Preview: South Africa v Australia

Date published: September 30 2016

The Springboks will keen to regain some lost pride when they host the Wallabies in their Rugby Championship Test in Pretoria on Saturday.

After four matches in the competition, the Boks have just one victory under their belt and with criticism mounting in South Africa, the two-time world champions will be desperate for victory in front of their home fans.

The Boks are currently on a three-match losing streak after losses to Argentina, Australia and New Zealand and Saturday's Test could be a watershed moment for head coach Allister Coetzee and his troops as another defeat will leave them demoralised ahead of their final match of the tournament, against New Zealand in Durban on October 8.

If one looks at recent fixtures between these countries in South Africa, however, it's not all doom and gloom for the hosts. The Springboks have won their last three matches against Australia on home soil, keeping the Wallabies to 10 points or fewer in each of those three fixtures. 

South Africa have hosted Australia at Loftus Versfield on six previous occasions, winning each of those games, and they haven’t tasted defeat at the venue against any team since New Zealand visited in 2006, winning seven Tests there since then.

Australia know exactly what the Boks are experiencing at the moment as they lost their first five Tests of 2016. They eventually secured a hard-fought 23-17 victory over the Boks in Sydney in Round Three, before showing glimpses of the form which helped them to secure a runners-up spot at last year's Rugby World Cup in their next match – a 36-20 bonus-point victory over Argentina in Perth two weeks ago.

But despite their triumph over the Boks – in their previous clash – the Wallabies head into this fixture knowing that their opponents will be highly motivated on their home turf.

A Wallabies win will be a momentous one as they will be looking to defeat South Africa twice in a calendar year for the first time since 2011, when they did so three times.

Wallaby coach Michael Cheika is wary of their opponents and dismissed suggestions that the Boks were not a force in the world game after their recent run of defeats.

"It's easy to say that when you haven't played against them… they're one of the traditional powerhouses of world rugby and that doesn't go away," he said.

"All that other stuff is rubbish – I don't think that the last two games that we have played count for much and I don't think what they've done in the last couple of games counts for much either.

"I'm sure we're going to see the best Springbok team and we've got to bring our game as well. We'll see where we end up."

Players to watch: 

For South Africa: Although he's not starting in his preferred fly-half position, Pat Lambie will play an important role at full-back for the Springboks. Lambie, who has worn the number 15 jersey with distinction for his country in the past, will be expected to provide direction to the Bok cause from the back and his selection could also be an indication that head coach Allister Coetzee wants his team to play a territorial game in a bid to gain the ascendancy with kicks which will keep the Wallabies pinned in their own half.

For Australia: New number eight Sean McMahon might be young but he has proven in the past that he has the temperament to shine at Test level. The 22-year-old enjoys the physical nature of the game and will be expected to get his team over the advantage line with powerful carries from the base of the scrum. McMahon is also solid in the tackle and adept at the breakdowns. His partnership, with Michael Hooper, in the latter department will be crucial in securing turnover ball and in doing so helping their team to claim victory.

Head-to-head: All eyes will be on the respective half-backs, who all have important roles to play for their sides. There will be plenty of pressure on the Boks' new pairing of Morné Steyn and Rudy Paige, into the starting line-up at the expense of Elton Jantjies and Faf de Klerk who failed to impress in the Boks' last game against the All Blacks in Christchurch two weeks ago. This will be the first time that Steyn and Paige start a Test together and there will be plenty of pressure on them to provide attacking momentum to the home side. They face a stern examination against Quade Cooper and Will Genia who have impressed in the Wallabies' last two Tests. The experienced playmakers have an almost telepathic understanding and if they are on song, then the Wallabies stand a great chance of winning.

Team news: Pat Lambie, Morné Steyn and Rudy Paige will all start for the Springboks in this Test. The inclusion of Paige at scrum-half is one of three changes made to the Springbok line-up that started the match against the All Blacks two weeks ago in Christchurch. Paige, who has made four Test appearances from the Bok bench, will partner the experienced Steyn in the halfbacks. The only other change to the starting line-up sees Lambie return to the team for the first time since he suffered concussion in the series opener against Ireland in June. Lambie will play full-back, where he is preferred over Johan Goosen. 

Meanwhile, Sean McMahon will start at number eight for Australia when they take on South Africa in Pretoria on Saturday. McMahon replaces the injured David Pocock and edges out Lopeti Timani for the number eight jersey. It is the only change to the Wallabies starting XV which beat Argentina two weeks ago.

Previous results:

2016: Australia won 23-17 in Brisbane
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: The Springboks have their backs to the wall and although the Wallabies appear to have turned the corner, playing the Boks in their backyard is always a daunting task. South Africa to win by four points!

The teams:

South Africa: 15 Patrick Lambie, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jessie Kriel, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Stephen Kitshoff, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Jaco Kriel, 22 Willie le Roux, 23 Lionel Mapoe

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Bernard Foley, 11 Reece Hodge,10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio
Replacements (one to be omitted): 16 James Hanson, 17 James Slipper, 18 Tom Robertson, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Scott Fardy, 21 Lopeti Timani, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Tevita Kuridrani, 24 Sefa Naivalu

Date: Saturday, October 1
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 17:05 local (15:05 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Johnny Lacey (Ireland), George Clancy (Ireland)
TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)