STAR RUGBY PREVIEW: Rugby Championship 2023

It’s the final round of the Rugby Championship, with New Zealand on the verge of taking the crown before the Southern Hemisphere’s best sides jet off to Paris for the World Cup.

The All-Blacks travel to Melbourne for the Bledisloe Cup on Saturday morning, whilst the Springboks host Argentina in their last match before the World Cup.

Australia v New Zealand (10.45am) and South Africa v Argentina (4.05pm) 
The Rugby Championship 2023
Live on Sky Sports Action HD, and Sky Go from 10.30am

🇦🇺 Australia v New Zealand 🇳🇿 (10.45am)

As always there has been much talk about the Bleidsloe Cup but recent form tells its own story and the All Blacks can rubber stamp their World Cup message with an emphatic victory at Melbourne.

There was much anticipation for Eddie Jones’ latest stint as Wallaby coach but fans have experienced a demoralising trashing at the hands of South Africa (lost 43-12 in Pretoria) in week one and then an agonising reverse against Argentina (lost 31-34) last week.

They were improved against Los Pumas but an inability to keep the ball – they had just 38% possession compared to 62% for Argentina, and almost identical stats for territory – along with an early knock to Len Ikitau, who injured his shoulder whilst scoring, cost them dearly.

Australia were 10-0 up but with no outside backs, they were forced to break up a potent playmaking partnership (Quade Cooper and Samu Kerevi) they lost potency going forward and solidity in defence, whilst ill-discipline (lost penalty count 14-10, and Richie Arnold sin-binned in 38th minute) also proved crucial.

Jones has responded by making a raft of changes – including giving breakout star Carter Gordon the 10 jersey ahead of Quade Cooper – but the Wallabies will need far more if they’re going to trouble New Zealand.

The All Blacks have won eight of their last nine tests – the exception being a draw against England at Twickenham in their final test of last year – and have looked ominously good in dismantling Argentina 41-12 in Mendoza and then blitzing South Africa in Auckland two weeks ago.

Their performance against the Springboks was particularly notable, with Shannon Frizell giving a world class performance at 6 whilst Will Jordan put in a stunning show on his return to the side, laying down a marker for any opponents in Paris.

The All Black machine – with Richie Mo’unga and Aaron Smith conducting affairs from half back, two elite playmakers in Jordie and Beauden Barrett, and a world-class back row of Ardie Savea, Sam Cane and Shannon Frizell – looks as good as ever and on the bare form figures they set an imposing standard for the hosts, who have many problems to fix before they fly to France.

New Zealand have won by 29 points in Argentina and 15 against South Africa, and they can pass a 16.5 point handicap and do so with style. Consider dutching the 21-30 and 31-40 point winning margins.


Australia: 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Carter Gordon, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Tom Hooper, 6 Jed Holloway, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Nick Frost, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (c), 2 David Porecki, 1 Angus Bell

Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 James Slipper, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Richie Arnold, 20 Rob Leota, 21 Nic White, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Izaia Perese

New Zealand: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea (c), 7 Dalton Papali’i, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Ethan de Groot
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Sam Whitelock, 20 Luke Jacobson, 21 Cam Roigard, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 Caleb Clarke

🇿🇦 South Africa v Argentina 🇦🇷 (4.05pm)

Argentina gained a much-needed pre-World Cup boost with their dramatic victory in Australia but they could be brought down to earth by South Africa in Johannesburg. The Springboks were brought down to earth by New Zealand last week, who set a pace and intensity they could not live with, but their 43-12 trashing of Australia in the first game of the championship underlined the gap between them, the All Blacks and Argentina and Australia and we should see a similar result here.

Motivation ought to be sky high in the Springbok camp, with World Cup spots up for grabs, especially for Grant Williams, Manie Libbok, and Marco van Staden – and whilst the Springboks have made plenty of changes, their strength in depth (they were able to send an advance party to New Zealand for their encounter with the All Blacks) should ensure they can end the championship on a winning note.

The dual threat of Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Ardense on the wings is as exciting as any in world rugby whilst a pack containing Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Marco van Staden, Eben Etzebeth, Malcolm Marx and Steven Kitshoff may be too much for Argentina, who played with heart and intelligence when snatching victory in Australia, although against a much weaker pack than the Springboks.

South Africa can beat the handicap set and are worth backing to win by 21-30 points.

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Eben Etzebeth (c), 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff

Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Kwagga Smith, 20 RG Snyman, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Lukhanyo Am, 23 Damian Willemse

Argentina: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia 14 Mateo Carreras, 13 Lucio Cinti, 12 Santiago Chocobares, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Lautaro Bazan Velez, 8 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 7 Santiago Grondona, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Lucas Paulos, 3 Francisco Gomez-Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya, 1 Thomas Gallo

Replacements: 16 Ignacio Ruiz, 17 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 18 Joel Sclavi, 19 Pedro Rubiolo, 20 Facundo Isa, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Tomas Albornoz, 23 Matias Moroni


BACK New Zealand -16.5 2-Way Handicap 5 pts at 10/11 (⭐


BACK New Zealand Win By 11-20 Points Inclusive 1 pt at 11/4 (⭐


BACK New Zealand Win By 21-30 Points Inclusive 1 pt at 10/3 (⭐



BACK South Africa -17.5 2-Way Handicap 4 pts at 8/11 (⭐


BACK South Africa Win By 21-30 Points Inclusive 1 pt at 11/4 (⭐



PROFIT/LOSS (JULY 2023): LOSS -46.61 points




Author: Eugene Morris