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Preview: South Africa v Australia

Fri, 28 Sep 2012 07:01
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Paul Dobson previews the Rugby Championship Test between South Africa and Australia
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Both sides have a mathematical chance of winning the inaugural Rugby Championships. If New Zealand lose both matches and one of the two wins both matches with a bonus point they could win. And pigs may fly.

But they do have lots of pride to play for, especially the Springboks who need to give the hungry rugby nation something to be proud of.

After all the Wallabies have now beaten them five times in a row, starting in Bloemfontein in 2010 when Kurtley Beale kicked that improbable penalty goal.

Five times in a row! That is Australia's best run. South Africa have twice had a run of seven successive victories - 1937 to 1963 when they won at Loftus and 1969 to 1971.

That's history - some too recent for South African comfort and they do not like losing to Australians - not ever.

There will not be a lot of loud Wallaby support at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. In fact there may not be a great deal of Loftus support for the match. Late on Thursday they were still trying to sell tickets - R550 for the Main and East Lower Stands,  R450 for the East Stand, R350 for seating behind the poles and a limited offer of R350 for certain East Stand tickets.

Obviously the Wallabies could well win. After all they won  just three weeks ago. Surely the Springboks can win. They were close three weeks ago when they played badly. Surely they will be better at home. Surely.

What would it take to be better?

Every department of their game needs to be better. They need to be more aggressive when tackling - up and into 'em. They need to look after the ball at the break down.

The Wallabies beat them easily there, thanks largely to Michael Hooper. They need to play quickly from tackles, something the stately Ruan Pienaar is loath to do. They have chosen forceful ball-carriers who went unemployed in Perth. Perhaps some 'direct route' stuff is needed.

They need to scrum better. There were just 10 scrums in Perth but they were penalised at two of them. They need to up their discipline. Tendai Mtawarira's yellow card was not good at all.

Then there is the vexed issue of kicking. There are numbers to prove that the Wallabies kicked more. That is not really relevant. A kick becomes a good kick where and when you next get the ball. Mindlessly banging it down the field, even if you are kicking further than they are, is an exercise in futility.

There were signs in Dunedin that the Springboks are capable of much, much better in Pretoria. For one thing they battered the New Zealand pack. That New Zealand pack had outplayed the Wallabies. Surely then the Springboks can outplay them. They have the strength to do so.

At the back, much will depend on whether Kurtley Beale has self-control and how the Springboks cope with the dangerous running of Adam Ashley-Cooper and Digby Ioane.

One of the best rugby tactics is to do what your opponents are going to do and do it before they do. If the Wallabies are going to run, the Springboks should run first. If the Springboks are going to pound with the big men, then the Wallabies should pound first - getting Tatafu Polota Nau, Ben Alexander and their locks running at the Springboks.

There is also the Cooper factor. It may just be that Quade Cooper may just have done the 'toxic' Wallabies a huge favour with his outburst, galvanising them to prove the twerp wrong.

Goal-kicking is always a factor. Berrick Barnes has been wonderfully accurate but Johan Goosen can be as well and has greater distance. The Wallabies, more penalised than the Springboks in Perth would not want to concede a penalty within 60 metres of their goalposts.

Players to Watch: 

For South Africa: There will be a hot, bright spotlight on Johan Goosen, seen as the boy wonder, the saviour of South African rugby. All the skills are his and if body-language speaks clearly he has the temperament to match. His coach has told him to play it as he sees it, which one hopes is genuine freedom and not just  a chance to wash your hands if it does nor work out.
Then there is young Jaco Taute, so full of adventure, so strong, so intuitively able to see opportunities - such an exciting talent. You will want to watch Bryan Habana, one of the best in world rugby and the most diligent.

For Australia:  There is Digby Ioane, who will be running with the ball - also one of the best in the world. You would want to watch Michael Hooper - the smallish ball-thief who is also an excellent ball-carrier.

Head to Head: The real interest will be at flyhalf - the erratic genius of experienced Kurtley Beale against the calm, inexperienced skill of Johan Goosen. Goosen is certainly up to containing Beale but it is uncertain if Beale, whose defence has been brittle and his body language shouting disappointment, can contain Goosen who is thrustful. Bryan Habana against Digby Ioane - Habana with greater speed and acceleration, Ioane with greater strength and footwork. Francois Louw, who had a good match in Dunedin and should be a more unified member of the side after that experience, against Hooper for the tackle ball. Veteran Nathan Sharpe against rookie Eben Etzebeth in the hope that they will stick to the laws of the game and not get carried away with personal animosities after their Perth contretemps. Sharpe is 14 years older than Etzebeth and has 109 Test caps to Etzebeth's six. Etzebeth was 10 when Sharpe played his first Test; Sharpe was 34 when Etzebeth played his first Test. Surely wise heads will prevail. Adam Ashley-Cooper against Jaco Taute, neither of whom will stand back from confrontation, both able to change a game.

Recent Results
2012: Australia won 26-19, Perth
2011: Australia won 11-9, Wellington
2011: Australia won 14-9, Durban
2011: Australia won 39-20, Sydney
2010: Australia won 41-39, Bloemfontein
2010: South Africa won 44-31, Pretoria
2010: Australia won 30-13, Brisbane
2009: Australia won 21-6, Brisbane
2009: South Africa won 32-25, Perth
2009: South Africa won 29-17, Cape Town

Results in Pretoria
2010: South Africa won 44-31
2005: South Africa v Australia 22-16
2001: South Africa v Australia 20-15
1997: South Africa v Australia 61-22
1963: South Africa v Australia 14-3

Prediction: Things were close in Perth when the Springboks were poor. There is just a feeling that they could break out at Loftus and so we predict a South African victory by 15 points or more.

The teams

South African: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Marcell Coetzee, 20 Elton Jantjies, 21 Juan de Jongh, 22 Pat Lambie.

Australia: 15 Berrick Barnes, 14 Dominic Shipperley, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Radike Samo, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Nathan Sharpe (captain), 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Scott Higginbotham, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Brett Sheehan, 22 Anthony Fainga'a.

Date: Saturday, September 29
Kick-off: 17.00 (15.00 GMT)
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Expected weather: Clear with a high of 21°C, dropping to 10°C  and no rain - a beautiful spring day on the Highveld, great for rugby.
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Greg Garner (England)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

By Paul Dobson

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