Wallabies to put squeeze on Boks

Fri, 08 Sep 2017 17:06

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The Wallabies Australia are looking to match the Springboks' dynamic back row to claim their first win of this year's Rugby Championship.

South Africa are unbeaten in the Southern Hemisphere championship - after home and away wins over Argentina, with blindside flank Siya Kolisi and Jaco Kriel standouts at the back of the scrum.

"We expect them to be very strong over the ball, both of those players [Kriel and Kolisi] are really good carriers and defenders there," Wallaby skipper Michael Hooper said Friday.

"It's a different jersey size at the end of the day from some of the guys that used to be playing to what they are now.

"But [they're] no less effective in what they do and how they get around the field."

Hooper said the Wallabies have their own back row strike weapon in No.8 Sean McMahon, who was immense in the 35-29 loss to New Zealand in Dunedin a fortnight ago.

"Sean's strong in the tackle, strong making his tackles and he's good over the ball as well," Hooper said.

"It's nothing new there, just everyone doing their role and particularly Sean can have a massive influence when he gets that right."

Kolisi has claimed man-of-the-match awards in both wins over the Pumas in Port Elizabeth and Salta and is looking at another tip top performance against the Wallabies.

"I want to play well and make sure that I put my firm hand on the jersey because I haven't played a lot in a starting position so I am trying to use that as best as I can," Kolisi said.

"We are very young and I've only got a couple of Tests under my belt and we learn a lot from each other.

"We started our own culture this year that we can live by and that is what we are driving," he added.

Australian coach Michael Cheika said his Wallaby forward pack will face a physical challenge against the Springboks, who are on a five-match winning run.

The Wallabies' scrum looked shaky in their last outing against the All Blacks, prompting Cheika to recall tight-head prop Sekope Kepu for Allan Alaalatoa.

Tatafu Polota-Nau comes in at hooker for the experienced Stephen Moore, while lock Adam Coleman returns from a shoulder injury.

"Obviously, they've got their swagger at the moment," Cheika said of the Springboks.

"They've had a couple of really good wins and traditionally, they'll look at pushing us around in the pack.

"We're going to have to be at our best to make sure we can go toe-to-toe with them."

It has been a torrid year for Australia, winning only two of their five internationals and coming off a miserable Super Rugby season climaxed by the contentious axing of Perth-based Western Force from next year's competition.

There have been reports that the Perth rugby public may boycott the Test as a way of protesting against the Australian Rugby Union's vexed decision to cull the Force, or wear their blue Western Force jerseys instead of the Wallabies' gold.

Hooper said the Wallabies were well aware of the power they possessed in shaping people's moods at such a dark time in Australian rugby.

"We represent Australia," he said. "We have the control to change and help people's moods and feelings towards everything.

"You know, wake up on Sunday morning just stoked to be Australian and see our colours. We're fully aware of that.

"I'm pumped to see them all turn out here supporting gold -- whatever jersey they wear."

Agence France-Presse

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