Preview: South Africa v Australia

Fri, 29 Sep 2017 05:53

RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND FIVE: rugby365's acclaimed writer Paul Dobson looks at a game that could define the seasons of both teams.

This is a battle for second place.

In theory, South Africa could still overtake New Zealand and pigs may fly in formation over the Drakensberg.

But the best the Wallabies can do is finish second.

The Springboks are three points ahead of the Wallabies on the log and after this play New Zealand, while the Wallabies wander west to play the Pumas in leafy Mendoza.

How determined the Springboks will be is uncertain.

Firstly, after the hammering they got in Albany and secondly when their coach suggests that processes are more important than winning, implying that his is just match practice on the way to more important things.

It would have been considered a contest between the Wallaby backs and the Springbok forwards.

The Wallaby backs are still there, but the Springbok forwards took a beating in Albany.

They had beaten the Wallabies in scrums and line-outs in Perth, but lost both set pieces in Albany - where they lost five of their line-outs and were penalised in five scrums.

The Wallabies could well take a leaf out of the All Blacks' gameplan and target the Springbok back three.

Even with Dillyn Leyds in for Raymond Rhule, the Springbok wide defences must be the most brittle aspect of their game.

The referee for the match is interesting  - a specialist in dealing with eye diseases and surgery who is also a full-time referee.

This will be his sixth Test, but then he is only 28, younger than several players, including Francois Louw and Tendai Mtawarira (both 32), Tatafu Polota-Nau (32), Sekope Kepu (31) and Will Genia (29).

Players to Watch

For South Africa: The Springboks have men who can turn defence into speedy attack. Dillyn Leyds can do that. He is always alert to the possibilities a situation offers and if Andries Coetzee gets the opportunity to counterattack his speed can make that effective. In the Springbok side you would want to see strong performances from Francois Louw, Siyamthanda Kolisi and Malcolm Marx.

For Australia: Bernard Foley, whose 50th Test this is, an industrious player of great concentration and a good boot. Will Genia, who seems to have been around forever but is only 29 and playing as well as ever. Israel Folau is remarkably strong and fast on attack and his acrobatic plucking of the high ball makes it folly to kick to him. Kurtley Beale has been in great form - clever, creative and strong. He can turn a desperate situation into an attacking opportunity in the twinkling of a foot. The Wallaby forward most likely to catch the eye is speedy Michael Hooper, whose covering tackle may well have saved the Perth Test for his side.

Head to head: Front row to front row where it may just happen that the experienced Wallabies, Scott Sio, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Sekope Kepu with their 195 caps against Tendai Mtawarira, Malcolm Marx and Ruan Dreyer who have 105 caps, 94 of them on Mtawarira's head. In particular, novice Ruan Dreyer my find it tough going against Scott Sio. Hard man versus hard man, Eben Etzebeth versus Adam Coleman. Eben Etzebeth of the glittering eyes will not stand back, but he probably has more self-control than Adam Coleman. Goal-kickers - Elton Jantjies against Bernard Foley and, for longer distances, Reece Hodges. In fact in all aspects of play there will be comparisons between the two flyhalves, close in age but Foley more experienced in Test rugby. Jan Serfontein versus Kurtley Beale for midfield dominance. Courtnall Skosan versus Marika Koroibete out on the wing, where the former Rugby League star with speed and size may give the eager Springbok left wing a hard time. Francois Louw against Wallabies for the tackled ball. Franco Mostert against Adam Coleman in the line-outs where Mostert has usually reigned.

Results in the 2017 Rugby Championship
New Zealand versus Australia, 54-34 in Sydney
New Zealand versus Australia, 35-29 in Dunedin
South Africa versus Argentina, 37-15 in Port Elizabeth
South Africa versus Argentina, 41-23 in Salta
Australia versus South Africa, 23-23 in Perth
Australia versus Argentina, 45-20 in Canberra
New Zealand versus South Africa, 57-0 in Auckland

Recent results:
2012: Australia won 26-19, Perth
2012: South Africa won 31-8, Pretoria
2013: South Africa won 28-8, Newlands
2013: South Africa won 38-12, Brisbane
2014: Australia won 24-23, Perth
2014: South Africa won 28-10, Newlands
2015: South Africa won 24-20, Brisbane
2016: Australia won 23-17, Brisbane
2016: South Africa won 18-10, Pretoria
2017: Draw 23-23, Perth

Results in Bloemfontein

Bloemfontein, surprisingly, has been good to the Wallabies. They have played there four times, winning and losing twice.

1933: Australia won 15-4
1969: South Africa won 19-8
1996: South Africa won 25-19
2010: Australia won 41-39

Prediction: None of the last seven games between these sides has seen an away victory, with Australia's last victory in South Africa coming in 2011, since when they have lost four on the spin in the country. The Springboks have won eight of their last nine home games, only losing to New Zealand in that time (2016). In the last round South Africa were nilled for just the fourth time in the professional era, with three of those games coming against the All Blacks. The last two occasions they were nilled by New Zealand they followed it up with defeats against the Wallabies (1999, 2008). The Wallabies' last four wins in The Rugby Championship outside of Australia have all come against Argentina, their last away win against one of the other sides came in 2011 (versus South Africa). South Africa's last game in Bloemfontein was in 2010, when they lost 39-41 to Australia, ending a run of five victories at the venue spanning 2002-2009. The Springboks have averaged more kicks from hand (24) and fewer passes (132) or carries (104) than any other side in The Rugby Championship this season. South Africa have won more turnovers (34) than any other side and twice as many as Australia (17) who have managed the fewest in this tournament. Israel Folau has made the most metres of any player in this year's edition of The Rugby Championship so far (465); he also ranks third for defenders beaten, second for offloads and second for breaks. South Africa's Malcolm Marx tops the charts for turnovers won (eight) in this tournament so far. Bernard Foley is in line to win his 50th cap for the Wallabies, he needs just one more point to become the fourth player to score 500 points for Australia. It should be easy: if the Springboks could draw away, surely they would win at home. But at present nothing is easy; there are no foregone conclusions. And if the Wallabies came within a few minutes of winning in New Zealand and SA were massacred in New Zealand, that also seems to make prediction easy, but the two predictions would be contradictory. Instead we will lift up our hearts and eyes, suck a thumb, dumb a brain and suggest that South Africa will win by 12 points or more. The bench will make the winning difference.


South Africa: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi, 5 Francois Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Mahlatse Ralepelle, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Damian de Allende.

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Marika Koroibete, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Reece Hodges, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Ned Hanigan, 21 Lukhan Tui, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Samu Kerevi.

Date: Saturday, September 30
Venue: Free State stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 17.00 (15.00 GMT; 01.00; Sunday, October 1; AEST)
Expected weather: Partly cloudy after two rainy days, with a high of 27°C and a low of 13°C. It's springtime on the Highveld.
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

By Paul Dobson

* Statistics provided by Opta Sport

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