Round 1 of the Rugby Championships (RC) has already kicked off, with the classy All Blacks toppling the spirited Pumas (39-18), while the Wallabies are set to take on the Springboks tonight at 8:05 in Brisbane.
We have already had a chance to see the Boks in action last week, handing the World XV a 46 -10 walloping. Heyneke Meyer has shown faith in his starting 15 with only one change, dropping Warren Whiteley from the match day 23 and starting Schalk Burger at number 8.
Michael Cheika has demonstrated that he has no qualms about dropping Australia’s big names and incumbents, making selections based on form and showing his willingness to trial different combinations.
For the most part the Wallabies look familiar, with a scintillating mixture of the Wallabies of old and the 2014 squad.
The Springboks have won four of the last five meetings between the two sides and each of them by 18 or more points. During their last visit to Suncorp Stadium they gained their first win from eight attempts at the venue. The Boks are currently ranked second in international ratings, while the Wallabies are currently placed sixth.
The Wallabies are currently on their worst losing run since 2009, gaining a ‘W’ from only one of their last seven test matches. In Australia however, they are a different beast, only losing 1 of their last 7 matches. If they wish to take home the bacon tonight, they will have to fix their attacking woes, having only scored 2 or less tries in their last 8 encounters with the Boks.
This matchup is Cheika’s first chance to impress on home soil as Wallabies coach and he will be hoping for the team to fire on all cylinders, as they look to reign in a new Era for Australian rugby.
The Boks will be feeling confident off the back of a convincing start to their international season, with the young back line proving to be a formidable force against the World XV.
Meyer’s men scored seven tries to one, maintaining control of the game until after the final whistle, when Damian de Allende dotted the ball down, finalising his brace for the night.
The highlight of the game came in the 64th minute, only moments after centre Jean de Villiers took the field, after an eight month injury hiatus. In a brilliant turn of play, fellow supersub Schalk Burger snatched an intercept and shifted the ball to de Villers, who made the final pass for Willie le Roux’s third try.
Watch out Wallabies:
“We’re expecting a massive contest for the ball on the ground on Saturday and with Schalk there next to Francois Louw and Marcell Coetzee, as well as Bismarck du Plessis, we’ve got a lot of players who are very good at the breakdowns,” Meyer said.
Meyer’s choice of opting for three on the ball back rowers in Louw, Coetzee and Burger, suggests that the Boks will be looking to attack the rucks and maul, which is likely to ask some big questions of the Wallabies’ forward pack.
Cheika’s selection choices of Michael Hooper over David Pocock and Scott Higginbotham over Ben McCalman, seem to demonstrate a conscious decision to opt for running back rowers, rather than their on the ball counterparts. This will leave a lot of pressure on Scott Fardy to not only participate but dominate the breakdown.
Tonight’s Wallabies squad boasts 1023 Test caps, in comparison to 898 for the Springboks, which is Australia’s most experienced team in history, yet their is a rejuvenating freshness about the team.
The Queensland Reds’ halves combination of Will Genia and Quade Cooper will start alongside each other for the 29th occasion for the Wallabies and the first time since the Wales Test at Millennium Stadium in 2013.
The duo link up with Toulon tourist, Matt Giteau, in a 9, 10, 12 combination that last played together 5 years ago, before Giteau’s omission from Dean’s 2011 Rugby World Cup (RWC) squad and his move to play the Top 14 in France.
Watch out Springboks:
The midfield will likely be a weak point for the South Africans, with ex-South African touch player Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel needing to step up if the Boks want to kickoff their RC with a win.
It is well discussed that de Allende had defensive issues throughout the Super Rugby season, displaying a poor tackle percentage, and their is no doubt the Wallabies will look to exploit that weakness. Expect Cooper and Giteau to direct the traffic of Israel Folau and Tevita Kurandrani into de Allende’s channel, attempting to force a mistake.
Springboks: (1-15) Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Victor Matfield (C), Francois Louw, Marcell Coetzee, Schalk Burger, Ruan Pienaar, Handré Pollard, Bryan Habana, Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel, JP Pietersen, Willie le Roux
Reserves: Adriaan Strauss, Heinke van der Merwe, Frans Malherbe, Lood de Jager, Oupa Mohoje, Cobus Reinach, Pat Lambie, Lwazi Mvovo
Wallabies: (1-15) James Slipper, Stephen Moore (C), Sekope Kepu, Will Skelton, Rob Simmons, Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper (VC), Scott Higginbotham, Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Rob Horne, Matt Giteau, Tevita Kuridrani, Adam Ashley-Cooper (VC), Israel Folau
Reserves: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio, Greg Holmes, James Horwill, David Pocock, Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua, Drew Mitchell
Wallabies $1.60, Springboks $2.35,
Can’t get to the game? Watch the game on Fox Sports from 8:05pm
Written by Nelson Dale