Back Boks to Irk Irish

  • By: Reece Killworth
  • Last Updated: November 9 2012, 16:56 GMT

Pat Lambie gets the nod at 10 for South Africa

5.5pts South Africa (-4) to beat Ireland at 10/11 (General).

With domestic action limited to the LV= Cup, the autumn internationals take centre stage with all of the four home nations in action across the weekend.

England and Wales are first in action as they face Fiji and Argentina respectively in games kicking off at 1430 on Saturday - and both will want to lay down markers for the tougher challenges that await in subsequent weeks.

A quick glance at the handicaps should tell you all you need to know ahead of England's game, with the Fijians given starts in the region of 32 points.

That's representative of a 10-place difference in the IRB world rankings - and the fact when Fiji come up against one of the powerhouses they generally come off second best; prior to the draw with Wales in November 2010 you have to go back to 2007 for a 'positive' result (a 38-34 defeat of - yes - Wales).

And while I wouldn't for a moment accuse the England camp of not being fully focused on their opener, it'd be understandable if they were already thinking about the matches with Australia, South Africa and New Zealand that follow.

That's why much of the talk emerging from Stuart Lancaster and his charges has been about sending a message out at the start of the series.

Lancaster - as is his wont as he builds for the future - has an inexperienced side out with 11 of the starting XV having 13 caps or fewer.

Those younger players can expect some big hits - particularly early on - but there's little doubt they'll win the game and win it well. Backing teams to overcome such big handicaps is never an enjoyable thing, though, and if you were to force me into a bet it'd probably be on the second-half handicaps.

This looks a game better used for researching exactly where England are at ahead of the bigger tests/Tests that wait in the three weeks that follow.

In Cardiff, Wales must overcome handicaps of around the 10 mark against an Argentina side battle-hardened after the inaugural 'Rugby Championship' which saw them - and not before time - added into the Tri-Nations.

They're not the power they once were, though, (from a best of third in the world rankings, they're now down to eighth) and emerged with only a draw against South Africa - albeit their best-ever result against the Boks - to take comfort in.

That shows they're still capable of turning on the style on their day - and it mustn't be forgotten they were facing the best three teams in the world.

Wales should have too much and I'll swerve this from a betting perspective but if you must have a wager I'd suggest siding with a rugged Argentina on the handicaps, though they're not exactly a cast-iron betting proposition.

The match that contains my bet of the weekend is at 1730 on Saturday over the Irish Sea, with Declan Kidney's Ireland hosting South Africa.

Granted they've had some tough opposition (their last three matches coming against New Zealand, for example) but Ireland have won just two of their last nine Test matches and two of 18 against the top six in the IRB rankings.

And not only do the Irish come into what is a tough enough game as it is in poor form but they've also been ravaged by injuries in recent weeks.

Two Lions captains in Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell are sidelined, as the last two European Players of the Year in Rob Kearney and Sean O'Brien.

Add influential Ulster duo Rory Best and Stephen Ferris into the equation and you're almost halfway to a very good Ireland team that won't take to the field.

Their understudies are no mugs, clearly, with the likes of Simon Zebo and Richardt Strauss (who will line up against his cousin) coming into the starting XV but they're untested on this stage.

And there's an altogether more settled feel about the South Africa side with only three changes, though Pat Lambie's inclusion at fly-half is interesting.

Morne Steyn and Johan Goosen shared duties during the Rugby Championship but the latter is injured and the former drops to the bench.

Like Ireland, the Boks haven't been in the best of form of late with a win and three defeats in the last four - but don't forget the calibre of opposition.

They've only lost two of the last 15 against Northern Hemisphere sides and taking Italy out of the equation have won by an average of over seven points.

With Ireland looking vulnerable, South Africa -4 has to be the call.

Scotland close out the weekend by facing New Zealand and it's a brave man who predicts anything other than a victory for the world champions.

Handicaps upwards of 25 tell the story of what should be a comfortable afternoon as the All Blacks look to notch a 17th victory in their last 18 Tests, the only (relative) blot on their copybook a draw with Australia last time out.

  • Preview posted at 2015 GMT on 08/11/2012.