Oz beef up for Bloem

2010-09-04 00:00

THE team that learnt most from the see-sawing contest at Loftus last week will triumph in the Tri-Nations Test between the Springboks and the Wallabies in Bloemfontein tonight.

The Wallabies, quickly out of the blocks, sprinted clear at the start of the Pretoria Test with three tries in the opening 10 minutes as the Springboks, loose in their approach and porous in defence, handed the Australians the freedom of Loftus.

But the Boks showed character and strong leadership as they fought back to win, tightening their structures and playing to their strengths on the way to a 44-31 victory.

The Wallabies, bemoaning their string of errors and poor finishing in the final quarter, believe it was a Test that they lost rather than the Boks had won. The Boks, at the lineout and finally enjoying some success at the breakdown — where they kept Wallaby flank David Pocock quiet — were able to deny the Wallabies possession in the crucial closing moments.

Coach Robbie Deans has beefed up his pack, adding hooker Stephen Moore, number eight Ben McCalman and experienced lock Mark Chisholm to the mix, and he hopes to match the Bok line-out and out-muscle them at the breakdown.

“The three players will bring energy to the team,” said Deans, “and physicality.”

Improved possession from the set pieces, he hopes, will allow the Wallabies to stretch the Springboks — as they did in the initial stages at Loftus — for the full 80 minutes.

South African captain John Smit says that the Loftus victory has provided the Boks with a platform for the World Cup.

“We will certainly use that to build on,” Smit said in Bloemfontein yesterday.

“We are still a long way off from where we need to be but at least there’s a win under our belts. But, to prove we have turned the corner, we must follow through in this Test.”

The Bok captain said the overseas Test defeats had forced the players “to go back to the basics”.

But, Smit added, the Boks would have to improve if they were to beat a Wallaby team which will be “even tougher than in Pretoria”.

“We would be naive to think they will not build on what they achieved in the first 20 minutes at Loftus. They have made a few changes and we certainly expect them to be coming out even harder.”

The weight of history is against the Wallabies, who have not won at altitude in 47 years, while the Boks have an excellent record in Bloemfontein where they have not lost for a decade.

Deans, annoyed after seeing his side capitulate in Pretoria, said his players hold the key to victory and called on them to produce a performance of which “they can be proud’’ in Bloemfontein.

“We haven’t mastered our consistency within games and between games. It is critical for those with the opportunity this weekend to produce.”

The Boks will end bottom of the Tri-Nations log and surrender the Nelson Mandela Plate if they lose today.

But there is also fierce pressure on individual players who are struggling with form, fatigue and fitness at the end of a lengthy campaign, with Bryan Habana, Victor Matfield and Smit at the top of the list.

After the chaos of the opening quarter there were positive signs for the Boks last week. The form of centres Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie, the enterprise of scrumhalf Francois Hougaard, the energy of Juan Smith and Schalk Burger and the solid work in the set pieces were features of the comeback win.

And if, as Smit says, the Boks build on that showing and play the game at their pace, they will at least end their disappointing, disjointed Tri-Nations campaign on a high note.

But if they are loose in their tactical kicking and ragged in their defensive alignment, if they miss tackles and allow the enterprising Wallabies to run at them from broken play, then they will be punished.

And coach Peter de Villiers, Smit and the senior players will be back in the dock.

TEAMS

South Africa:

15 Frans Steyn, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.

Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Juan de Jongh, 22 Gio Aplon.

Australia:

15 Kurtley Beale, 14 James O’Connor, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom (c), 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Mark Chisholm, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson.

Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Dean Mumm, 19 Richard Brown, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Berrick Barnes, 22 Anthony Fainga’a.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England).

Kick-off: 5 pm

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