Must-win match for Boks

2010-07-23 08:56

With two losses to begin the Tri-Nations tournament, and their coach raising conspiracy theories, the Springboks play Australia tomorrow in a match that South Africa must win to keep its hopes alive of defending the title.

It comes in the wake of Springboks coach Peter de Villiers’ comment that his side’s two recent losses to the All Blacks were brought about by a conspiracy to generate more interest in rugby in New Zealand ahead of next year’s World Cup.

Sanzar, the governing body of the tournament, has said it will investigate the comments.

Asked on an Australian Fox Sports television programme about South Africa’s two losses to the All Blacks, de Villiers replied: “I’ve got my own observations about the last two tests and maybe I can’t say it in public but we do have a World Cup in New Zealand next year and maybe it was the right thing for them to win the games so that they can attract more people to the games next year.”

On Friday, de Villiers tried to clarify his remarks, saying: “My comment during The Rugby Club interview was based on the general view that part of the success of any World Cup event rests on the fact that the host nation has a winning team.

“Nevertheless, I regret that this may have created the wrong impression and raised undue concern for Sanzar and the RWC 2011 organisers.”

Even before those comments, de Villiers had gone on record as saying referees and judiciary officials were biased against the Springboks.

De Villiers has suggested that the Springboks may have to bend the rules, or be “street smart”, to get around the rule interpretations in tomorrow’s match against Australia at Brisbane, where South Africa hasn’t beaten the Wallabies since 1971.

Adam Ashley-Cooper regained the starting fullback spot while Nathan Sharpe and Will Genia were recalled from injuries for the Australians, who have had byes in the first two weekends of the Tri-Nations. Coach Robbie Deans brought back veteran lock Sharpe and prop Benn Robinson to bolster the forward pack.

Deans said: “We’ve obviously been able to have a good look at both South Africa and New Zealand through their matches over the last two weekends. The imagery from those games has left our players in no doubt as to the magnitude of the task ahead.”

South Africa, meanwhile, made four changes to the starting line-up and nine in the squad. De Villiers made two changes to his backline – Gio Aplon will start on the wing in place of the suspended Jean de Villiers and Ruan Pienaar takes over from Ricky Januarie at scrumhalf.

There were also two changes to the forward pack: Ryan Kankowski was promoted at the expense of flanker Francois Louw and prop BJ Botha will start at tighthead instead of CJ van der Linde.

De Villiers said: “We have two tough games behind us but if we stick to our structures and use our opportunities I believe this team is capable of getting a result.”

South Africa will head home after the three-test road trip, while Australia has back-to-back matches at home.

Australia: Adam Ashley-Cooper, James O’Connor, Rob Horne, Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell, Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Richard Brown, David Pocock, Rocky Elsom (captain), Nathan Sharpe, Dean Mumm, Salesi Ma’afu, Saia Fainga, Benn Robinson. Reserves: Stephen Moore, James Slipper, Rob Simmons, Ben McCalman, Luke Burgess, Berrick Barnes, Kurtley Beale.

South Africa: Zane Kirchner, Gio Aplon, Jaque Fourie, Wynand Oliver, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Ruan Pienaar; Pierre Spies, Ryan Kankowski, Schalk Burger, Victor Matfield, Danie Rossouw, B.J. Botha, John Smit (captain), Gurthro Steenkamp. Reserves: Chiliboy Ralepelle, C.J. van der Linde, Flip van der Merwe, Dewald Potgieter, Francois Hougaard, Butch James, Juan de Jongh.

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