Rugby Championships 2017
TEST MATCH TIME!
And so, the final round of the Rugby Championships looms. This annual merry-go-round of Test matches between the four Southern Hemisphere top gun rugby nations concludes.
As the final round looms I sit and wonder whether this too is a competition that has become mundane and just a bit ordinary. Last weekend the Wallabies visited Bloemfontein and a fair crowd of 33 000 people entered the stadium. It was no sell-out crowd, the stadium has a capacity of 46 000, but just 39 000 tickets were made available to the public, and just 33 000 were sold.
In days past the rugby-mad people of Bloemfontein and the surrounding country areas would have filled that stadium to bursting point. Those were the days when convoys of vehicles would fill the roads into Bloemfontein from Kimberley or Welkom, Johannesburg even, for a Test Match. Tickets were much sought after, a prize beyond reckoning, and the subject of much jealousy to those who were not as fortunate.
Newlands, Kings Park, Ellis Park, Loftus, wherever a Test match was played the stadium would be packed to the proverbial rafters. Tickets were sold out weeks before the game. Remember those all-night queues, with people camping out waiting for the ticket office to open so that they could, hopefully, secure one of the few tickets made available directly to the public? The disappointment when the guy in front of you got the last ticket?
Who can forget the lottery at the club when the allocated tickets went on sale and every member of the club applied for one or two? The adverts in the newspaper smalls when someone tried to sell their tickets because grandma’s funeral would take precedence….
Times have changed somewhat.
You can get a ticket for a Test match anytime you want to go and watch a game… Sometimes it feels as if the local union cannot give them away!
When the Springboks played France earlier in 2017, none of the stadiums were filled to capacity. When the All Blacks played the British & Irish Lions, one of the most anticipated tours in recent memory, none of the stadiums were filled to capacity…..
Look at some of the Test Match attendance figures in 2017:
When Australia played Fiji at AAMI Park in Melbourne on the 10th of June, 13 583 people attended the match. AAMI Park can seat 29 500 for rugby matches.
On the same day South Africa hosted France at Loftus Versveld in Pretoria, and just 29 313 people pitched up. Loftus can seat 51 762 fans.
Also on the 10th, the Argentine hosted England at the Estadio Bicentenario in San Juan. 23 000 are reported to have attended. This stadium can seat 25 000.
On the 16th June the All Blacks played Samoa at Eden Park in Auckland. This is New Zealand’s biggest rugby stadium and can seat 50 000. 26 129 fans attended this game.
When South Africa met France at Kings Park in Durban on the 17th of June, 41 000 Durbanites turned up to watch. A good crowd, but still 11 000 short of the stadium’s capacity of 52 000.
On the 24th June the All Blacks played the British Lions at Eden Park, and 48 181 people turned up to watch, a goodly chunk of them tourists following the Lions. A great crowd, but yet again, the stadium was not filled to the 50 000 capacity!
On the same day France headed to Ellis Park in Johannesburg, to be met by a crowd of 55 820. Another great crowd, yet still not filling the stadium, which holds 62 567 for rugby matches.
The second All Black/Lions Test on the 1st July, at Westpac Stadium in Wellington did draw a capacity crowd of 38 931, overfilling the stadium slightly.
The third All Black Lions Test, a week later, with the series in the balance, drew 48 609 people to Eden Park. Still short of the 50 000 capacity.
Moving on to the 2017 Rugby Championships.
Round 1 saw New Zealand visit Australia at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney, where a crowd of 54 846 filled a good part of the 83 500 seats available in that venue.
South Africa hosted Argentina, and 42 513 people attended the match at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth. A good crowd in a stadium with a 48 000 capacity.
30 748 people can fit into the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, where the All Blacks met the Aussies for the second round of the Rugby Championships. 27 085 attended.
Over in the Argentine, South Africa saw 17 435 people at the Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena in Salta.This stadium can seat 20 408 fans.
In round three, 22 118 fans pitched up at the Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth to watch the All Blacks host the Argentine. The stadium can seat just 25 000.
The nib Stadium in Perth can fit 25 000 rugby fans in its seats, 17 528 arrived to watch Australia draw with South Africa and this was a crowd that pitched to protest the dumping of the Force from Super Rugby.
