Ewen Mckenzie is a very strong tactical coach who has a feel for how to beat New Zealand teams. The Reds beat the Chiefs at our place earlier in the season and they took us on through the heart. People expect Australia to take on the All Blacks with a wide ranging game this weekend, but I believe that they will have a crack up the middle.They will take on the All Blacks physically and try to beat them up. Yes, Will Genia will sit back in his 30 metre pocket in defence and look to create some counter play, but in attack Australia will hit it up the inside channel and raise the physicality.
Matt Toomua is very strong in that channel and will create front foot ball. McKenzie has also brought in Hugh McMeniman into the back row, a selection that makes a lot of sense. It is a side with a lot of kicking options and strong ball carriers. I still expect New Zealand to win. The loss of Dan Carter may even work in their favour. Aaron Cruden may be the second best first five on the planet right now, he has steered the Chiefs to two Super 15 titles and was a big part of New Zealand’s opening victories against France, but the loss of Carter will create discomfort. That can give you the uneasy edge that you need going into a big game.But Australia will be dangerous. There is always a boost with a new coach. Players think of a new regime as never having lost a match, rather than never having won one. However, there are only seven players left from the Wallaby side that drew with New Zealand last year and I am not sure they have that sort of depth. There is also the challenge of bringing together an eclectic group of individuals in just 12 days.
The game in South Africa should be equally fascinating. Normally coaches don’t change and although Heyneke Meyer hints at a more progressive style with some of his wide selections, the presence of Ruan Pienaar and Morne Steyn at 9 and 10 is not conducive to expansive tactics. The Boks will be tough, they will go harder than seems physically possible from a human being, but I don’t think they will create enough to win the Championship.
Argentina are a fascinating prospect and they have just beaten a decent New South Wales side conclusively. They have already promoted blindside Pablo Matera and the tighthead Matias Diaz from the under-20’s and there are several more players on the way through. First-five Patricio Fernandez is big, quick and can take players on the outside, lock Tomas Lavanini is a huge man and a force for the future and there is some real flair in the outside backs. Come the 2015 World Cup the Pumas could be very dangerous.