A chance to make history

2013-09-07 00:00

HIGH noon in Brisbane and today’s Rugby Championship duel will be a traditional one between the hard-nosed, bash-crash Springboks and the Wallabies’ creativity, pace and skill.

The Springboks are motivated by their dreadful record in Brisbane, where they last won 42 years ago. The Wallabies are desperate to turn their year around after just one win in five Tests.

There was encouraging news for South Africans late yesterday, with rampaging lock Eben Etzebeth taking part in the captain’s practice and expected to play after spending the week in bed with ’flu.

No one is in any doubt how these two teams intend to play. However, Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, in his media briefing yesterday, did suggest that the South Africans might surprise Australia with their more attacking style.

Bok coach Heyneke Meyer has shown his hand in selecting a formidable pack — but one that lacks pace in the backrow — along with a solid, reliable fullback (Zane Kirchner) rather than an exciting counter-attacker.

The Wallabies, in contrast, have chosen runners, the unorthodox Quade Cooper and game-breaker Israel Folau at flyhalf and fullback.

The Springboks simply have to squeeze the Wallabies at forward, pressure halfbacks Will Genia and Cooper, and limit Folau’s attacking opportunities from fullback if they are to break their duck at Suncorp.

If the game becomes loose, and the Wallabies are able to attack in broken play, the lack of pace in Meyer’s backrow will be painfully exposed by flank Michael Hooper and the Australian game-breakers out wide.

The Springboks have been gushing in talking up the Wallabies this week, clearly hoping the Australians will believe their own press. However, Meyer was not exaggerating when he described Folua “as one of the best game-breakers in world rugby”.

Captain De Villiers said yesterday that they had made plans to keep the imposing fullback under wraps. The tactical kicking of Morné Steyn, Ruan Pienaar and Kirchner, and the chase, will have to be on the button if he is to be contained.

McKenzie said there was little the Boks could do if Folau was played into space by Cooper, however.

“There’s an innate ability there, especially one on one,” McKenzie said. “If you can create those one-on-one opportunities, it doesn’t matter how good the guy is in defence. Even if Folau does get tackled, he still gets the ball away, so he’s hard to contain.”

Cooper and Folau, both former Rugby League players, said they were excited to be playing together for the first time in a Test. Clearly they hope to feed off each other’s talents, turning the Boks’ kicking game to their advantage by playing the ball into space and away from the big South African forwards.

“The challenge is a really big one in that we don’t have a good record here,” De Villiers said of their seven successive losses at Suncorp Stadium. “But that creates an opportunity where I hope we can make history.”

De Villiers said that the Wallabies also had players (such as Cooper and Folau) who had points to prove.

“And that makes them dangerous.”

The advantage of playing at Suncorp Stadium is massive. The Boks have never won there while it is the Wallabies’ favourite ground with a hard, fast surface suited to their running approach and an intimate atmosphere, which brings a vocal crowd closer to the players.

If the Boks can squeeze the Wallabies at the set piece, if they can at least match them at the breakdown, if they keep Cooper on his heels and Folau under wraps, if they kick accurately out of hand and if they make their tackles, they will win.

But, really, there are just too many ifs to believe these Springboks can make a piece of history in the inhospitable surrounds of Suncorp Stadium today.


AUSTRALIA: 15. Israel Folau, 14. Nick Cummins, 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper,

12. Christian Lealiifano, 11. James O’Connor, 10. Quade Cooper, 9. Will Genia (capt), 8. Ben Mowen, 7. Michael Hooper, 6. Scott Fardy, 5. Kane Douglas, 4. Rob Simmons, 3. Sekope Kefu, 2. Stephen Moore, 1. James Slipper.

Replacements: 16. Saia Faingaa, 17. Scott Sio, 18. Ben Alexander, 19. Ben McCalman, 20. Jake Schatz, 21. Nic White,

22. Matt Toomua, 23. Jesse Mogg.

SOUTH AFRICA: 15. Zane Kirchner,

14. Willie le Roux, 13. JJ Engelbrecht,

12. Jean de Villiers (capt), 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Morné Steyn, 9. Ruan Pienaar, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Francois Louw, 5. Flip van der Merwe, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16. Adriaan Strauss,

17. Gürthro Steenkamp, 18. Coenie Oosthuizen, 19. Juandré Kruger, 20. Siya Kolisi, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Pat Lambie,

23. Jan Serfontein.

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland).

Kick-off: 12.05 pm (SA time).

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