Preview: Australia v South Africa

Date published: September 5 2014

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Australia will be looking to end a three-match losing run against South Africa when the pair collide at Patersons Stadium on Saturday.

Australia will be eager to end a three-match losing run against South Africa when the pair clash at Patersons Stadium in Perth on Saturday.

The last time the Wallabies beat the Springboks was in 2012 when they prevailed 26-19 in this very city so they will be striving for a repeat result.

Since that victory they have fallen in Pretoria, Brisbane and Cape Town as the powerful Boks hit back from a five-match drought of their own.

Form over the past year however would see few argue that life has been pretty good for both teams as they've enjoyed long winning runs, the Wallabies' ended with that draw at home to New Zealand in August while the Boks' is now up to eight.

Saturday though truly is going to be a defining international. Win and Australia remain very much in the Rugby Championship reckoning but lose and it is a disappointing half-campaign for Ewen McKenzie, with the Springboks subsequently staying at least joint top ahead of a huge game in Wellington.

New Zealand, despite currently being second, remain hot favourites to once again be crowned Rugby Championship winners after the Boks couldn't pick up a try bonus-point in either of their matches against Argentina. Gauging those performances requires a few things being discussed; the high standards set by their players, coaching staff and public, the Pumas' consistently being under-rated and finally the quality at boss Heyneke Meyer's disposal.

South Africa were taught a worrying lesson at scrum time last time out and their forwards will hope to see the Pumas give the All Black front-row similar treatment this weekend to somewhat gloss over what happened in Salta. That, without starting tighthead Juan Figallo, was an outstanding scrummaging unit.

Meanwhile, the problem area of outside centre continues to perturb as there's a lack of options, meaning Jan Serfontein is now charged with playing out of position, taking the spot of a benched Damian de Allende. As Meyer said pre-tournament, he wouldn't move Jean de Villiers away from his familiar inside centre role.

Up front and Bismarck du Plessis is one player seemingly carrying the can for the Boks as he's replaced by Adriaan Strauss while Victor Matfield comes in for Lood de Jager at lock. Juan Smith made Meyer's decision for him after week two when he declared himself unavailable due to a poor comeback performance.

Fortunately for Saturday's visitors, Australia are currently suffering a spate of hooking injuries which continue to affect their selection and stability. This week it is James Hanson who starts in the absence of injured trio Stephen Moore, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Nathan Charles.

That change has been an enforced one for boss McKenzie but he's acted elsewhere as his backline sees a re-jig for the arrival of the Boks. In comes three franchise combinations in the shape of half-back duo Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley, centres Matt Toomua and Tevita Kuridrani and back-three trio Rob Horne, Israel Folau and Adam Ashley-Cooper. The resulting casualties are Nic White, Kurtley Beale and Pat McCabe (retired).

But will familiarity breed victory for the Wallabies as both these teams look to improve on what has happened in the opening rounds, which for the Springboks is strange to say after two wins, However on this kind of form, neither will wrestle the title from the All Blacks. It's up to them to prove us wrong.

Ones to watch:

For Australia: New-look, possibly, but this is more or less the Wallaby backline that went on a seven-game winning run since November. Nick Phipps is one newcomer as a starter though and his franchise combination with Bernard Foley was one of several reasons why the Waratahs won the Super Rugby title. Phipps had the second highest tackle count at the 'Tahs this season, which for a scrum-half is outstanding and sums up what he offers at the base. South Africa will need to be wary of his dogged style as he will drive the Wallabies in defence and attack. Foley meanwhile might have a point to prove to coach McKenzie after being left out in favour of Kurtley Beale. He must kick and direct operations well.

For South Africa: A scorer the last time these two sides met, Adriaan Strauss is named in the starting line-up for the first time this Rugby Championship as he takes over from Bismarck du Plessis. As mentioned it was a difficult shift in Salta and Du Plessis was unusually quiet around the field to boot so here lies a big opportunity for Strauss. Having lock Victor Matfield back is a massive boost to both Strauss and the Springboks as the veteran will look to stamp his authority on the line-out. Also keep an eye on returning fly-half Morne Steyn.

Head-to-head: Two of the best attacking talents in the game meet for the first time as a full-back versus full-back battle on the Test stage as Israel Folau and Willie le Roux clash. Folau ended his rather comically dubbed “try drought” in round two with a score against New Zealand while Le Roux has become a nuisance for opposition due to his unpredictability. Expect plenty of line busts from these two.

Recent results:

2013: South Africa won 28-8, Cape Town
2013: South Africa won 38-12, Brisbane
2012: South Africa won 31-8, Pretoria
2012: Australia won 26-19, Perth
2011: Australia won 11-9, Wellington
2011: Australia won 14-9, Durban
2011: Australia won 39-20, Sydney
2010: Australia won 41-39, Bloemfontein
2010: South Africa won 44-31, Pretoria
2010: Australia won 30-13, Brisbane
2009: Australia won 21-6, Brisbane

Prediction: Expect a physical yet measured response from the Boks as they look to starve the Wallaby backs. South Africa by 2!

The 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 (c), 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 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 (capt), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne 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.
Replacements: 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.

Date: Saturday, September 6
Kick-off: 18:05 local (11:05 BST, 10:05 GMT)
Venue: Patersons Stadium, Perth
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)

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