Rajiv Maharaj previews South Africa's visit to Australia in the Rugby Championship and likes the look of an Australian win...
"This being Cheika’s first domestic Test at the helm, one suspects the Wallabies will be determined to set the record straight with an Australian public left badly disillusioned by last year’s shenanigans."
Australia v South Africa
Saturday July 18, 11:05
Live on Sky Sports 3 HD
The Wallabies have had a wretched run of late, winning just one of their last seven Tests - their worst run of form since 2009. Certainly, the Springboks, their opponents in the Rugby Championship's second match of the weekend, have the far stronger form with six wins from 10 Tests in 2014, including a 28-10 victory against the Wallabies in Newlands. On first glance it would seem passing strange for the Springboks to be adjudged the outsiders at [2.6] on the exchange, with the Wallabies favourite at [1.66]. Indeed, the value appears to be with the visiting Springboks.
However, this is a case where odds value based on statistics must be tempered with subjective judgment taking in surrounding context. To that end, the Wallabies' 2014 form guide has to viewed with caution: the 2014 outfit had all but imploded in the wake of the Kurtley Beale texting fiasco. The fallout for then coach Ewen McKenzie and team business manager Di Patston has been well documented. Indeed, new coach Michael Chieka was on a hiding to nothing when appointed just days before the team's end of year European tour. That the Wallabies won just one of their four Tests on tour was no surprise.
Cheika, however, has overhauled the team since then, including sacking the scrum coach, appointing former Wallabies fly-half Stephen Larkham as backline and attack coach, and putting Nathan Grey in charge of defense. In all respects, and crucially including team culture, the Wallabies are a different animal to the wounded marsupial of 2014. This being Cheika's first domestic Test at the helm, one suspects the Wallabies will be determined to set the record straight with an Australian public left badly disillusioned by last year's shenanigans. Given the context of Australian rugby's 2014 annus horribilis, taking a significantly mended Wallabies outfit at home in Brisbane is the pick here.
In terms of team selection, the Springboks come to town with strong core of experience running through their line-up, including the likes of Willie le Roux, J.P. Pietersen, Bryan Habana, Ruan Pienaar; Schalk Burger, Francois Louw, Victor Matfield (captain), Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, and 'The Beast' Tendai Mtawarira. However, the Wallabies line-up looks a touch better in the backline with Will Genia and Quade Cooper in the halves, Matt Giteau at 12, Tevita Kuridrani at 13, and that man Israel Folau at the back. There won't be much in it though, and the Wallabies to win by under 12.5 points at [2.62] looks about right, and certainly more likely than the overs option.