Strauss not in the clear yet

2012-09-07 00:00

THE Wallabies had a problem with hookers yesterday and the Springboks could have one today, just hours ahead of their Rugby Championship clash at Patersons Stadium in Perth tomorrow.

Australian hooker Stephen Moore was yesterday ruled out of the international with a hamstring strain while South Africa’s Adriaan Strauss is nursing damaged knee ligaments and faces a final fitness test today.

Moore, who suffered his injury at training yesterday, was looking forward to becoming the most capped Australian hooker if he played in his 73rd Test tomorrow.

Tatafu Polota-Nau has been promoted to the starting line-up in his place with Saia Faingaa taking his place on the bench.

Strauss suffered his knee ligament injury in the drawn Test against the Pumas in Mendoza a fortnight ago and he only resumed training this week.

Tiaan Liebenberg will take over if Strauss withdraws with Sharks hooker Craig Burden joining the bench.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said he is wary of the Wallaby challenge and said the Australians, after twice being badly beaten by the All Blacks in recent weeks, will be determined to bounce back.

Robbie Deans’s Wallabies can also look back on four successive wins over the Boks and Meyer believes the hosts must be regarded as favourites.

“I have a lot of respect for Robbie Deans. He’s very astute and a very knowledgeable guy so he’ll know how to handle the pressure and I think the quality of a great coach is to take the pressure off the players,” said Meyer.

“I know the psyche of the Australian rugby players. They will definitely come out with all guns blazing. They are a proud team and they have been together for quite some time.

“There is obviously a lot of pressure on them and we are probably the underdogs.”

Meyer highlighted the Boks’ recent problems against Australia.

“We don’t have a good record against them,” Meyer conceded.

“We have lost four out of four against them, and won one out of seven, which shows how tough it is to play against Australia.

“Even though New Zealand beat them quite convincingly they are still a quality side.”

One Springbok who is particularly excited about the challenge is scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar.

The former Shark, now strutting his stuff for Ulster in the European leagues, has spent most of his international career in the shadow of Fourie du Preez, Ricky Januarie and, more recently, Francois Hougaard.

“I’m excited because it’s been a while since I started a Test at nine [scrumhalf],” he told reporters in Perth.

“I have had a few games off the bench but you need a different mindset. I’m really looking forward to the chance to start a Test,” he said.

The 28-year-old Pienaar, in spite of being overlooked for long periods or fielded in different positions in the backline, has 57 Test caps, which makes him the third most experinced players in the team (behind Bryan Habana and Jean de Villiers).

“It feels a bit strange because last year there were guys with over a 100 Tests and suddenly I am the third-most capped player in the team.

“We are a young team but there are a few experienced players so I try to give a bit of direction where I can,” he said.

Pienaar will oppose Will Genia, the most influential player in the Wallaby line-up, and he is preparing for one heck of a battle.

“I rate him as probably the best scrumhalf in world rugby. I think he is probably the most important player in the Australian team.

“It is a huge challenge, not just for me but the whole team, to keep him in check.”

The Test kicks off at 12.35 pm tomorrow.

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