Preview: South Africa v Australia

Thu, 26 Sep 2013 20:43
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The Springboks have the chance to prove they can handle being outright favourites when they face Australia at Newlands.

The Springboks have the chance to prove they can handle being outright favourites when they face Australia at Newlands.

Having already beaten the Wallabies comprehensively in Brisbane, this game is being viewed by some as a warm-up to the big rematch with the All Blacks next week.

The visitors have not won at Newlands for over 20 years and head into this game as heavy underdogs following an indifferent start to new coach Ewen McKenzie's tenure.

Despite his aims of playing a more attacking brand of rugby, McKenzie's Wallabies have battled to score tries, so they have it all to prove in the intimidating atmosphere of a packed Newlands on Saturday.

Skipper James Horwill is back to help face the physical onslaught from the Boks, and the absence of James O'Connor also means there have been changes to the outside backs.

Although they got over the line against the Pumas in Perth, the Wallabies have had their chances of upsetting the Boks written off with the home side expected to overwhelm them.

It seems that the greatest challenge facing the Boks is not Australia but avoiding complacency and reaching their supporters' lofty expectations.

After a frustrating performance against the All Blacks in Auckland the home side are aiming to return to their strengths by imposing themselves physically and putting territorial pressure on the Wallabies.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer admitted that his focus this week has been on his team and how they can bounce back from losing their first game of the year.

"Our main focus this week is on ourselves and what we want to do, we believe that we are on the right track but we also need to keep our feet on the ground because we are still a long way from where we can be at our best so the whole mindset this week was to focus on where we want to go," he said.

Whilst this may make this game sound like something of a dress rehearsal for the clash with the All Blacks at Ellis Park next week, Meyer made it clear that his side are fully aware of the threats that the Wallabies present.

"It is not going to be easy, I believe the Wallabies are a quality side and they have always been tough if you look at the previous encounters. I want the guys to take it to the next level but a good win will be good enough for me," he said.

The Bok coach made just two changes to his team with Fourie du Preez in at scrumhalf and Adriaan Strauss getting an opportunity at hooker.

He explained that his team is still developing and although they have the potential to dominate they will take any win to keep their hopes of winning the Rugby Championship alive.

"I believe we have played some great rugby, especially at home this year. Now we have been on the road for three Test matches and played some great rugby there as well but I really want the guys to make a big step up at home.

"We obviously want to make our country proud and play a brand that excites the people, we have had a lot of compliments especially overseas for the way we play but again if we want to win the competition one point is good enough and there are two tough games still ahead," he added.

Players to watch:

For South Africa: Veteran scrumhalf general Fourie du Preez starts his first game for the Boks since the 2011 World Cup quarterfinal, and his playmaking skills are expected to make a big impact. If he can bring runners like Bryan Habana and Willie le Roux into the game then the Boks have a chance of breaking the Wallabies open. In the forward pack flank Francois Louw will be crucial at the breakdown and players like Willem Alberts and Eben Etzebeth will look to get over the advantage line. Up front hooker Adriaan Strauss will be out to prove he deserves his chance ahead of Bismarck du Plessis and both props will be keen to repeat the dominance they enjoyed at scrum-time in Brisbane.

For Australia: Israel Folau will be an attacking threat if he is brought into the game by his teammates. Tevita Kuridrani will want to make an impact in his run-on debut at outside centre, and Joe Tomane will also want to prove that he deserves his call-up. Quade Cooper holds the creative key if the Wallaby backline are going to be a threat, whilst Christian Lealiifano cannot afford to be erratic off the kicking tee. Scrumhalf Nic White will want to use his impressive kicking game to get his pack on the front foot. Michael Hooper will be patrolling the breakdown with his usual energy and Ben Mowen will be tasked with taking on the Bok defence. Captain Horwill returns and will have to set the tone up front if they are to get any parity, whilst hooker Stephen Moore will need all of his experience in the set-pieces.

Head to head: Veterans Bryan Habana and Adam Ashley-Cooper will square off out wide, and in the midfield it will be somewhat different with the relatively inexperienced outside centres JJ Engelbrecht and Tevita Kuridrani. The flyhalves Morne Steyn and Quade Cooper represent two different styles, but neither will be able to impose themselves if their forwards are under pressure. The battle at the breakdown between Francois Louw and Michael Hooper should be intense, and up front experienced Wallabies tighthead prop Ben Alexander will be determined to show that he can stand up to Tendai Mtawarira at scrum-time.

Recent results:
2013: South Africa won 38-12 in Brisbane
2012: South Africa won 31-8, Pretoria
2012: Australia won 26-19, Perth
2011: Australia won 11-9, Wellington (World Cup quarterfinal)
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

Prediction: The Wallabies have their backs to the wall which makes them dangerous, but the Springboks should have too much for them on home soil so they will win by ten points.


South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana,  10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Juandré Kruger, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Sitaleki Timani, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Will Genia, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Chris Feauai-Sautia.

Date: Saturday, September 28
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Kick-off: 17.00 (15.00 GMT; 01.00 Sunday, September 29 AEST)
Expected weather: Cloudy but dry, high of 15 low of 10, 30km/h wind
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Pascal Gauzère (France)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

By Michael de Vries