Round four saw 30 021 fans watch New Zealand demolish South Africa at the QBE Stadium in Albany. This is much more than the published stadium capacity of 25 000.
The Argentine visited GIO Stadium in Canberra to play Australia, and just 14 220 people pitched to watch. GIO can hold 25 000.
Round five, last weekend, saw 33 000 attend the game in Bloemfontein, 39 000 tickets were available, and the stadium was well short of capacity of 46 000.
In the Argentine 31 500 people pitched to watch the All Blacks play the Pumas at the Estadio Jose Amalfitani in Buenos Aires. The stadium seats 49 540.
If we think about the figures I have given you above, we quickly see that, Test matches simply do not draw capacity crowds any more.
In the Argentine, the two Tests played there so far this year, 48 935 people attended the games, the stadiums used could accommodate 69 948 fans. There is still one fixture awaiting the Argentine, when Australia play there this coming weekend.
In Australia, they have hosted all three their fixtures for 2017. 86 594 people attended those three matches. The three stadiums could accommodate a cumulative 129 011 fans.
New Zealand has also hosted all three their 2017 fixtures. The World Champions drew 79 224 fans to their three home games. Their stadiums could accommodate 80 748 if the published capacity is accumulated. Remembering that QBE Stadium says it can accommodate 25 000, yet they also say they squeezed in 30 021 for the one against the Springboks.
In South Africa, the two Tests played so far have drawn 75 513 fans to the games against the Argentine and Australia. The two stadiums used have a published capacity of 46 000 and 48 000, a total of 94 000. On Saturday the 51 900 capacity Newlands hosts the All Blacks. This game should draw a fairly large crowd to a stadium that regularly hosts the most spectators in a Super Rugby season.
At the end of Round Five of the Rugby Championships, 290 226 spectators had attended the 10 Tests played. An average of just 29 023 spectators per match. The stadia could accommodate 373 707 fans, so close to 100 000 sets remained empty across the ten Tests, an average of close to 10 000 per game.
Some, especially the spin doctors from SANZAAR, will argue that the crowd figures for the Rugby Championship Tests are very good, perhaps even brilliant. South Africa’s two stadiums were close to 80% of capacity, New Zealand close to 100%, even Australia managed to fill stadiums to 67% of capacity. They will tell us that those are very good figures, good percentages.
I think not!
This is the sixth year of the Rugby Championships. Previously it was known as the Tri-Nations.
In 2013 the competition drew 488 113 spectators, an average of 40 676 per match.
In 2014, three years ago, the competition was watched by 430 582 spectators, with an average of 35 882 per match.
In 2015 we saw a shortened competition as the Rugby World Cup was looming. The Rugby Championships drew 243 416 spectators, averaging 40 569 per match. The upcoming World Cup helped to draw some extra bums into seats.
In 2016, 431 288 spectators watched the Tests, an average of 35 941 per game.
This puts 2017 into perspective. If Newlands is filled to its 51 000 seat capacity, and the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas in Mendoza is filled to its 40 000 capacity, that would add 91 000 to the 2017 figures, giving us a hypothetical 381 226 spectators for 2017, or just 31 769 per game.
The figures are steadily dropping, year by year.
In 2000 just one Tri-Nations game, between Australia and New Zealand on the 15th July at Stadium Australia in Sydney drew 109 874 spectators! The games played in New Zealand and Australia drew 271 922 spectators in total. The South African games at Ellis Park and Kings Park also drew capacity crowds, although I do not have the exact figures. Let’s add a random 90 000 to the figure – around 360 000 people attended those six matches, an average of 60 000 per game!
The 2005 Tri-Nations averaged 50 509 spectators per match, with a total of 303 056 attendees!
In 2008 the figure was 444 707, with an average of 49 412 per game.
The Tri-Nations, in 2010, drew 441 997 spectators with an average of 49 111 per match. That was up from the 399 093 and 44 344 of 2009!
In 2011, another World Cup year, the shortened series averaged 46 497 per match.
No matter which competition, no matter how you attempt to spin the numbers, rugby in the Southern Hemisphere and particularly SANZAAR’s Rugby Championships is in trouble. The spectator numbers and interest are waning, year by year. The addition of the Argentine to the competition has not had the effect of boosting numbers, rather it triggered the decline in interest!
