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Rugby Championship 2017: An Early Look

20170719 HWBLOG POSTIMG Rugby Championship 2017
We preview this years up and coming 2017 Rugby Championship kicking off from the 19th of August to the 7th of October.

The Rugby Championship gets underway this August, and the Southern Hemisphere is preparing for a spectacle. The All Blacks will be defending their title this year against four of the best Southern Hemisphere teams.

To Win Outright
New Zealand 2/11 | Australia 6/1 | South Africa 7/1 | Argentina 100/1 

Tournament Format and Brief History

Previously known as the Tri-Nations which first kicked off in 1996, SANZAAR awarded Argentina with inclusion to the tournament following a third place finish at the 2007 Rugby World Cup. The tournament was renamed the Rugby Championship with the first competition first kicking off in 2012 in its current format.

The tournament will see six rounds of matches where each team will play in both home and away fixtures against participants.

To Win Outright: 6/1

Australia has named their extended 40 – man squad to start preparations for the Championship, barring play-maker Quade Cooper. Kurtley Beale makes a return to Australia after a stint with the Wasps in England. The Wallabies have faced Northern Hemisphere opposition in the likes of Italy and Scotland this year, losing to Scotland, and winning against Italy. With such a huge task at hand in August, Michael Cheika’s men must raise their game to compete at this high level.

Player to Watch: Sefa Naivalu
The speedster from The Rebels has gained plenty of plaudits this season and became the 900th player to be capped by the Wallabies. His devastating turn of pace, agility, and ox-like physique make him a threat against even the sternest defense.

Predicted Finish: Fourth Place Finish
Judging from the Australian sides’ performances in Super Rugby this year, I believe there’s still a lot of work to be done in the Wallaby camp. I fully expect the Argentinians to finish ahead of the beleaguered Australians, relegating the men in Gold to a last-place finish.

New Zealand
To Win Outright: 2/11 

Defending champs New Zealand won all six of their matches last year scoring a record 262 points, the All Blacks have snatched four from five championships and only lost three matches in five years the competition, completely dominating their opposition. This year though they dramatically lost a test to the Lions, and managed to tie the series, we might see a hungrier All Black team, but following the Lions managing to read their game, the All Blacks will be further tested this year.

Player to Watch: Jordie Barrett
The new Barret on the block and All Black apprentice is making waves on the international stage. Barret has played for New Zealand only twice and featured in the historic draw against the British and Irish Lions where he scored a try and made a try assist. His great kick, offload abilities, and his versatility in the back line, make him one of the most prominent players to watch this year.

Predicted Finish: First or Second
It will be very tough for the All Blacks this year, as teams are now catching up to their predictable style of rugby. We’ll see what’s in store come August but making a solid prediction isn’t wise.

South Africa
To Win Outright: 7/1

A revitalised South African team played some of the best rugby we’ve seen in recent years. With the likes of Siya Kolisi, Malcolm Marx, and Warren Whiteley sticking their hands up with impressive performances throughout the three-match series against France. The Boks outplayed the French to hand them a three-nil whitewash. Allister Coetzee’s men will be desperate to claim their maiden Rugby Championship title in the post Tri-Nations era.

Player to Watch: Siya Kolisi
The flanker showed his true colors this season after a stellar season with the Stormers, he topped that off with match winning performances against France. His agility, strength, and commanding of the game, add a great dynamic to his play. Kolisi’s defence and ball winning abilities at the breakdown will pose a great threat for oppositions come August.

Predicted Finish: First or Second
South Africa might have the best chance this year of winning their maiden Rugby Championship, their performances and addition of quality players have lifted the team’s spirits, and a battle with the All Blacks over the title is imminent.

To Win Outright: 100/1

The Pumas will have all to play for this year, and their participation in Super Rugby seemed to have raised their skill-set. Following wins over teams such as the Waratahs, and winning seven matches during their campaign, finishing fourth in the South African group. It will be interesting to see how the Pumas will impact this year’s championship.

Player to Watch: Juan Hernández
One of Argentina’s most decorated backs, the fly-half Hernandez is definitely on of the veterans Pumas’ squad. Following stints in France and at the Sharks, he’s got heaps of experience. He played a pivotal role in the squad that finished third in the 2007 World Cup. His ability to kick drop goals from both feet, his range of passing and tactical kicking, make him one of Argentina’s top assets going into the Rugby Championship.

Predicted Finish: Third
The Pumas have show class this season are proving to be a more structured unit, earning respect from teams in world rugby. Chock full of world class players with playmaking abilities, this team will be raring to go.

Rugby Championship 2017 Fixtures

19 Aug
Australia vs New Zealand
ANZ Stadium
19 Aug
South Africa vs Argentina
Nelson Mandela Bay – PE
26 Aug
New Zealand vs Australia
Forsyth Barr Stadium
26 Aug
Argentina vs South Africa
Estadio Padre, Salta
9 Sep
New Zealand vs Argentina
Yarrow Stadium
9 Sep
Australia vs South Africa
nib Stadium, Perth
16 Sep
New Zealand vs South Africa
QBE Stadium, Albany
16 Sep
Australia vs Argentina
GIO Stadium
30 Sep
Argentina vs New Zealand
Estadio Jose
30 Sep
South Africa vs Australia
7 Oct
Argentina vs Australia
Estadio Malvinas
7 Oct
South Africa vs New Zealand

Written by Lungelo Mdladla for
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