The Springboks will be hoping the Wallabies are on song when they make the trip across the Tasman to face the All Blacks at Eden Park in Rugby Championship action this weekend.
Australia will make the trip across the Tasman in confident mood after they gave their neighbours a massive scare in Melbourne last week, narrowly losing 37-39 courtesy of a very controversial late try.
The defeat meant that New Zealand maintained their stranglehold on the Bledisloe Cup and that Australia are all but mathematically out of the running for the Rugby Championship title.
However, the Wallabies will still have a massive say on who of South Africa and New Zealand claim the title.
New Zealand v Australia
Saturday 24 September
To Win Match
New Zealand 1/10 | Draw 33/1 | Australia 11/2
New Zealand (-15.5) 9/10 | Australia (+15.5) 9/10
As has been the case for most of the season, the All Blacks put in a far from vintage display in Melbourne with their defence once again porous. While they did manage to get the job done and keep hold of the Bledisloe Cup and maintain their Rugby Championship ambitions, it must be pretty worrying for them to see how Australia have closed the gulf in class between the two sides in just over three years.
While New Zealand weren’t at their best, credit must go to Australia who were as dogged as they come. This is a team that is missing loads of frontline players – illustrated by the recall of Bernard Foley who had been in the international wilderness since the 2019 World Cup – and for them to run the All Blacks that close is a massive achievement.
Speaking of Foley, he would play the role of both hero and villain, although he did compete with referee Matheui Raynal for the latter accolade. Foley was the driver behind Australia’s comeback with the former Waratahs man stepping up when Australia were 31-13 down.
A couple moments would cost him, however, as delays in goal line and 22 dropouts as well as a quickly taken conversion that Raynal wanted to check saw him cop the ire of the ref in what have should have been the penultimate play in the game with Raynal saying the Wallabies ten took to long to kick the ball in to touch from a penalty restart. New Zealand were subsequently awarded a five-metre scrum that would ultimately lead to the match-winning try.
Looking ahead to this weekend and it’s going to be a tough old one for the visitors as the All Blacks are always strong at Eden Park. The hosts will also be on the hunt for a bonus point in a bid to ply the pressure on South Africa, who will take on Argentina later in the day.
In terms of team news, the All Blacks received a massive boost this week with loosie Ardie Savea set to return to the run-on side after the birth of his child. They will be without regular skipper Sam Cane, however, with Same Whitelock named as skipper.
The Wallabies have also made a number of changes. Caderyn Neville – who stands 2.02 metres tall – come ins for Darcy Swain who copped a six-week ban for his shocking clean-out on Quinn Tupaea. Harry Wilson returns at 8, which allows Rob Valetini to switch to the blindside. There certainly won’t be a shortage of strong back row runners for the Aussies this weekend.
Verdict: New Zealand (-15.5) 9/10
Australia will be emotionally and physically drained headed into this one and it’s likely to show during the latter parts of Saturday’s fixture. I expect New Zealand to take advantage of this in the final quarter of the game.