Even if Newlands and Estadio Malvinas cough up capacity crowds for the final round in 2017, this will be the worst year in the new millennium for crowd attendance at the Tri-Nations and the Rugby Championships.
Compare the Southern Hemisphere to the North. Research, presented as part of the Club Licensing Benchmarking Report, showed the Six Nations Rugby Championships to have an average attendance of 72,000 per game in the 2015 season - with a total attendance of 1,080,000 over the 15 games.
The 2016 Six Nations drew 1 034 521spectators, an average of 68 968 per game. Even Italy, minnows in the 6 Nations world, drew crowds of 67 721 at home to Scotland and then 70 000 for the game against England, they had more fans present at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome than did any of the Rugby Championships games.
Italy, in two Tests, drew 137 721 spectators to their games compared to the 135 681 that watched New Zealand play the British & Irish Lions in three Tests!
Small wonder, then, that the northern clubs have the money and interest to suck promising Southern Hemisphere players into their competitions?
The only way for this drain on payers to be stopped is for the competitions in the south to become money spinners in their own right, and this will not happen while the spectators stay away from games.
And why are the spectators staying away?
Is it ticket pricing?
Nick Mallett was fired by the South African Rugby Union for suggesting that the ticket prices were too high. I do believe he had a point. I have not researched all the current ticket pricing structures across the four competing nations in the Rugby Championships, and this might well be a factor in keeping the crowds away. The Test between the All Blacks and the Springboks at Newlands this week has prices ranging from R100 for the scholars’ enclosure, R150 for standing room and R450 for selected seats, up to R950 for prime seats.
Despite the prices, it is very likely that Newlands will be full to the last seat. This is the way of the Newlands crowd, the most loyal of rugby supporters in the Southern Hemisphere.
Some may then suggest that these are reasonable prices. I, for one, think they are exorbitant. The school kids should get in free, or for a token amount of as little as R10. Standing room, which is usually full of students and younger people with little income, should be no more than R50.
Is there simply too much rugby?
I think this is the primary cause of the spectator stay-away.
There is an awful lot of rugby on offer today, including Test match rugby. Consider that the average Test level rugby player can reach the 50 Test mark within four years of making his debut, and that many players reach and exceed the 100 Test mark. Just in 2017, the Springboks will have played 3 tests against France, 6 Tests in the Rugby Championships, and then there are four more fixtures before the year is done. On the 11th November they face Ireland, on the 18th they will play France, on the 25th Italy, and then finally, the season ends on the 2nd of December with a Test against Wales. That is 13 Tests in one year.
Add in the Super Rugby, the Currie Cup, the Six Nations, All Blacks vs British Lions, the Sevens circuit, Premiership, Top 14, and some schools rugby and we quickly reach that saturation point where it is just too much of a good thing. This is a rugby season that starts sometime in February and stretches on into December in the Southern Hemisphere, and is non-stop if you also follow northern rugby!
That saturation point, added to the exorbitant ticket prices, and no average person, with an average income and an average life style is willing to sacrifice the time or the money to watch that much rugby.
Whilst my primary concern is the empty rugby stadia when games are played, even Test matches, there is a very significant elephant wandering around the room too. What is the impact of so much rugby, a lot of it mediocre at best, on the television viewing numbers?
Television broadcast revenues pay for rugby, this is the sad fact of the modern era. In the northern competitions, the sell-out crowds tell us that the game is healthy, and the broadcaster through eye-wateringly large amounts of moment at the game. It makes commercial sense, and rugby is the benefactor.
The TV viewership figures for the southern competitions are a closely guarded secret, neither SANZAAR nor the national unions are willing to disclose the figures, while the broadcasters will only leak dribbles of information, but I have it on fairly good authority that the numbers are not good! They are in a steady decline in South Africa, somewhat stable in New Zealand, and a disaster in Australia where a recent Test match drew fewer viewers than did a gardening show that was broadcast at the same time!
Rugby in the Southern Hemisphere is in some pretty serious trouble. The authorities need to glance away from the buffet tables and bars in their luxurious executive suites and see what is happening in the grand stands and in the cheaper seats. They must realise that they are killing the goose that lays the golden egg. It is time for some very hard thinking, hard talk, and hard decisions that will upset some of their fellow blazer wearing reflected glory gatherers, and rethink the entire structure of rugby competitions in the south.
