Expect the Springboks to beat Samoa by more than 14 and the Lions to overcome Australia, writes GARY LEMKE.
South Africa vs Samoa
The first week I got it wrong, the second week I got it right, so we're even after the Italy and Scotland Tests. I had expected Italy to hold the Springboks to within the handicap spread of 27 (it ended 44-10 with a flurry of late points), but strongly felt that Scotland would also be able to beat the bookies spread, set at 26 points. That happened to be spot on as South Africa laboured to a 30-17 victory, for a margin of 13. For the 'final' against Samoa, the bookies have given Samoa only an effective 14-0 start on the handicap spread. I think they've got it wrong and reckon that the Boks will triumph by more than 14, and I'd have set the bar closer to 20. The Boks last put together a complete 80-minute performance when Father Christmas was still a teenager, but I reckon they'll revel at Loftus. It's a match where one expects the second half to be higher scoring than the first and the first 50 minutes or so to be a series of collisions. There is nothing subtle about Samoa, nor is there anything subtle about the Boks when they go into contact, rather than looking to attack open space. It will be a case of subdue and penetrate and it is unlikely to be pretty, but in the third match of their 2013 campaign and at Loftus, I am fully expecting them to not only beat Samoa but beat the effective 14-0 handicap deficit that they have been given.
Australia vs British & Irish Lions
The bookies have digested the defeat of the Lions to Jake White's Brumbies by believing the tourists will bounce back. It was the first time the Lions had lost to a provincial side in 16 years and it was a victory that the 2007 World Cup-winning coach called 'one of the greatest nights of my rugby life'. He also predicted that if Australia managed to win the first Test in Brisbane on Saturday, 'the Lions will crumble'. However, the online bookies have reacted by installing the Lions as three-point favourites to bounce back and take the first of three Tests. A personal view is that the 'Saturday' Lions are an entirely different proposition and I have been impressed by their displays so far on tour. If you put in the performance, the result will look after itself and this is what has been happening. Australia, like any of New Zealand or South Africa, are a formidable challenge. The last time the Lions won a Test series was in South Africa in 1997, when Jeremy Guscott slotted a drop goal at Kings Park that made the third Test a dead rubber. They came close in 2009, again in South Africa, and Morné Steyn came off the bench to land a late long-range penalty to secure the series at Loftus in a match that they were a touch fortunate to win. Yet, I called the Lions a long time out, from late in 2012 and can't back out now. The bookies have given Australia a 3-0 start on the even-money (double-your-stake) handicap spread. I reckon the Lions will win by more than three and consider any bet a decent investment.
New Zealand vs France
After being restricted to a 10-point margin of victory (23-13) at Auckland in the first Test, the All Blacks turned things up last week in the second Test with an emphatic 30-0 victory over France. In both games I had strongly expected New Zealand to beat the bookies' handicap (set at 15 and 18, respectively), so we're all square there. This time round the bookies haven't deviated much, giving France an effective 18-0 start. Again, I have to stay true to my beliefs that New Zealand have too much ammo for their opponents, who we know can run hot and cold. Sometimes even in the same match. The French were woeful in the Six Nations but look a better unit than they were then, but still, the All Blacks will be looking to make a statement. I can't see them reproducing the 30-0 scoreline of last week, but I do think they'll put more than 18 points daylight between the sides.
Scotland vs Italy
Not priced up as yet.
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Saluting a rugby giant
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‘SA conference wide open’
What former Springbok coach NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about Saturday's matches involving South African teams.