Boks have great chance to grab title

2009-09-05 00:00

THE Springboks have made major advances in their Tri-Nations campaign this season and they are on the threshold of victory, but they will be entering a potential minefield when they face the Wallabies at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane today.

The Boks, after four successive victories, are a small step (and probably just one log point) away from securing glory and the Tri-Nations title for the first time in five years.

But the maligned, desperate Wallabies, backs to the wall and with nothing to lose, could provide the John Smit’s Boks with their trickiest moments of the competition.

The Wallabies, at first blush, would appear to provide easy pickings for the Springboks. They have been savaged by their Australian media, coach Robbie Deans has made seven changes (two positional) and the Springboks, richly talented and experienced, were far better than their seven-point winning margin in Perth. If the Springboks believe the local press, they have only to arrive at Suncorp Stadium today to secure the Tri-Nations title.

But Springbok captain Smit is aware of the lurking Wallaby threat and the danger of allowing confidence to bubble over into arrogance and complacency.

“There have been a few changes in the Australian side and they’ll be desperate to fix things,” said Smit yesterday. “If we lose concentration, or if we get soft in the last 20 minutes … we know we can lose.”

Certainly the Wallabies, even in defeat, have fired a number of warning shots and the Boks will have to be at their best, make their tackles and this time play for 80 minutes, if they are to achieve their goal.

The Wallabies, backed by referee Bryce Lawrence, exposed the Springboks at the scrum in Perth and the inclusion of hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau adds to their strength in the front-row, while the selection of Will Genia for Luke Burgess at scrumhalf and the return of inside Berrick Barnes are major boosts for their backline, allowing flyhalf Matt Giteau even greater freedom.

The Wallabies will play a high-tempo game around the breakdown to exploit the inclusion of two fetchers (George Smith and David Pocock) in the loose trio and their superior fitness in the last quarter when they believe the Springboks will again fade. They have shown they can break the Bok defence and score tries and their emphasis will be on reducing the errors that cost them heavily in Cape Town and Perth.

The Springboks, if they are astute, will not attempt to match the Wallabies in their helter-skelter rugby, but will return to a territorial, tactical-kicking game, playing down the touchline and around their dominant line-out where they have four jumpers to the two of Australia.

But, above all, the Boks must make their tackles.

“We’ve had a big focus on defence this week,” said Smit. “We saw last week how a few lapses in concentration can lead to you leaking a few tries, and we don’t want that. Australia will come at us for the full 80 minutes and they’ve got the players to create try-scoring opportunities.”

The Wallabies are also returning to their favourite Suncorp Stadium where they enjoy remarkable success and have scored heavily. The Boks, in contrast, have not won in Brisbane since 1971, they have lost their last six Tests at this venue and, as they have been constantly reminded, their last appearance at Suncorp saw them beaten 49-0.

Coach Peter de Villiers said this week that the Springboks can improve and he is right. They won well last week, but they still scrummed poorly, were heavily penalised and faded in the final quarter.

The Boks, if they stay on the right side of English referee Wayne Barnes, maintain their effort and concentration to the final whistle and avoid making unnecessary substitutions, will achieve their goal.

But danger lurks. Don’t expect this to be a doddle in the park.



AUSTRALIA: James O’Connor, Lachie Turner, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Berrick Barnes, Drew Mitchell; Matt Giteau, Will Genia; George Smith (captain), David Pocock, Rocky Elsom; Mark Chisholm, James Horwill; Ben Alexander, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson. Reserves: Stephen Moore, Pek Cowan, Dean Mumm, Wycliff Palu, Luke Burgess, Quade Cooper, Peter Hynes.

SOUTH AFRICA: Ruan Pienaar, Odwa Ndungane, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana; Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez; Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, Heinrich Brussow; Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha; John Smit (captain), Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Jannie du Plessis, Danie Rossouw, Schalk Burger, Ricky Januarie, Adi Jacobs, Frans Steyn.

REFEREE: Wayne Barnes (England)




Kick-off: Noon (SA time) — live on M-Net, M-Net HD and SuperSport 1

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