A plan needs to be formulated to draw back the crowds. Something must be done to make rugby and exciting and innovative attraction again. We need to fill the stands, and double the LOCAL viewership and not simply hope that the “product” will continue to sell to northern broadcasters.
The goose is not quite dead yet, but it is on the critical list!
Test Match Previews:
Saturday, 7th October.
South Africa vs New Zealand
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Kickoff: 17h05 Local Time: 15h05 GMT.
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant Referees: Romain Poite (France), Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)
During the last two weeks I have read a multitude of articles all wisely suggesting exactly what the Springboks must do to beat the All Blacks at Newlands. Everybody has the answer. Pundits tell us about changing game plans, they suggest playing “more direct” rugby or talk about “better execution” or “tactical changes” and the like. We have had articles telling us about the defence, the decision making, the set pieces, the kicking battle, the physicality, choosing the right options, the lineout battle, and even about management clarity.
The Doom & Gloomers are also out in force. Some are suggesting a bigger score than the 57 – 0 of a couple of weeks ago. One is suggesting the Springboks will always chase shadows because of poor planning and tactical shortcomings of the coaches. Another questions many of the selections. Some are taking pot-shots at individual players. Yet another is vociferous about the way the bench has been used incorrectly, in his opinion.
What all this tells me is that there are very few, if any, that think the current Springbok team will beat the All Blacks at Newlands.
Add me to that majority…
I do not think this Springbok team is ready, or able, to beat the All Blacks yet.
I do, however, think that this is a side that is learning it’s trade at Test match level. (Not in the way that the forward coach Mathew Proudfoot suggests Ruan Dreyer is “learning to adapt” to the different demands of different opponents… You cannot do that at Test rugby level!) I do mean that the team as a whole is learning about the pressure and focus that is required at the top level of the game. This is a team that started the season with one of the most inexperienced international squads in the world. I do mean that the team as a whole is learning to play together, to pull together, and to work together. I do believe that this team is a work-in-progress.
Hence, I do not expect too much from them in this Test match against the All Blacks.
I will be looking to see whether they have learned from the disaster at Albany.
I will be looking to see whether they play the game with more tactical discipline. Will they make sure that their kicking is into spaces and into touch, not the wayward Air & Prayer kicking we saw before? Will they take the ball forward into contact more often, sucking in the All Black defenders before swinging it out wide, or will they persist with taking it wide at every opportunity? Will they “earn the right” to play out wide?
Will the midfield run straight, or head off for the touchline as has been Jesse Kriel’s habit with many of the balls he gets his hands on? Will the midfield run at the space between players, or will we see more of Jan Serfontein’s tuck & charge tactics, running straight at an opponent? Will we see ball carriers straightening the line rather than running sideways and out of space?
Importantly, will we see better timing of the pass and better linking? Better decision making, better finishing? Will those who have developed a penchant for running and dying with the ball start to pass it before they get tackled? Will we see the ball shifted away from contact rather than taken straight into contact? Will those chances that were lost against Australia a week back be converted to points with an improvement in timing and execution?
Will the Springboks show us that they have learned from the last two tests they have played?
Against Australia and New Zealand we saw a South African defensive system that focused on the drift or “lag” tactic. Whilst it worked at times, especially against the likes of France and the Argentine, it was often left behind by the quickness of opposition thinking and tactical nous. The more astute Wallabies, especially Kurtley Beale, and the very clever All Blacks exploited the weaknesses inherent in such a defence strategy. It was palpably wrong at this level of rugby. Will they have worked on tightening up on the system? Will they look to get into the All Black faces quicker, straighter, and in a more structured way with the fringe players protecting their channels? I hesitate to suggest the rush defence, it needs an awful lot of discipline and focus, with plenty of practice, to make it work. But I do want to see a more disciplined structure though! I want to see structured, one-on-one tackling with the defensive line unbroken, especially out wide.
Will we see better control and vastly improved accuracy at the lineouts? In Albany, the lineout, where the Bok’s had been the competition’s best so far in 2017, simply disintegrated into a complete mess. Malcolm Marx lost his accuracy completely and, it seemed, simply threw the ball at the lineout with regard for the call. We are told that the All Blacks deployed some special tactics to disrupt the lineouts.
