The 2018 Rugby Championship is set to get underway this Saturday with Australia playing host to New Zealand, in the first third of the Bledisloe Cup, as well as South Africa welcoming Argentina to Jonsson Kings Park Stadium. The All Blacks look to win their third straight championship, while the Wallabies seek their first since 2015. Below I break down what’s the best bet for each nation.
At Bet365, New Zealand opened as the huge -700 favorite to win its sixth championship in seven years followed by Australia and South Africa both at +700 and Argentina closing out the nations at +8000.
Best Bets for The Rugby Championship – New Zealand
From an odds perspective, there isn’t much value in betting on the outright winner for this tournament as New Zealand is the top dog and for good reason. The All Blacks haven’t lost a match in the Rugby Championship since 2015 when they were topped 27-19 by Australia in Sydney. The -700 odds to be the outright winner for the third straight year and sixth time in seven years simply provide no value.
The best bet for New Zealand is its win total through the tournament. The biggest test for the All Blacks will come at the end of this year’s Rugby Championship when they go toe to toe with the Springboks in Pretoria on October 6. The biggest improvements by any of these four nations are by South Africa and if last year’s match between the two was an appetizer, we are in for a treat this year. New Zealand edged South Africa 25-24 when the two met in Cape Town to close out the Rugby Championship and the ’Boks have the only chance, I think, to beat the All Blacks this year. It’s a tough task but I think New Zealand prevails again and runs the table.
Best Bet – New Zealand six wins (-125)
Best Bets for The Rugby Championship – Australia
The Wallabies haven’t had masterful seasons the last two years after having a tremendous year in 2015, falling only to New Zealand. Australia has a fantastic attack, being able to put lots of pressure on its opponent’s defense early and often, but its own defense is suspect which puts the Wallabies in an interesting position as to where they stand in the Southern Hemisphere. For the first time in a while, they have a strong scrum that should be able to hang with any team in this tournament.
The best bet for Australia is its win total for the Rugby Championship. Assuming they will drop both games against New Zealand and take both games against Argentina, that leaves only the two games vs an evenly matched South Africa club. Last year, the Wallabies drew the two matches with the Springboks and they split the two matches in 2016. I think there are going to be two more tightly contested matches in their home-and-home series and likely another split.
Best Bet – Australia three wins (+155)
Best Bets for the Rugby Championship – South Africa
There seems to be some optimism behind the Springboks heading into the 2018 Rugby Championship following two dismal seasons after the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Many of these high hopes are coming from a new coach who has seemed to invigorate the club en route to taking two of three matches against England in June this year. In addition to their new coach, they possess a rare gem in Malcolm Marx, who is one of the best players in the world. The hooker took the world by storm last year, playing all 80 minutes in each test against Australia in last year’s Rugby Championship, rare for a hook. Also, he put in a tremendous effort in South Africa’s 25-24 loss to New Zealand to close out the 2017 Rugby Championship, setting up a try and scoring one himself.
Much like Australia, South Africa may drop the two games vs New Zealand and pick up the two games against Argentina, so it comes down to the matches with Australia. The Springboks haven’t won multiple games in a season against the Wallabies since 2013 and have only done it twice since 2000. Although South Africa has made big improvements and they are quickly establishing themselves as an elite world powerhouse once again, so has Australia and for that reason I believe they split their two games.
Best Bet – South Africa three wins (+155)
Best Bets for the Rugby Championship – Argentina
Similar to South Africa and Australia, Argentina hasn’t garnered much success in the years following the 2015 Rugby World Cup. But unlike the Springboks and Wallabies, Los Pumas haven’t really made the adjustments to rectify their glaring issues. Traditionally, Argentina has had a strong scrum that has allowed them to remain competitive in games but that has been lacking in recent times.
Since the Tri Nations expanded to the Rugby Championship in 2012 by including Argentina into this Southern Hemisphere tournament, Los Pumas have an overall record of 3-29-1. However, their three wins have come in the last three tournaments so there have been some improvements, but not to the extent that South Africa and Australia have made. It’s hard to see a way that they can pick up many wins this year. They do have a chance for a home victory against the Wallabies, but even that is a tough sell.
Best Bet – Argentina zero wins (+150)