Two sides with a point to prove

2012-09-08 00:00

THE Springboks will look to a bruising forward effort and resolute defence to blunt the Wallabies’ skilful backline in their Rugby Championship international at the Patersons Stadium in Perth today.

The Australians had the toughest possible start to their campaign and were twice comfortably beaten by the slick All Blacks while the Springboks mixed a satisfactory opening win against the Pumas with a streaky draw against the Argentines in Mendoza a week later.

Certainly both coaches, Heyneke Meyer and Robbie Deans, are under fierce pressure to produce a win today and, in their selection for this Test, they have provided an indication of their contrasting tactical approach.

Meyer, with Morné Steyn and Ruan Pienaar at halfback and burly Duane Vermeulen debuting in a loose trio he conceded lacks pace, is committed to playing the territory game based on a tactical kicking and physical domination.

Deans, in recalling the slippery Kurtley Beale at fullback, including the pace of Dominic Shipperley on the wing and urging playmaker Quade Cooper to express himself more on attack, is obviously looking to run the ball hard and often at the Boks.

The Springboks, if they are to win today, have to snuff out the Wallabies at source, pressuring them at the set pieces and winning the collisions on the gainline. If the Australians, and halves Will Genia and Cooper, are presented with frontfoot ball, or if their counter-attackers are fed loose kicks, then the Springboks’ lumbering pack will be exposed.

“The forwards have to create some momentum to benefit from Quade Cooper’s unique skills and bring him into the game,” Deans said yesterday. “But Quade also has to play his part by taking the ball to the gainline and testing the Bok defence.”

Former Bok and current Brumbies coach Jake White yesterday agreed that the battle on the gainline would be critical and that the Wallabies’ failure in that area had denied their backs a solid platform.

“The Wallaby backline is full of creative players, but without the time and space to execute their attack they are easily closed down …”

In contrast, he said, the Springboks, using a Bulls’ game plan based on forward power, were carrying the ball too much and their attack was “one dimensional and easily contained”.

South Africans will be delighted that the Wallaby’s openside flank David Pocock, who combined so effectively with referee Bryce Lawrence to end their World Cup challenge last year, is missing. Instead the Wallabies are looking to the 20-year-old Michael Hooper to perform the fetching role and the Boks should at least hold their own at the breakdown.

The Boks’ execution has been poor and, as we saw against the Pumas in Mendoza, Meyer’s game plan can only be effective if his forwards do their job and Morné Steyn is on song with his kicking, both out of hand and at goal.

Jean de Villiers, at the captain’s media briefing yesterday, said that the Boks needed to improve their game significantly if they were to win, but highlighted their lack of experience.

“We have a very different team but this does give a whole lot of young players a chance to cement their places in the team.”

De Villiers said that lessons had been learnt and the team had “grown as a unit” after the Mendoza draw.

“While the preparations have gone well, the trick will now be implementing those plans for the full 80 minutes,” the Bok captain said.

He said he was taking no comfort from the Australians’ recent form against the number one team in the world (the All Blacks).

“They have a very good pack, plenty of backline skills and they defend solidly. Over the last seven games, we have only beaten them once. And that says a bit. Both teams have a point to prove.”

There was no news from the Bok camp yesterday on the match fitness of hooker Adriaan Strauss and this suggests he will take his place on the starting line-up. With both sides currently below their best, and battling to cover gaps left by senior players, this contest is wide open.

Impatient South African supporters are looking for a bright new dawn from their new coach and a young, much-changed team but Meyer, already under pressure, will settle for any old win today.

TEAMS:

Australia:15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Dominic Shipperley, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia (c), 8 Radike Samo, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson

Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Scott Higginbotham, 19 Liam Gill, 20 Nick Phipps, 21 Mike Harris, 22 Anthony Fainga’a

South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jean de Villiers (c), 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Francois Hougaard 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Juandre Kruger, 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 Francois Louw, 20 Johan Goosen, 21 Pat Lambie, 22 Lwazi Mvovo.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales). Kick-off: 12.35 pm (SA time).

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