It will be a measure of the Springboks to see if they learned from those All Black tactics and whether Marx has fixed his throwing yips to return to the form he showed in the first six Tests of the year. He is good enough to fix his throwing, are the Boks good enough to get their lineout working properly again?
Will the Springbok scrum settle back into the cohesive unit they have been for most of 2017? They have been a well-functioning unit all year, with a slight stutter against the All Blacks, and a bit of a problem against a very clever Australian scrum a week ago. We know that they can dominate if they get everything working together, but it does hinge on a tighthead that can hold his side of the scrum up!
Most importantly, will the Boks have learned not to waste good ball by kicking it away aimlessly? Kicking is a critical aspect of the game, and it can and does provide a weapon of some considerable impact, if it is used accurately and correctly. Damian McKenzie is a superb fullback, but the chink in his armor is the high-ball, correctly placed, coming down in front of him so that he has to run onto it. If it is well chased, he often knocks or fails to control the kick. Get it wrong and he will counterattack you into oblivion. Reiko Ioane is untested under the high ball, he should also be tested.
Line kicks, tactical kicks, and clearing kicks have to be accurate. This has not been the Bok’s best suit in 2017. Will they have learned?
This test is not about winning, this Test is about learning and fixing. This Test is about increasing maturity and growing experience, it is about developing and expanding.
And if the Springboks show that they have learned from the lessons they were given, the end of competition report card will say “Improving! Well done.”
Make no mistake, the All Blacks are not on holiday in Cape Town! They have spoken about further improvement. They have spoken about mistakes that must be fixed. They talk about the challenge they see coming at them, and say that they are still far from perfection yet. They have spoken about the trials of travelling, the need to get energy levels high again. They have told of the edge between the Springboks and the All Blacks, and that every game between the two sides is special.
And they have chosen to field the best team they have available at the moment.
The five All Blacks who came directly to South Africa without visiting Argentina have all been named in the match-day 23. (Only the big name of Brodie Retallick is missing as he has stayed home due to some very sad personal issues. Our thoughts are with him and his wife.)
Sam Whitelock returns to the second row alongside Scott Barrett, while Liam Squire is at blindside flanker and Sam Cane is at openside, with Matt Todd moving to the bench.
Ryan Crotty has been named at centre, while Nehe Milner-Skudder is on the right wing. Tawera Kerr-Barlow has been named at reserve scrum-half and Lima Sopoaga provides back cover alongside David Havili.
The Springboks have also tweaked their team somewhat, with three changes to the starting squad. Steven Kitshoff gets his first run-on start in a Springbok jersey after 18 caps as a replacement off the bench. He replaces Tendai Mtawarira who is unavailable for family reasons.
Lood de Jager switches spots with Franco Mostert, with de Jager starting and Mostert to come off the bench. Inexplicably, Pieter-Steph du Toit will start at blindside flanker to give the Springboks, ostensibly, more line-out options. Francois Louw will run out at Number 8, taking over from the injured Uzair Cassiem.
During the week there have been a number of knowledgeable people calling for the inclusion of young Wilco Louw in the squad. They have got their wish. He has finally been drafted onto the bench.
I, for one, cannot figure what Allister Coetzee is smoking when he says that the loose trio he has picked for this game gives the team the “perfect balance” he has been looking for. If this were true, he would have deployed this trio from the beginning of the competition. Pieter-Steph du Toit is NOT a flanker, he is an international class lock!
Prediction: This will be no Albany. South Africa will probably not win this game, but they will make it very tough for the All Blacks. They will be on a mission to fix things and restore pride, and a wounded rugby player is a dangerous opponent.
I am seeing an immense battle, with lots of massive hits and physicality. I am seeing forwards bashing into each other with total commitment. I am seeing backs hammering into one another.
It will be a huge game.
It will also be a game where a balanced, polished, and confident outfit take on a team that is very much still under construction. Men against boys, even if the boys are rapidly growing up.
The All Blacks will have the reserve mental strength of knowing how to win tight games, and they will win it, probably in the last ten minutes, by around 12 points.
South Africa: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Francois Louw, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (c), 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Damian de Allende
New Zealand: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Kane Hames
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 David Havili
Sunday, 8 October
Argentina vs Australia
Venue: Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza
Kickoff: 20h30 Local Time: 22h30 GMT: 00h30 SA Time.
