The Rugby Championship 2014 is back after a week off. There have been three close games and one blowout with the All Blacks thrashing the Wallabies in Round 2. It will be interesting to see what impact the week off has on the teams involved and how teams will go against different opponents.
The different teams bring various strengths to the table and so it will be tough for teams to vary their tactics depending on their opponents. The physical Pumas will bring something different to the All Blacks table this round after the New Zealanders have played Australia twice. The All Blacks may struggle up front in the Hawkes Bay rain, but should be too strong. The Wallabies host the Springboks in Perth which is home to plenty of South Africans. Can we read much into the previous performances of these two teams?
For fantasy rugby managers playing www.testrugby.com you must be careful as all squads have injuries and made changes, especially in the Number 10 jerseys. The Wallabies, Springboks and All Blacks have changed their first five eighths, this eats up the trades for managers. It is also a juggling act fitting under the salary cap!
The Rugby Championship Round 3 Team Lists Squads Named
Who will win The Rugby Championship 2014 Round 3?
All Blacks vs Pumas
The All Blacks have never lost to the Pumas, but Argentina has improved and were unlucky not to beat the Springboks in their last two games. The All Blacks showed some signs of cracks appearing against the Wallabies in the Sydney rain and with conditions set to be similar in Napier, expect the margin to be closer than expected. The All Blacks were impressive in their last outing, but the All Blacks definitely play better in dry conditions usually which allow their ball running players a chance to stretch their legs as while the All Blacks had the edge in the tight five against the Wallabies, their backline is probably where they are going to break down this Argentina team. The All Blacks are probably unlikely to be able to maul the Pumas like they did to the Wallabies pack.
There are changes to both teams for this game. The Pumas have rejigged their impressive loose forwards with Pablo Matera injured. There is also a change on the wing with Horacio Agulla starting.
The All Blacks have given hometown hero Israel Dagg a start at fullback with his big kicking game meaning that the impressive Ben Smith will start on the right wing. Beauden Barrett and Ma’a Nonu start as a new 10-12 combination in the backline. There will be big pressure on Barrett who has never started a test match in the Number 10 jersey, but he has been impressive off the bench in the past.
The Pumas have been competitive, but just struggle to make the most of their chances.
My pick: All Blacks
Players to watch: For those playing fantasy rugby games like www.testrugby.com the All Blacks represent terrible value for money because they are expensive to buy. Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock have been the best performing locks in the competition other All Blacks like Dane Coles, Julian Savea and Beauden Barrett are good choices if you can afford them.
Argentina are the team to pick players from if you are running out of money. Fullback Joaquín Tuculet and first five eighth Nicolas Sanchez are both good value for money. The Argentina loose forwards will get through plenty of work, while hooker Agustin Creevy is also an option.
Wallabies vs Springboks
The Springboks lead The Rugby Championship and will face the Wallabies in Perth. This match will be interesting given that the Springboks have looked far from convincing, yet have won both matches against Argentina. It is hard to know how good they have been since Argentina are usually the cellar dwellers in the Rugby Championship. They will take heart from knowing that despite the talent in the Wallabies backline, the All Blacks mauled the Wallabies, dominating them up front.
The Wallabies will be hurting after losing to the All Blacks and will be stacked with Waratahs players. They have made some changes with Bernard Foley starting ahead of Kurtley Beale being the main change, while Adam Ashley-Cooper moves onto the wing.
The Springboks have also made changes to try and improve their continuity with Morne Steyn starting, while he is a good kicker, he will hardly inspire the Springboks backline. Jan Serfontein comes into the midfield, while hooker Adriaan Strauss starts ahead of Du Plessis, and the locking combination of Victor Matfield and Eben Etzebeth will be good at set pieces. Bryan Habana brings up his 100th test milestone. Marcell Coetzee and Francois Louw start on the side of the scrum.
Players to watch – www.testrugby.com There are some bargain priced players in this game with Jan Serfontein, while some big points could be scored by Willie Le Roux, Adriaan Strauss and Duane Vermeulen.
The Wallabies team has some bargains in Tevita Kuridrani and James Hanson. Some other choices for managers are Bernard Foley, Israel Folau and Michael Hooper if you can fit them under your salary cap.
My pick: Wallabies