By Paul Dobson Fri, 28 Aug 2009 www.rugby365.com
The triumphant play the desperate when South Africa play Australia at Subiaco Oval in Perth. It’s hard to decide which of the two is in the better position – the confident (overconfident?) triumphant or the determined desperate.
Australia have lost two excellent players in Nathan Sharpe with his leadership and strength and Berrick Barnes with his immense skill. Will that make the desperate all the more determined? Australian sportsmen – Ashes notwithstanding – are fighters and unlikely to lie down even in Perth, a sort of South African enclave.
The Springboks on the other hand have their stars available, including Schalk Burger who comes back from suspension, but will they be playing with one hand on the Tri-Nations Trophy and one eye on New Zealand? If they take their eye off the ball they are well on the way to handing the trophy to the All Blacks.
So far the Springboks have won all three of their Tri-Nations matches and done so without allowing their opponents a bonus point for being honourable losers and yet have won more convincingly than the score in each case. But those matches were all at home. Now they are away. They travelled late to avoid being away for too long, for of all top teams in the world South Africans travel most, furthest and for longest.
The Springboks know that they can beat the Wallabies but they were also taught last year in Durban that the Wallabies can beat them. That defeat brought a stinging riposte from the Springboks in Johannesburg.
The Springboks have made a change to their starting team that they were not forced to make. They have kept Morné Steyn and his boot at flyhalf but have brought Ruan Pienaar in for Frans Steyn, which should not weaken the side as they have brought in a better rugby brain for a bigger boot. The other change is on the bench where Schalk Burger replaces a slightly dicky Danie Rossouw. The changes are unlikely to weaken the side.
The Wallabies have made more changes. Two are enforced – Ryan Cross on for Barnes and Mark Chisholm for Sharpe. They have also brought in Peter Hynes and his high-ball skill for Drew Mitchell who has not been very energetic, and Ben Alexander for the pliable Al Baxter. Surprisingly after Robbie Deans’s threat of reprisals for illdiscipline yellow-card collector Richard Brown is still there. Brown against Burger could be quite colourful!
If the Springboks’ pack can put pressure on the Wallabies’ pack as they did at Newlands big Luke Burgess could again be rendered slow and clumsy while Will Genia may prove a snappy answer even to pressure.
At Newlands, with Ben Alexander at prop, the much criticised Australian pack dominated the scrums, but the Springboks won the line-outs and the post-tackle conflict. If that happens again the Wallabies are in trouble.
But what they proved at Newlands was that even with limited possession and confined territory the Wallabies were still able score excellent, creative tries, both with ease from set pieces.
The Wallabies are going to need ball. They are also going to need discipline. They received three yellow cards at Newlands but even down to 13 men they kept the Springboks out. Their defence is excellent. In their three defeats they have ceded only three tries – one a match.
Players to Watch: You will watch Matt Giteau (Australia), of course. He was overshadowed against the All Blacks but then his side had meagre fare to feed on. Fourie du Preez (South Africa) who will take a lot of responsibility in his calm, efficient way – one of the most effective footballers in the rugby game.
Head to Head: There is Morné Steyn (South Africa) v the Back Three (Australia) – when the bombs start falling. There will be another round of new boy Heinrich Brüssow (South Africa) against old hand George Smith (Australia). Oddly enough the new boy may just be more likely to keep his head than the old hand. Juan Smith (South Africa) against Rocky Elsom (Australia) – tall trees in the line-outs, hard runners with the ball and relentless in the tackle.
2009: South Africa won at Newlands 29-17
2008: South Africa won 53-8 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg
2008: Australia won 27-15 at Absa Stadium, Durban
2008: Australia won 16-9 at Subiaco Oval, Perth
2007: South Africa won 22-19 at Newlands
2007: Australia won 25-17 at Stadium Australia, Sydney
2006: South Africa won 24-16 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg
2006: Australia won 20-18 at Stadium Australia, Sydney
2006: Australia won 49-0 at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
2005: South Africa won 22-19 at Subiaco Oval, Perth
2005: South Africa won 22-16 at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
2005: South Africa won 33-20 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg
2005: Australia won 30-12 at Stadium Australia, Sydney
Prediction: South Africa to win by more than 10.
Australia: 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Stirling Mortlock (captain), 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 George Smith, 6 Richard Brown, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 James Horwill, 3 Al Baxter, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 Dean Mumm, 19 David Pocock, 20 Will Genia, 21 Peter Hynes, 22 James O’Connor.
South Africa: 15 Ruan Pienaar, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 John Smit (captain), 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Andries Bekker, 19 Schalk Burger, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Adi Jacobs, 22 Frans Steyn.
Date: Saturday, 29 August 2009
Kick-off: 18.05 (10.05 GMT)
Venue: Subiaco Oval, Perth
Expected weather conditions: Scattered clouds, clearing, with a high of 14°C , dropping to 5°C and a westerly wind of 36 km/h, dropping
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
TMO: Keith Brown (New Zealand)