The Rugby World Cup becomes a knockout affair this weekend as eight teams will soon be whittled down to four and in all but one of the matches the northern hemisphere side are the underdogs.
Ireland are the only favourites from above the globe’s waistline, but as their price of 4/7 reveals, beating a very dangerous Argentina outfit is something several miles short of a foregone conclusion.
Having fallen to the Irish last time out, there won’t be many punters jumping on France at 5/1 to end New Zealand’s trophy defence at this stage either.
Scotland’s mountain looks the hardest to scale. The Thistle are up against an Australia side who have emerged from the ‘pool of death’ protecting a 100 per cent record and this is reflected in odds of 8/1 about the Scots causing a massive upset.
As far as underdogs go, Wales look the best prepared to defy the odds and increase the chances of multiple home nations reaching the semis.
Warren Gatland’s men have taken a battering in terms of injuries, but the spirit within the camp alone means the Welsh are attractive bets at 11/4 to end South Africa’s challenge, especially after defeating England in such memorable fashion in Pool A.
This courage in isolation will not be enough to see Wales progress of course, though they can be buoyed by their last performance against the South Africans, if not their overall record against them.
Wales defeated Heyneke Meyer’s tourists 12-6 in Cardiff last year in a gutsy, yet controlled performance that they can draw on at Twickenham on Saturday, though that was just their second ever triumph in 30 previous meetings with the two-time world champs.
Although the Red Dragons ultimately lost to Australia in their final pool encounter, the fact the Wallabies didn’t score a try is also another positive to carry into their quarter-final tie.
It’s well documented that South Africa succumbed to the biggest shock in the competition’s history in their opening match, but it’s fair to say that since that defeat to Japan, the giants have woken from their slumber.
The Springboks’ last match in the pool phase saw the USA thumped 64-0, so tails will be up among Meyer’s side, who also made pretty light work of Scotland prior to that.
Wales will have to be at the peak of their powers to defeat a XV containing five veterans of the glorious 2007 vintage, but one of the chinks in South African armour is their lack of an unknown element.
Wales head coach Gatland is hoping that, along with the major boost Dan Lydiate’s return gives the Red Dragons, his side can spring a surprise on the Springboks.
Speaking ahead of the game Gatland said: “There’s so much analysis going on and with one or two subtle changes you can potentially catch a team by doing something a bit different.
“We’ve worked on a couple of things this week that hopefully South Africa haven’t seen.”
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