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Rugby Championship Predictions - Round 3

24 July 2019, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld


It’s all to play for as the Rugby Championship comes down to the wire this weekend.

With just one point separating log-leading South Africa from New Zealand, the sprint to Southern Hemisphere glory is set for a photo finish.

For all the talk of the truncated tournament being little more than a World Cup ‘warm-up’, and teams putting a low premium on winning the silverware (after all, no side has won the Rugby Championship and World Cup in the same year), that has now changed. With the title hanging in the balance, both Steve Hansen and Rassie Erasmus will unleash their strongest possible teams.

The All Blacks will be up first on Saturday as they tackle the Wallabies in Perth, where they’ll aim to secure maximum points to transfer the pressure onto the Springboks. The Boks will thus know exactly what they need to do – either secure a straight-forward win or a bonus-point triumph – to claim their first-ever Rugby Championship crown when they square off against Argentina in Salta later in the day.

Here’s how we see the tense final round playing out.

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After barely escaping Argentina with a win (20-16) and being held to a draw by the Boks, the All Blacks will be in some kind of mood in Perth. The 16-all stalemate in Wellington, in particular, would’ve irked the New Zealanders; they specifically chose the Cake Tin as the battleground after last year’s loss to the Boks at the venue, and that they weren’t able to avenge that rare defeat on home soil in the ‘rematch’ spells trouble for the Wallabies.

Unlike the other teams, the Wallabies would’ve been unhappy about the timing of the bye week. As a side short on victories in recent times, they would’ve wanted to build on the momentum of their 16-10 win over the Pumas in Brisbane – just the fifth in their last 17 Tests – and would’ve much preferred to face an All Blacks side coming off a bruising battle against the Boks than one that’s had a week to recover from the Wellington war.

The result against Argentina was a welcome one for the Wallabies, but the unconvincing performance would’ve done little to strike fear into All Blacks hearts. The Pumas, seemingly spent after their Herculean effort against the All Blacks in the opening round, made life easy for the Australians, and you can bet that won’t be the case this weekend.

The All Blacks have dominated the trans-Tasman rivalry for over a decade-and-a-half, with the Wallabies last having won the Bledisloe Cup in 2002. The Kiwis have won 10 of the last 11 head-to-head battles, including the last three in a row. Last year’s encounters highlighted the gap between the old foes, with the All Blacks running out 38-13 victors in Sydney and 40-12 winners in their last meeting in Auckland.

Unfortunately for the Wallabies, and worryingly for the Boks, I don’t see the margin shrinking too much on Saturday.

Prediction: New Zealand by 17.


Two unique factors will heavily influence the Salta showdown. The first: what transpired Down Under earlier in the day. If the Australians were somehow able to deny the All Blacks a bonus-point victory (an upset seems highly unlikely), the Boks will be able to play their natural game knowing that a straight-forward win will suffice. If, conversely, they require the full five log points, the added pressure will bring about an urgency that could see the Boks adopt a more expansive approach.

Erasmus is experienced enough to handle such a tricky task should it arise, and would no doubt have put two strategies in place during the week, however, pressure out on the park is a funny thing and has often spoiled the best of plans. Regardless of the permutations, the clash will likely be won and lost up front. The Jaguares pack that endured a bruising Super Rugby campaign has largely stayed intact and their scrum woes have followed them to the national side.

It’s a clear weakness that the Wallabies exploited excellently to win penalties that helped them build scoreboard pressure. This being the same Wallaby pack that was pummeled by the Boks at Ellis Park, so the visitors should have a big advantage and will look to use the scrum as an attacking weapon. That the Jaguares still reached the Super Rugby final showed they had sufficient strengths in other areas to compensate for their weak scrum.

Key to the Jaguares and Pumas’ success is their proficiency at the breakdown. They do a great job of protecting the pill on attack, slowing down the ball on defence and winning turnovers. It’s their efficiency in this all-important area that allows them to put defences under pressure with seamless interplay between forwards and backs and to do damage control on defence.

The second factor is: which Pumas side will pitch up? One can be sure that a fired-up Bok team will take to the field and go about their business with the same hunger and intensity as they did in the dramatic draw against the All Blacks in Wellington.

The Pumas are more of a mystery; they played with such fire and focus in the near-upset of the All Blacks, but were dreadfully lethargic in the loss to the Wallabies. The bye would’ve done the seemingly fatigued side wonders, and they always grow an arm and a leg at home, so the Boks will anticipate the best version of the Pumas.

With an opportunity to make history, the Boks should be at their best and should do enough to capture their maiden Rugby Championship title.

Prediction: South Africa by 14.


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Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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