The optimism surrounding England’s reboot under Stuart Lancaster’s guidance might be punctured in the opening contest of their three-test series with South Africa in Durban on Saturday…
This is Lancaster’s first match as permanent England head coach, having earned the role after restoring English pride badly wounded at last year’s World Cup during the Six Nations, guiding them to second place with four wins in five.
There is no question that this is the hardest of his six encounters to date though and given that they were beaten at home in the previous toughest against Grand Slam-securing Wales at Twickenham, their ability to handle it is open to debate.
South Africa have won their last seven meetings with England and as the last four – one of which was the 2007 World Cup final – took place in Europe, and the latest two at Twickenham, it is tough to dispute their 4/11 favourite status.
The main handicap is set at seven points in England’s favour and with both nations set to evens, it is South Africa who offer more appeal.
All seven of the Springboks’ recent victories over Lancaster’s men have come by margins greater than that, while England’s last five defeats to south hemisphere opposition were all inflicted by at least nine points.
The last three of those were decided by precisely ten, so the tie in the South Africa -10 handicap market at 16/1 is a bet worth considering.
One more appetising option is to bet on England scoring no tries at 5/2, as they mustered only one in their last four clashes with the Boks. They have grabbed two or more in just three of their last 21 against them, and that pattern is 8/11 to continue.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.