Rugby Championship Betting: South Africa v Australia
Australia have been thrown into turmoil by Quade Cooper's social media antics but Geoffrey Riddle still thinks they can keep it competitive in South Africa on Saturday...
"Home teams who are rated inferior to their visitors by the IRB should not be 6.5-point favourites."
South Africa v Australia
• The Wallabies have won only once at altitude against South Africa since 1963. The last time they won was in Bloemfontein, in 2010, and the win was secured in the final minute with a kick by Kurtley Beale.
• Beale starts at flyhalf for the first time in his career in the absence of Quade Cooper.
• South Africa have also handed a debut to flyhalf Johan Goosen, the exciting Cheetahs tyro.
• The 20-year-old is one of six players in the Springbok 22 aged 21 years or younger. The others are Eben Etzebeth, Pat Lambie, Elton Janjtjies, Marcell Coetzee and Jaco Taute.
South Africa take on Australia in Pretoria on Saturday afternoon and the Wallabies are out to prove that their last success on the high veldt was no fluke. The Wallabies scalped South Africa 41-39 in 2010, which was their first victory at altitude in almost 50 years.
It is easy to take the line that one swallow does not a summer make, a lesson we have all learned these past few months, but South Africa have not beaten Australia since that reverse in Bloemfontein.
South Africa should have won the Rugby World Cup semi-final in Wellington but found a way to lose. They should have beaten Australia in Perth last month, especially as they enjoyed a 13-6 lead at the break. I am ashamed to admit that I backed South Africa in both of those matches, but just because Australia are going through turmoil thanks to Quade Cooper's social media antics it seems the layers have ignored Australia's ability to eke out a win from nowhere.
Beale may be inexperienced at playing in the No.10 jersey, but he has similar qualities to Cooper - he can just tackle and kick better. With 30 caps to his name he is vastly more experienced than Johan Goosen, and what's more he showed his nerve when hammering the winning penalty in Bloemfontein.
South Africa have been planning to play the exciting Goosen at flyhalf in this game for some time and the 20-year-old Cheetah was training all week in the slot while poor old Morne Steyn went through defensive drills with the reserves and hasn't even made the bench. Steyn has looked a little jaded these past few weeks and by missing five kicks at goal against New Zealand when South Africa lost by 10 points only highlights that he is not his usual dead-eyed self.
Goosen is a hot commodity, having only made his debut at senior level in the Currie Cup last year but playing the Wallabies on his first start is asking a lot. Of course in front of the braying crowd in Pretoria things will be made significantly easier for him.
Up front, coach Heyneke Meyer ushers in Eben Etzebeth and Andries Bekker, the tallest man on the pitch, who both will fire up the Springbok engine room. I maintain that Willem Alberts is a better openside flanker than Michael Hooper, his opposite number. South Africa had their lowest turnover rate of 2012 against New Zealand in Dunedin and that match saw Alberts pitted against Richie McCaw.
South Africa clearly have the players and the game-plan to beat Australia. Home teams who are rated inferior to their visitors by the IRB should not be 6.5-point favourites, however. This should be a scratch match that South Africa win, not one that they might edge giving up almost a converted try.
Back Australia +6.5pts @ [2.24]