Richard O'Hagan assesses the betting markets after a dispiriting weekend for northern hemisphere rugby. Can England bounce back next Saturday?
The best bet is definitely for the opening score to be a South African try, at odds of 5.04/1.
It was a bad weekend to be a supporter of northern hemisphere rugby. Three sub-par performances against southern hemisphere sides - two of whom had not played since the 2011 World Cup - were not what was expected and all leave question marks over the visiting teams.
Most disappointing of all was England's showing in their 22-17 loss to South Africa. Manful in defence, as an attacking force they offered almost nothing and they were flattered by a last minute Ben Foden try. That aside, all England had to offer as an offensive force were two half breaks from Chris Ashton and débutante replacement Jonathan Joseph. By contrast, the Springboks looked like scoring every time they came close to the English 22, with Bryan Habana back to his destructive best on the wing.
Up front, England were on the wrong end of a monster performance by South African hooker Bismarck du Plessis. He rampaged all over the pitch but that's no excuse for the Red Rose losing the ball four times at their own scrum, mostly through overeagerness to engage. They continually kicked away possession too.
That is something which they simply cannot afford to do, and certainly cannot afford to do, in next Saturday's clash in Johannesburg, where the rarefied atmosphere makes the kicking game so important. It is difficult to see how, with the squad that they have, they can add any more power up front, so their technique needs to improve tenfold if they're to compete. In the backs, Joseph could well make his first international start in place of the injured Brad Barritt (the decision to replace Barritt with Toby Flood on Saturday was possibly the most baffling of Stuart Lancaster's brief reign) but the whole back line needs to be far more subtle than simply trying to crash Manu Tuilagi through the middle. The best bet is definitely for the opening score to be a South African try, at odds of 5.04/1.
Elsewhere, the Tri-Nations champions Australia took on Six Nations winners Wales in a match which for a long time resembled two drunks attempting to fight one another, wild punch and counter-punch missing more often than connecting. That Australia won was due to a combination of the pressure they applied on the Welsh 22 and the fact that Wales knocked on at least three times when it seemed easier to make the killer play. This was exemplified when Sam Warburton threw a wild pass to Rhys Priestland when the fly-half was clear for what would have been the winning score. The 27-19 scoreline in Australia's favour didn't reflect how close this game was and 3.613/5 on a Welsh victory next Saturday should not be ignored.
Ireland were crushed 42-10 by the All Blacks in Auckland and must be fearful of the poetential scoreline in Christchurch on Saturday. Winger Julian Savea scored a hat-trick of tries on debut, Ireland's pack ended up so depleted they had to play uncontested scrums for the final quarter of the game, and the hosts were running instead of kicking penalties from five minutes into the second half, so total was their dominance. That the one try Ireland scored came from a mistake by New Zealand in the Irish 22 probably tells you all that you need to know about this game. Ireland surely can't be so bad next time out, so the 3.02/1 on offer for an All Black win by fewer than 13 points looks a good bet.