This match will decide the 2011 Tri-Nations. Somehow it does not seem as exciting as it should - not with the World Cup looming near.
The Bledisloe Cup is decided and will stay in New Zealand, and of course it would be nice to have the Tri-Nations Cup to keep it company.
Obviously both sides want it and have chosen nearly their best sides.
That is good - resect for each other and for the competition.
New Zealand did not try flat out to wrap up the Tri-Nations in Port Elizabeth when they left several of their best players at home to avoid travel fatigue. It certainly is a game to be taken seriously. Not only is the Tri-Nations at stake but there is also the tide of confidence to be taken into the World Cup as both sides are seen as strong candidates for victory.
In Auckland New Zealand won 30-14 , three tries to two and did so perhaps more securely than even the score suggests. But now some of their men have gone back and forth over the Indian Ocean and bit the dust in Port Elizabeth. The consolation is that they scored far more try opportunities than their vanquishers. And while it was happening Australia was resting. Resting? Not quite with internal disciplinary problems and the dropping of the pilot.
It will be interesting to see what effect removing the captaincy has on Elsom. He was miffed and perhaps some of the players are miffed, too, for there must be Elsom men in the team. South Africa did something like this in 1999 and suffered for it. But then Elsom was not as established a captain as Gary Teichmann was. But team dynamic is important.
Then there is the dropping of 21-year-old James Cooper for ill-discipline. Again it depends on how the team deals with it though sense would suggest acceptance of the fine and suspension.
Both sides have changes from the last encounter. The All Blacks would have preferred to have had Ali Williams but the changes on the wings - Cory Jane and Zac Guildford for Hosea Gear and Sitiveni Sivivatu - will be seen by the team as improvements as the two selected now are going to the World Cup; the other two are not. Jerome Kaino and Adam Thomson are both World Cuppers and swap places while Tony Woodcock who is going to the World Cup takes the place of Wyatt Crockett who is not.
The Wallabies have just three changes from the team beaten in Auckland. James O'Connor is in Coventry and Radike Samo replaces McCalman and the great Dan Vickerman replaces Rob Simmons.
Depending on how the Wallabies take their changes, they seem stronger at forward while the All Blacks look stronger all round.
Always the forwards are the ones more likely to set up victory. In Auckland the Wallabies were better at line-outs, the All Blacks better at the scrums and there was not much to choose at the tackle. It may well not be any different this time.
When it comes to goal-kicking New Zealand may be better off with Dan Carter than any combination of kicker the Wallabies can or even could use.
Players to watch:
For Australia: Will Quade Cooper sink into anonymity the way he did in Auckland, leaving Dan Carter to rule the roost? You will also want to watch Digby Ioane who scored such a splendid try in Auckland in tandem with the relentless genius of Will Genia and then there is Kurtley Beale ready to attack. That is a magic quartet even if Cooper again sinks below the horizon. Up front there is David Pocock to watch and enjoy.
For New Zealand: Of the All Blacks smooth Dan Carter, explosive Zac Guildford and commanding Richie McCaw attract obvious attention.
Head to Head: The battle between David Pocock and Richie McCaw will have a great impact on the game. In Port Elizabeth Heinrich Brüssow fetched without much hindrance and one feels that Pocock could just have the better of the ageing master. Dan Carter against Quade Cooper was a damp squib last time. It may be so again this time. Brad Thorn against Dan Vickerman has abrasive possibilities.
2011: New Zealand won 30-14, Auckland
2010: Australia won 26-24, Hong Kong
2010: New Zealand won 23-22, Sydney
2010: New Zealand won 20-10, Christchurch
2010: New Zealand won 49-28, Melbourne
2009: New Zealand won 32-19, Tokyo
2009: New Zealand won 33-6, Wellington
2009: New Zealand won 19-18, Sydney
2009: New Zealand won 22-16, Auckland
2008: New Zealand won 19-14, Hong Kong
Prediction: Forget last week. Their are significant differences in this week's personnel and we belive the All Blacks will win by about 10 points.
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Anthony Fainga'a, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Radike Samo, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 James Horwill, 4 Dan Vickerman, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Sekope Kepu.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Salesi Ma'afu, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Ben McCalman, 20 Scott Higginbotham, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 TBC
New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 John Afoa, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Colin Slade, 22 Isaia Toeava.
Date: Saturday, 28 August 2011
Kick-off: 20.05 (10.05 GMT)
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Expected weather: Heavy rain showers. High of 19°C, low of 17°C.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Cobus Wessels (South Africa)
TMO: Matt Goddard (Australia)
By Paul Dobson
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