South Africa play Australia in Durban on Saturday in Round Three of the Tri-Nations, and this time we seem to have A Team playing A Team. That means we could have a proper match.
Mind you, apart from a change of players, there will have to be a change in preparation as well. That team that the Wallabies walloped in Sydney seemed to have no plan on attack, no plan on defence, little organisation of line-outs, messy scrums and poor commitment at the breakdown. The truth is that the Springboks were flattered in losing 20-39.
If this team is to function as an A Team it will need more than just a personnel of 22 players. They will also need to know what they are doing and do it together.
The young Wallabies must be going into this one with confidence. They won in Sydney and were better than the 30-14 score suggests when the All Blacks beat them in Auckland. They know they are one of the best teams in the world, capable of beating anybody. They have impetus on their side flowing from the Super Rugby season and onwards.
The Springboks do not have that confidence. They may well be desperate and have reason to be desperate as losing in one competition cannot be a good foundation for winning in another. Being desperate is not the same as being confident. In fact if the desperation bubble is pricked despair can result. But history tells us that the Springboks are best when their backs are to the wall. They are to the wall this weekend.
And then the Springbok team is so changed. Where the Wallabies have only two of their Sydney side not starting this time, the Springboks have only two starting again - Danie Rossouw and John Smit. The rest are all changed and the Springboks put their most experienced starting team ever into the field against the younger Wallabies. Younger is often livelier.
Both teams have vowed to start well. That may lead to a combustible start that could decide the outcome of the match.
Rugby is about attack and defence. The Wallabies have attackers all right - Kurtley Beale, James O'Connor, Digby Ioane, Will Genia and jack-in-a-box Quade Cooper. This time the Springboks are going to have to tackle. Now that the home side has invested in a defensive coach, tackling may happen and the All Blacks showed that tackling can make Cooper anonymous, make the magician disappear. But Ioane has shown that the Wallabies can attack from anywhere. His try last Saturday made that point brilliantly. The Wallabies have the players to avoid tackles, where the Springboks with their one-off runners home in on tacklers.
The tight forwards are so important - the men who can get the best ball for their backs and give their loose forwards the chance to move off the ball of their feet rather than their heels.
Goal-kicking will count. O'Connor, so often such a brilliant goal-kicker, did not have a good day in Auckland, which cost his side dearly. That may not happen again and he has back-up kickers in Cooper and Beale. South Africa has a reliable short-distance man in Butch James and the booming boot of François Steyn. Do the Wallabies look better equipped in this department?
In Sydney, as a matter of interest, the Springboks were penalised eight times, the Wallabies 11 times.
Players to watch:
For South Africa: There may well be most interest in Jaque Fourie, as there always is, and then the form of Fourie du Preez, who can determine the course of a game like no other when he is on form, aggressive Butch James and Heinrich Brüssow as they return from injury. James and Fourie together could boost the Springboks attacking capability.
For Australia: The men with the greater potential to catch the eye are Wallabies - the back three, especially Ioane, the halfbacks, David Pocock and Scott Higginbotham with his clever grubbers. That gives them seven pressure points, players who can change the game.
Head to Head: There are lots of contests. There will be the contest between two of the best scrumhalves in rugby - Du Preez and Genia. There is the Battle of the Tackle between Pocock and Brüssow. Who will win the line-outs this time - Victor Matfield or James Horwill. The Springboks, surely, have much, much better line-out options this time around. And then there is direct Butch James against evasive Quade Cooper.
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
2008: Australia won 27-15, Durban
2008: Australia won 16-9, Perth
Prediction: South Africa to win by five points or so. There is not a vastly logical reason for suggesting that but for many of the Springboks playing on Saturday the memory of 2008 will not be all that distant when they lost to the Wallabies and were booed off Kings Park. That humiliation should be part of their incentive to move for victory.
South Africa: 15 Frans Steyn, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Butch James, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Danie Rossouw, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Gerhard Mostert, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 François Hougaard, 21 Morné Steyn, 22 Gio Aplon.
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 James O'Connor, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom (captain), 5 James Horwill, 4 Nathan Sharpe, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Sekope Kepu.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Salesi Ma'afu, 18 Sitaleki Timani, 19 Ben McCalman, 20 Radike Samo, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 Anthony Fainga'a.
Date: Saturday, 13 August 2001
Kick-off: 17.05 (15.05 GMT)
Venue: Mr Price Kings Park, Durban
Expected weather: There is a 40 percent chance of rain with a high of 20°C, dropping to 13°C.
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Carlo Damasco (Italy)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
By Paul Dobson
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