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
I am not sure what to make of this game. Last week the Wallabies left Bloemfontein having earned a draw with South Africa, but it was an utterly unconvincing draw. It was a game that was there for South Africa to win, and not one where the Australians had actually set themselves up for a win. South Africa’s inaccuracies and some inexplicable refereeing that gave us the draw.
However, this is a Wallaby outfit that is starting to play together, pulled together by the experience of Kurtley Beale and Will Genia, the try scoring form of Israel Folau, and the ever-present nuisance that is Michael Hooper. Ben Foley’s rediscovery of some long missing mojo has also helped! Slowly, but surely the Wallabies are becoming a good rugby team. Not in the league of the All Blacks by a long chalk, but certainly vastly improved from the rabble that started the season.
The Argentinean team has given every opponent something to think about in the five Rugby championships games they have played so far. They are a bit like a persistent Jack Russell… not quite big or strong enough to take down the Rottweilers, but those Rotties will bleed before the fight is over. Interesting, it seems they do not play with a structured game plan in mind. It is all about taking chances and feeding off scraps. They are the world’s best scavengers, not so much pumas, rather they are the hyenas of the rugby field.
The hyena is perfectly adept at stealing someone else’s prey, or killing their something of their own. And once they have it in their mighty jaws, nobody gets it back! The Pumas play the same kind of game. They can steal your ball, they will chase you off your own ball, and they can capture some of their own too. And that makes them dangerous.
A week ago, they made it tough for the All Blacks in the second half as they clawed their way back into the game. Admittedly the All Blacks were in a bit of a cruise mode, but the Pumas still held them scoreless for almost the entire second half, until David Havili scored a last gasp try.
If you can hold the All Blacks scoreless for almost 40 minutes, you do have something in your team!
This week the Wallabies have had to travel to the Argentine after an energy soaking draw with the Springboks in Bloemfontein. It remains to be seen whether they will have recovered enough, mentally and physically, to beat the Argentineans at home.
The Wallabies have announced an unchanged starting side for their Rugby Championship clash with Argentina.
Interesting that it’s the first time that coach Michael Cheika has named the same starting XV in consecutive matches since he took control of the side during 2014.
There are changes on the bench, Ned Hanigan has finally been left out of the 23, along with Tom Robertson, who drops out of the squad to make room for Tetera Faulkner.
Faulkner comes into the side for his first Test since 2014.
Lukhan Tui has been selected after a solid debut against the Springboks a week ago.
Henry Speight is back on the bench too.
The Argentineans have made four changes to their starting lineup for this game.
They have a forced rotation at scrum-half as Tomas Cubelli drops out of the matchday 23 with Martin Landajo wearing the number nine jersey.
Cubelli sustained a fractured vertebra and disc hernia in last week’s 36-10 defeat to the All Blacks. Gonzalo Bertranou takes his place as reserve scrum-half on the replacements bench.
Perennial bad boy and sin-bin occupant, Tomas Lavanini, has finally pushed his coach too far. Lavanini received two yellow cards against South Africa and one yellow card against Australia in the two Rugby Championship matches he has featured in, and has been dropped right out of the match-day squad.
Guido Petti, Lavanini’s lock partner last week, has also been given the boot. He too drops out of the match-day squad altogether. Matias Alemanno and Marcos Kremer are the new lock pairing.
Argentina: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Matias Moroni, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Tomas Lezana, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matias Alemanno, 4 Marcos Kremer, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy (c), 1 Lucas Noguera Paz
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Banjamin Macome, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Santiago Cordero
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Marika Koroibete, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Reece Hodge, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Lukhan Tui, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Samu Kerevi, 23 Henry Speight
Prediction: I do believe that this Australian outfit, as a whole, is better than the individual parts drawn from the Super Franchises and from overseas. When a player does not even get a starting spot for his franchise, yet he steps up to the mark when playing for the Wallabies, it says something about the team ethos of the Australians, and the woe that is their Super Rugby campaign.
The Wallabies are playing with some structure and disciplines that have been missing for some time. They are gelling into a team that will test anyone they play against, and they appear to be much better than the Pumas.
The Argentineans have the ability to beat anyone, when everything clicks and the discipline holds. Neither have happened in 2017. I do not think it will happen this week either.
The Wallabies, by 9 points.