Predictions: All Blacks To Gain Revenge On Springboks
Ahead of Round Two in the Rugby Championship, we are putting our head on the block and picking our winners from the big matches this weekend.
New Zealand and South Africa begin proceedings on Saturday in a repeat of last year’s encounter in Wellington, while Australia v Argentina follows from Suncorp Stadium.
The Pacific Nations Cup also begins as six teams battle to claim the 2019 title. Fiji are the defending champions and they open their campaign against Japan.
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP, ROUND TWO
New Zealand v South Africa
While it may not be discussed publicly, ‘revenge’ will be the watchword for the All Blacks when they take on South Africa this weekend. After last season’s shock defeat to the Springboks, coincidentally in Wellington, Steve Hansen’s men will be even more motivated to avoid a repeat at the same stadium.
Interestingly, Rassie Erasmus’ charges appear even stronger this season, having developed the depth of their squad, and duly opened the Rugby Championship with a dominant 35-17 triumph over Australia.
With the likes of Faf de Klerk, Handre Pollard and Duane Vermeulen among those to return for this encounter, they go into Saturday’s match fully loaded, while the front five is the same one which faced the All Blacks in 2018.
New Zealand should also be better, however, with Brodie Retallick back in the pack after being injured for the encounter last year. Elsewhere in the XV, Richie Mo’unga is a player that may prove an astute addition, particularly following the kicking issues Beauden Barrett endured.
With the two-time World Player of the Year missing four of his six conversion attempts, Mo’unga will improve matters off the tee, providing, of course, the Crusaders playmaker is entrusted with the responsibility.
Barrett still starts but is at full-back and it will be exciting to see how those two combine. As a result, it should be too much for South Africa to handle and the All Blacks will march towards after Rugby Championship success. New Zealand by 10.
Australia v Argentina
Another intriguing game but for very different reasons. While New Zealand and South Africa are looking forward to the World Cup with positivity, Australia in particular are desperately searching for form.
They have endured an abysmal run under Michael Cheika, which has put significant pressure on the head coach, and their opening Rugby Championship encounter saw them well beaten by South Africa.