We have reached the midway-point of “The Rugby World Cup warm-up tournament”… I mean The Rugby Championship. It really is almost insignificant with all eyes on The Rugby World Cup this year. But hey, who doesn’t enjoy lifting a trophy right? Round 2 is here, and with this shortened format, this penultimate round of fixtures may be key in terms of who lifts the trophy. Hopefully the Springboks and Los Pumas make the most of their home-ground advantage this weekend and steer the competition into a four-way final next week. It should make for some exciting rugby!
South Africa vs New Zealand (Johannesburg – Saturday, 25 July, 17:05 local time)
My word! It does not get any better than this! The Springboks versus the All Blacks at Ellis Park! It’s the heavyweight match between the top two teams in the world. Or is it? Both coaches seem to be experimenting with their selection choices. But in all fairness, key injuries have forced the Springbok Coach Heyneke Meyer to “experiment” with his selection and game plan for this weekend. In contrast, Steve Hansen (the All Blacks Coach) is experimenting because he is spoilt for choice. I could go on all weekend about player depth here in SA, but I will refrain until another time. I’m just too excited to see this game! Victory for the Springboks could bring them into contention to win this competition, but more importantly it would be a massive confidence booster prior to The Rugby World Cup. Saturday, get off your ass and get over here!!!
Watch out for:
Heinich Brüssow (SA) – Without a doubt the best fetcher in SA, and everyone knows it! Combining with Francois Louw is an exciting prospect, and for once the Springboks might just dominate the breakdown against the All Blacks. He finally gets an opportunity to prove himself worthy in the eyes of Heyneke Meyer.
Lodewyk de Jager (SA) – Ok, so it’s possible that he may not have sprouted a beard yet. But don’t be fooled by this baby-faced giant. He is a big boy and definitely adds to the physicality of the Springboks. But, will he be able to run the lineouts as good as Victor Matfield did?
Lima Sopoaga (NZ) – This youngster was fantastic for the Highlanders during the Super Rugby competition. Now he has an opportunity at international level.
Ma’a Nonu (NZ) – Probably playing some of the best rugby of his career this year, he will be the man in the midfield making things happen for the All Blacks. I suspect there will be a massive contest between him and his direct opposition Damien de Allende.
Prediction: South Africa to sneak it by 3
Argentina vs Australia (Mendoza – Saturday, 25 July, but 08:40 local time on Sunday)
With some early morning rugby on a Sunday morning, I suspect there might be some empty seats at church here in SA, especially if the Springboks won. As it stands, I doubt anyone is expecting Los Pumas to win, even if they are playing at home. But if the Springboks win on Saturday, then it opens the door for Argentina to even the log standings heading into the final round of fixtures. Both Argentina and Australia only played about 20 minutes of good rugby last week. But the Aussies were able to pull a victory out of the hat against the Springboks, where Los Pumas were bulldozed by the All Blacks. This weekend home ground advantage goes to Los Pumas, and they sure are able to pull victories out of the hat too. This might be a colossal contest if Argentina is able to put last week behind them and play to their potential. I’m being very optimistic here, but I find few things as satisfying in life as seeing the Aussies lose. C’mon Los Pumas!
Who to watch out for:
Nicolas Sanchez (Arg) – With two debutant centres on his outside, he will need to step it up from the previous match to spark the backline.
Augustin Creevy (Arg) & Stephen Moore (Aus) – Hooker vs Hooker! Captain vs Captain! I really just want to see this battle on the field!!
David Pocock (Aus) – What juice is this guy on? He returns from injury earlier this year and absolutely dominates! Expect him to be everywhere on the field, stealing balls and sticking his hands in all sorts of dodgy places? Whether he will get away with it we will have to wait and see.
Prediction: Australia by 10
Image credits: Supersport