Boks to get blood rushing

2012-09-29 00:00

HE is but 20, and he is starting in his first Test at Loftus this evening, but South Africans are looking to Johan Goosen to drag Springbok rugby, kicking and screaming, into the modern era.

The Springboks face the Wallabies in their Rugby Championship Test desperate to end a dreadful run of five successive defeats against the Australians. And they have every chance of succeeding at Loftus where the Wallabies, who battle at altitude, have yet to win a Test.

The young Springboks, in rattling the All Blacks in Dunedin a fortnight ago, are starting to flex their muscles and they should be stronger today with Goosen — replacing Morné Steyn in the pivot role — adding a variety of attacking options to their robust forward play.

Goosen is, of course, under fierce pressure, carrying a heavy load of expectation and playing to the most critical audience at Loftus, one which has watched local hero Morné Steyn win Tests, trophies and big games with his goal-kicking.

Goosen’s provincial captain and coach, Adriaan Strauss and Naka Drotské, are confident the Free State prodigy — who only turned 20 two months ago — will cope with the demands of the occasion.

Strauss, the Springbok vice-captain, said Goosen’s nerves would not be a problem.

“Of all the players I have come up against, he handles pressure the best,” said Strauss.

And Cheetahs coach Drotské agreed, saying: “He is an amazing player, and he has a very strong mind. He doesn’t feel pressure and he is an awesome goalkicker.

“He is a good attacker, and he has a perfect temperament. He is the future of South African rugby.”

And, if you want proof of his prodigious goal-kicking ability, YouTube contains a clip of him booting a penalty from 65 metres for Grey College against Paul Roos.

Of course, kicking for your country and front of the 50 000 Loftus faithful will be a different kettle of fish, and that will be his test today.

The Wallabies are also fielding a flyhalf untested at international level in Kurtley Beale. The elusive Beale, a dedicated, wideawake attacker, has spent most of his career at fullback, but he has played regularly at flyhalf in Super Rugby for the Waratahs and the Rebels.

His selection by Robbie Deans confirms that the Wallabies will play an expansive, high tempo game to stretch the Springboks’ heavy backrow.

Deans said: “Call it a gamble if you like. Call it a desire to get the result.

“If you don’t chance anything, you won’t get anything. I don’t think the Test will be one-dimensional.”

Meyer has said that the Boks will also play an ambitious, open and quick game. Of course, seeing is believing and the Wallabies are preparing for the usual aerial assault from the Springboks.

The difference, though, is that when the Boks have the territory, once they have created the momentum, they now appear better-equipped to score tries.

They have, in Goosen, a flyhalf whose first instinct is to run with the ball rather than kick it.

The Springboks have big, powerful forwards but they now also have a flyhalf who can exploit those traditional qualities by adding a dash of creativity and skill.

The Wallabies, in terms of form and personnel, are vulnerable. They have lost nearly all their best players to injury, arguably the world’s leading scrumhalf in the highly influential Will Genia, his maverick halfback partner Quade Cooper, the talented James O’Connor, captain and lock James Horwell, and ball-poaching flank David Pocock.

They have battled to overcome the Pumas at home and the Boks, on their tour Down Under, should have beaten them in Perth (and, for that matter, the All Blacks a week later).

The bruising Bok forwards, pleasantly surprised at how well they did against the All Blacks, should dominate the Wallaby pack.

But the Australians will be smart and they will scramble well.

They somehow seem to regularly bother the Springboks in the scrums and veteran lock Nathan Sharpe will be a force in the lineout.

But this should not be enough to derail the improving Springboks who should flourish in front of their home support.

And, if the South Africans can win with some style, with Goosen bringing balance to their game plan and life to the backplay, then the smile will return to Springbok rugby.

TEAMS

Springboks: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermuelen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Beast

Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Marcel Coetzee, 20 Elton Jantjies, 21 Juan de Jongh, 22 Pat Lambie.

Wallabies: 15 Berrick Barnes, 14 Dominic Shipperley, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Radike Samo, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Nathan Sharpe (c), 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson

Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Scott Higginbotham, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Brett Sheehan, 22 Anthony Fainga’a.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland).

Kick-off: 5 pm.

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