Preview: Australia v South Africa

Date published: September 9 2016

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Both Australia and South Africa will look to get their Rugby Championship campaigns back on track when they meet in Brisbane on Saturday.

The Wallabies head into this Test desperate for victory as they are on a six-match losing streak stretching back to last year’s Rugby World Cup Final defeat to the All Blacks.

Since then, they have suffered a 3-0 series defeat to England in Australia in June as well as back-to-back losses to New Zealand in their previous Rugby Championship fixtures.

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika has said he does not feel any added personal pressure due to that record but he will surely be hoping his side has turned the corner if they manage to secure that much-needed triumph this weekend.

The performance of Australia’s forwards will be in the spotlight against South Africa as they came off second best in both their Tests against New Zealand.

With exciting attacking players like, Israel Folau, Quade Cooper, Bernard Foley and Samu Kerevi in their ranks, good front-foot ball and proper game-management from Cooper and Foley should help them to that elusive Test win.

Australia have won six of their last seven games against South Africa when playing on home soil, including each of the last two such iterations of this fixture.

Overall, the Wallabies have won eight of their nine games against South Africa at Suncorp Stadium, including their biggest ever victory over the Springboks in July 2006 (49-0).

The Boks head in to this fixture slightly better off than their hosts but they too are yet to play to their full potential under new head coach Allister Coetzee.

They claimed a 2-1 series win over Ireland in South Africa, earlier this year, before registering an unconvincing win over Argentina in their Rugby Championship opener in Nelspruit.

There were plenty of warning signs in that clash and the Boks were on the wrong end of a 26-24 result when the sides met in the corresponding fixture in Salta a week later.

Much has been said about the Boks style of play with many of Coetzee’s critics saying he is undecided about his game-plan.

During his stint as Stormers head coach, Coetzee opted for a conservative approach but after the Lions did so well with their expansive game-plan, during their run to the Super Rugby Final, there were calls for the Boks to employ a similar style of play and although there have been signs of them doing this – in stages against Ireland and Argentina – they are yet to do it for a full 80 minutes.

What is certain, is that the Boks do have the players to do just that although much will depend on the performances of their halfbacks, Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies, who didn’t play to their full potential in Salta.

The performance of captain and hooker Adriaan Strauss will also be closely scrutinised after he recently announced that he would retire from Test rugby at the end of the year.

South Africa have won four of their last six games against Australia, though the Wallabies will be aiming for back-to-back wins against the Springboks for the first time since 2012 after a 24-20 win in their last encounter.

Players to watch: 

For Australia: Rookie utility back Reece Hodge makes his first start for the Wallabies after coming on as a replacement in the loss to New Zealand in Wellington two weeks ago. Although Hodge has featured mostly at centre, full-back and fly-half for the Rebels, during a stellar Super Rugby campaign, he lines up in the unfamiliar wing position this weekend. Don’t be surprised if Hodge makes a positive impact on this game though. He has proven on several occasions for the Rebels this season that he has the uncanny ability to find himself in the right attacking positions, so don’t be surprised if he manages to cross the whitewash in this Test. Also keep an eye on utility forward Dean Mumm, who makes a rare start in the Wallabies back row. Equally at home at lock or on the flank – where he starts in this Test – Mumm will look to bring some physicality to Australia’s forward onslaught and also try to be influential at the line-outs.

For South Africa: There will be lots of pressure on the Boks’ new midfield partnership of Juan de Jongh and Jesse Kriel as it is the first time that they line up as a combination. Bok head coach Allister Coetzee has brought the duo into his starting line-up as replacements for Damian de Allende and Lionel Mapoe who failed to impress against Argentina and both De Jongh and Kriel will try to justify their selections with impressive performances. Kriel has fond memories of Brisbane as he scored a try on debut at the same venue last year. Another player who will be keen to impress is Eben Etzebeth who will run out for his 50th Test for his country.

Head-to-head: The battle at scrum-time will be an interesting sub-plot in the overall scheme of things. Australia have an experienced front row combination in props Sekope Kepu and Scott Sio as well as captain and hooker Stephen Moore but scrummaging is not a facet of play which the Wallabies usually dominate, so this trio will be keen to deliver a solid shift. Bok skipper Adriaan Strauss and fellow prop Tendai Mtawarira are accomplished front-rankers who seldom take a backward step at the set-piece but much will depend on the performance of their inexperienced team-mate Lourens Adriaanse. If he can anchor the scrum, then the Boks will have a good platform from which to attack.

Team news: Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika has made two changes to his starting line-up. Reece Hodge comes into the run-on side on the wing as a replacement for Adam Ashley-Cooper, who has returned to France. Hodge will wear the number 11 jersey while Dane Haylett-Petty shifts to the right wing. The other change sees Dean Mumm starting on the blindside flank and pushing Scott Fardy out of the Wallabies’ matchday 23 for the first time since last year’s Rugby World Cup pool match against Uruguay.

Meanwhile, Springboks coach Allister Coetzee has made three changes to his run-on side. Coetzee has included Francois Hougaard, Juan de Jongh and Jesse Kriel in a revamped backline while Lourens Adriaanse is the only change to the pack that lost against Argentina in their previous match in Salta. Hougaard comes into the side as replacement for Ruan Combrinck, who suffered a fractured leg against the Pumas, and he will play on the left wing, meaning the experienced Bryan Habana moves over to the right. De Jongh and Jesse Kriel get a run in the place of Damian de Allende and Lionel Mapoe in midfield while Adriaanse replaces Vincent Koch at tighthead prop. Franco Mostert has been included as one of the six forward replacements, and the bench also features prop Trevor Nyakane. 24-year-old lock Eben Etzebeth will become the youngest man to play 50 Tests for the Boks.

Previous results:

2015: Australia won 24-20 in Brisbane
2014: South Africa won 28-10 in Cape Town
2014: Australia won 24-23 in Perth
2013: South Africa won 28-8 in Cape Town
2013: South Africa won 38-12 in Brisbane
2012: South Africa won 31-8 in Pretoria
2012: Australia won 26-19 in Perth
2011: Australia won 11-9 in Wellington
2011: Australia won 14-9 in Durban
2011: Australia won 39-20 in Sydney
2010: Australia won 41-39 in Bloemfontein
2010: South Africa won 44-31 in Pretoria
2010: Australia won 30-13 in Brisbane
2009: Australia won 21-6 in Brisbane

Prediction: Although Australia haven’t had the rub of the green in their previous Tests this year, those matches were against the world’s top ranked teams so they will notch their first win of 2016 this weekend. Australia to win by eight points!

The teams:

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Bernard Foley, 11 Reece Hodge, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio
Replacements (one to be ommitted): 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rory Arnold, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Sean McMahon, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Tevita Kuridrani, 24 Drew Mitchell

South Africa: 15 Johan Goosen, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Steven Kitshoff, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 21 Jaco Kriel, 22 Morne Steyn, 23 Lionel Mapoe

Date: Saturday, September 10
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 20:05 (10:05 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens
Assistant Referees: Wayne Barnes , Pascal Gauzère
TMO: Ben Skeen

By David Skippers

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