McKenzie to rely on bench for Boks
Tue, 02 Sep 2014 06:44
You have to match fire with fire
Australian coach Ewen McKenzie made some bold selections to his starting XV, but it is his bench he hopes packs the biggest punch.
McKenzie axed star playmaker Kurtley Beale and Nic White for the Rugby Championship clash against South Africa - selection changes that were expected in the wake of the Wallabies' humiliating 20-51 loss to New Zealand in their last outing, in Auckland.
Beale and White were preferred for the opening two rounds, but McKenzie reverted to the highly-rated Waratahs duo of Bernard Foley (No.10) and Nick Phipps (No.9) as his halfback pairing for the encounter with the Springboks in Perth on Saturday.
They are among a number of changes for Saturday's Test in Perth, with James Hanson replacing injured hooker Nathan Charles after he was ruled out for the season with a pectoral tear.
However, it is on the bench were the most significant 'adjustment' was made.
To combat the abrasive Springbok pack, McKenzie has opted for a forward-heavy six-two split on the bench.
Lock James Horwill returns as a replacement at the expense of youngster Will Skelton, while Western Force captain Matt Hodgson and Reds hooker Saia Fainga'a get their first Wallaby opportunities of 2014.
McKenzie said the bench would be important against the South Africans.
"We've been really impressed with the variety South Africa has brought to their game in recent times, but traditionally they are a forward-orientated side which uses their size, power and set-piece to put pressure on the opposition," he said.
"You have to confront that head-on and match fire with fire.
"The addition of an extra forward also offers us greater flexibility in how we approach our substitutions.
"James [Horwill] has been working really hard to push his way back into the matchday squad, and I've been really impressed with how he has gone about his work.
He will also bring the added benefit of giving us an additional line-out jumping option when he's on the field.
"Matt Hodgson also deserves a special mention.
He's been doing everything he can on and off the field to get an opportunity, and has been the ultimate team man in the process."
"We look forward to seeing what he'll bring to the match."
McKenzie said the changes, to the starting XV, also reflected the different challenge they would face against South Africa.
"While the size of the challenge isn't any easier this week, the South Africans do play a unique brand of rugby - which we will need to adjust to," McKenzie said.
"That's reflected in our selections somewhat, where we feel the partnership of Nick "[Phipps] and Bernard [Foley] will best suit the style of game we'll be trying to play.
"They've got a proven combination at a Super Rugby level and we look forward to seeing how that translates into the Test environment.
"It's naturally disappointing for the two guys who missed out on the starting team in Nic and Kurtley, but the reality is we have a lot of good players in those playmaking positions.
"We expect them to respond in a positive manner and to make an impact playing an important role in how we close out the match."
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