Packs to decide Oz v Boks Test

Michael Hooper (AFP)
Michael Hooper (AFP)

Perth - The Wallabies will rely on their maligned forwards to provide a platform if they are to reverse a three-match losing run against South Africa in their Rugby Championship Test in Perth on Saturday.

The Australian pack was outplayed by the world champion All Blacks in a 51-20 mauling in Auckland a fortnight ago and coach Ewen McKenzie has largely stuck with the same combination against the powerful Springboks.

The forecast is for wet and windy conditions in Saturday's game, giving the South Africans the edge in their traditional dominance of the set piece.

The Wallabies were smashed 38-12, four tries to nil, by the Springboks in their 2013 Rugby Championship Test in Australia and the home side is looking to win back the Mandela Challenge Plate, which they lost to South Africa last year after holding it for three seasons.

"They've got two things that we want," Wallabies' skipper Michael Hooper said on Friday.

"They're number two in the world and they've got the Mandela Plate."

The Springboks have beefed up their pack for an expected physical battle with the Wallaby eight by the inclusion of Marcell Coetzee, line-out general Victor Matfield, Adriaan Strauss and Tendai Mtawarira.

"Maybe they might still feel the psychological pressure of what happened in the past," Springboks skipper Jean de Villiers said.

"But we're not banking on them holding the scars of last year. They've come a long way.

"We see it as a brand new challenge and a brand new game."

Hooper also believes the Wallabies are a different proposition than the team tossed aside by the Springboks in Brisbane 12 months ago.

"It was a long time ago, teams have changed and we've got a completely different squad," he said.

McKenzie has prepared for a brutal battle up front and will go into the Test with a forwards heavy 6-2 reserves bench split and among them he has recalled former Wallabies skipper James Horwill to help with the lineouts.

Hooker James Hanson will make his first Test start, with Springboks great Matfield sure to give him a tough night on his throws into the lineout.

De Villiers said the Springboks were looking to bank on their traditional strengths to win for the fourth consecutive time against the Wallabies.

"We are trying to evolve as a team. We are always going to rely what made us a good team, what Springbok rugby is all about," he said.

"That will always be there for us and that's not negotiable.

"If we can add to that and try evolving around that then we can only become a better team and I think we have done that in a way.

"We need to stay strong in the areas that we have generally been strong at for a century or so, tomorrow may be occasion when we need that where the forwards will have to be at their best. The Wallabies have improved in that regard."

Perth has been a happy hunting ground for the Springboks and they have won three and drawn one of their seven Tests in Western Australia.

"They have a lot to play for and they have their goals, and we have our goals set as well," de Villiers said.

"We would like to get to the number one and strive to be the best in the world.

"It's much easier said than done. We do know that the Wallabies will be a massive threat for us, but it's a challenge that we are excited about and we are looking forward to it."

The game will also be Springbok winger Bryan Habana's 100th Test, while de Villiers is just one match behind him.

"The fact Bryan is playing his 100th gives (this Test) a different feel," de Villiers said.

"It would be great to make it a special day for him."

Teams:

Australia

15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper

Substitutes: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 James Horwill, 20 Scott Higginbotham, 21 Matt Hodgson, 22 Nic White, 23 Kurtley Beale

South Africa

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.

Substitutes: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Warren Whiteley, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Damian de Allende

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