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Preview: Australia v South Africa

07th September 2012 09:19

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Duane Vermeulen for cameras

Big ask: Duane Vermeulen

It is almost 11 months to the day since the Wallabies defeated the Springboks in that controversial Rugby World Cup quarter-final in Wellington.

That isn't a cue for out-of-date comments people, although the term out-of-date has arisen of late as the two sides look to have backtracked from 2011.

Many would have expected that since the RWC clash, both nations might have improved and be battling New Zealand for the summit of the IRB Rankings. Instead, we have a Wallabies coach reportedly clinging to his job by his fingernails and a Bok boss employing an antiquated game-plan.

The impressive All Blacks, meanwhile, currently enjoy a 6.38 rating points advantage - their record margin being 9.41 way back in the June of 2007. Meyer's charges are trailing in third but let's be honest for a second, first and fourth spot in the world list by December is a much of a muchness.

Consequently, the carrot of moving to within one spot of the All Blacks in the rankings will not have been given a second thought by South Africa as Jean de Villiers looks to lift his outfit following their showing in Mendoza, where their bulldozing tactic was easily absorbed by Argentina.

We do not expect a drastic change in the somewhat limited kick and charge plan from the Boks, but if it was going to succeed then against the Wallabies is when it possibly would.

Factor in that there is a fresh and untried winger wearing jersey number fourteen in the shape of Dom Shipperley - while Reds team-mate Digby Ioane has shown over the years that he can be rattled and is prone to more than one fumble per game - and South Africa will continue to go the airborne and also direct route with the question being: can Australia do what the Pumas did so brilliantly at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas a few weekends ago?

The general consensus is the hosts may not be suited to going toe-to-toe with their visitors, and while their recent four-game winning streak over South Africa is admirable, a lot has changed since in their starting XV since the 11-9 result at Wellington Regional Stadium.

A lack of Pat McCabe takes away their own direct option when showy attacks aren't on - an attribute Berrick Barnes simply does not possess - while the absence of James O'Connor, Stephen Moore, David Pocock, Stephen Moore, James Horwill and Drew Mitchell coinciding with form dips from Kurtley Beale, Will Genia and Quade Cooper leaves them struggling. Due to those issues, Deans now selects a different back-line for the third fixture in a row.

It seems like a mid-term telling off for the Wallabies but they are not alone in upsetting their masses as the Springboks, who frequently talk about having a Plan B, desperately need to prove they are more than what they have shown in their last three international outings.

Two draws and a win has not gone down well in the Republic as they persist with a selection that smacks more of structure than allowing flair and inhibition to flow.

One positive to come from their last showing is the inclusion of Johan Goosen, albeit on the bench. But judging by the recent fate of Pat Lambie, whether or not we see him make it onto the field is another matter entirely. If we do, maybe this 'Plan B' will have legs to stand.

Ones to watch:

For Australia: At 36 years old, Radike Samo gets a run at number eight ahead of Scott Higginbotham. The demotion of the latter player to bench duty was something of a surprise as maybe Dave Dennis could have been the man warming the pine, with Higginbotham switching to blindside. However, Deans has gone for a different route as he names a back-row that lacks in Test experience. Michael Hooper will, as usual, give his all while further forward it is unfortunate that Stephen Moore misses out on becoming the most-capped Wallaby hooker of all time due to a hamstring injury. That feat will come soon enough.

For South Africa: Getting the intelligent rugby brain of Ruan Pienaar onto the field is a great move from visiting head coach Heyneke Meyer as his form for Ulster over the past year or so has been exceptional. One hopes to see him alongside Johan Goosen at some stage, which would be a proud moment for Grey College in Bloemfontein. Furthermore, if Frans Steyn is still on the field it would be a 9-10-12 combination. It has seemed like the Boks' game-plan has muzzled the enterprising talent that is Francois Hougaard, so it will be interesting to see if he flourishes out on the left wing ahead of a benched Lwazi Mvovo.

Head-to-head: Although he is our one-to-watch for Australia, Radike Samo going up against a Springbok number eight who surely cannot be fit enough for international rugby is going to be interesting. Western Province coach Allister Coetzee said after Duane Vermeulen's Currie Cup comeback against Griquas: "Duane ended up playing an extra ten minutes than we'd initially planned. He wasn't quite at his best, but it's understandable. I would say he needs at least three or so matches before he'll be back at his best Currie Cup/Super Rugby standard." One game later, here he is in Perth. It's a big ask of Vermeulen on Saturday.

Recent results:

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
2009: South Africa won 32-25, Perth
2009: South Africa won 29-17, Cape Town
2008: South Africa won 53-8, Johannesburg

Prediction: Australia have a 62 per cent winning record over South Africa on home soil, but that dips to 42 per cent in Perth. I just feel that the Springboks' tough game-plan will work against the Wallabies and they will end their four-game rot. Let's say... South Africa by 6!

The teams:

Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Dominic Shipperley, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia (c), 8 Radike Samo, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Scott Higginbotham, 19 Liam Gill, 20 Nick Phipps, 21 Mike Harris, 22 Anthony Fainga'a.

South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jean de Villiers (c), 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Francois Hougaard 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Francois Louw, 20 Johan Goosen, 21 Pat Lambie, 22 Lwazi Mvovo.

Date: Saturday, September 8
Venue: Patersons Stadium, Perth
Kick-off: 18.35 (10.35 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
TMO: Matt Goddard (Australia)

By Adam Kyriacou

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PosTeamPPts
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