Wallabies lose their captain, Boks may be without Etzebeth tomorrow

2013-09-06 00:00

THE Wallabies and the Springboks both have second-row problems ahead of tomorrow’s Rugby Championship international in Brisbane.

The formidable Australian lock and captain James Horwill was yesterday ruled out of the Test with a hamstring strain and world-class scrumhalf Will Genia will lead the Wallabies in his absence.

The South Africans could also lose their most imposing forward today when the 2,03-metre, 123 kg Eben Ezebeth undergoes a fitness test after battling all week with flu.

Kane Douglas will replace Horwill and lock the scrum with Rob Simmons (Western Force) joining the bench.

Ironically, Genia took over the captaincy of the Wallabies a year ago, leading his team to a 26-19 victory over South Africa in Perth.

Wallaby coach Ewen Mckenzie said yesterday that he was “extremely disappointed” to lose his first-choice lock and captain.

“We felt it was important not to risk further injury to James when he isn’t ready.”

McKenzie said Horwill should be available for the two-Test tour of South Africa (September 28) and Argentina (October 5).

“Will is a proven leader and has had plenty of success as captain for the Reds and also for Australia. He is a player that thrives with the added responsibility and he has always stepped up when given the opportunity to lead. I’m sure this will bring the best out of him.”

The Springboks’ preparations have been disrupted this week with Etzebeth unable to practise with his team-mates.

There was some confusion yesterday when Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer mentioned that burly flank Willem Alberts would provide back-up at lock if Etzebeth was ruled out with Sharks backrower Marcell Coetzee promoted.

It has since become clear that Meyer was referring to back-up in the event of an on-field injury. Lineout specialist Juandré Kruger will return to join Flip van der Merwe in the second-row if Etzebeth is withdrawn today. Alberts, who is starting on the flank tomorrow, would then provide cover for lock with Coetzee promoted to provide cover off the bench.

The Wallabies, crowded with game-breakers and with Quade Cooper at flyhalf, are expected to play a high tempo, expansive game, but flank Francois Louw says the South Africans know what to expect.

The Boks have to take on the Wallabies at the breakdown.

“They will want good clean ball from the breakdown to attack from, so it is definitely going to be a hotly-contested area,” Louw told reporters.

“Argentina were very effective and disrupted our flow of play. But this is a new game and a new team, and the focus is always on that.

“I think Australia are a more expansive, attack-focused side who really want to attack this weekend. We know them as a side that really try and run the opposition off their feet. Whichever way you play, the bottom line is that you want good clean ball from the breakdown. I think they will try and keep ball in hand a lot and run at us,” said Louw.

Kick-off is at 12.05 pm (SA time) tomorrow.

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