Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
A truly miserable Rugby Championship campaign is almost over for the Pumas as they have to register even a single bonus point from their first five matches. Last time out they went down 27-8 to a rejuvenated Wallabies’ squad and it is hard to see how that really changes on the Gold Coast.
The Argentinians are without six players and two members of their backroom staff for this game after a Covid 19 rules breach saw them visiting the New South Wales resort town of Byron Bay. This means they will be out a number of starters, with the most important probably being back row enforcer Pablo Matera. Others missing out due to the breach include Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, Santiago Medrano, and Felipe Ezcurra.
There are three changes to the Australian starting XV but the most interesting team news is on the bench. Prop Greg Holmes will become the oldest ever player to play in a Test for the Wallabies when he is called on by coach Dave Rennie at the grand old age of 38. Injuries in the camp and the return home of Allan Alaalatoa mean that Holmes will wear the green and gold for the first time since 2016 on Saturday. I like Holmes and the Wallabies to cover the 17.5 point spread ay 9/10 with BetXchange against an Argentina team that clearly just wants to go home.