Boks prepare to battle upbeat Australians
South Africa will concentrate on the basics as they try to dispatch a bullish Australia at Newlands on Saturday in the hope of setting up a final-day showdown against New Zealand in the Rugby Championship.
The Springboks’ controversial 29-15 loss to New Zealand during which hooker Bismarck du Plessis received a red card - later expunged - last time out, has left them trailing the All Blacks by four points going into the final two rounds of the competition.
The pressure is on South Africa to repeat their record 38-12 triumph they registered over Australia in Brisbane earlier this month and win with a bonus point, to set up a thrilling finale with the world champions in Johannesburg on October 5.
But South Africa have been at pains this week to say the win is all they are thinking of.
“We don’t want to go for the bonus point; that will take care of itself,” South African coach Heyneke Meyer told reporters.
“We need to focus on the basics and just play the same type of game that we usually play. Australia are more motivated when they come off a big loss but we can’t look past this game because if we do so it could make the last game useless,” he added.
Meyer said he would take a scrappy win on Saturday, even if the Springboks have looked a much-improved outfit this year’s competition.
“There are aspects of play that I’m not happy with but I think we’ve had a great season up until now. But that doesn’t mean anything if we don’t win the next two matches.”
Australia’s record home defeat to South Africa was the major disappointment of a campaign that has shown up the many short comings in their side.
Out-muscled, out-thought, outmanoeuvred and out-played, there were no positives from the last contest against South Africa for Australia coach Ewen McKenzie, but plenty to build on.
Since then, Australia have been able to take some confidence from their scrappy 14-13 victory over Argentina in their last match in Perth.
But they go into their penultimate test without wing James O’Connor, suspended from the squad indefinitely after being escorted from Perth airport by police following that match and accused of being intoxicated.
McKenzie made it clear he preferred to talk about their troubles with the scrum rather than off-field shenanigans.
“I’m concerned with the scrums every week, sorting that area out and the quality of the ball we get from there is pretty important,” he told reporters on Thursday.
He also believes that if his side are to have any chance of getting a result on Saturday, fronting up to the physicality of their opponents will be key, something they failed to do in Brisbane.
“The Springboks are very good at imposing themselves physically on their opponents, but we don’t think we are bad at that either. We feel like we are right in the groove for a good performance,” McKenzie said.
Adam Ashley-Cooper replaces O’Connor in the number 14 jersey, with ACT Brumbies’ Joe Tomane included on the other wing in place of Nick Cummins. Tevita Kuridrani takes over from Ashley-Cooper at outside centre.
Skipper James Horwill returns from injury at lock in the place of Kane Douglas.
South Africa have made just two changes from the side that lost to New Zealand in Auckland two weeks ago, with the return of scrumhalf Fourie du Preez in place of Ruan Pienaar.
Hooker Du Plessis is rested for the match and replaced by Adriaan Strauss.
New Zealand are in Rosario to face Argentina on Saturday, where anything but a comfortable away win would be a major surprise, in the other match of the weekend.
South Africa: 15-Zane Kirchner, 14-Willie le Roux, 13-JJ Engelbrecht, 12-Jean de Villiers (captain), 11-Bryan Habana, 10-Morne Steyn, 9-Fourie du Preez, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Willem Alberts, 6-Francois Louw, 5-Flip van der Merwe, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16-Bismark du Plessis, 17-Gurthro Steenkamp, 18-Coenie Oosthuizen, 19-Juandre Kruger, 20-Siya Kolisi, 21-Ruan Pienaar, 22-Pat Lambie, 23-Jan Serfontein.
Australia: 15-Israel Folau, 14-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13-Tevita Kuridrani, 12-Christian Leali’ifano, 11-Joe Tomane, 10-Quade Cooper, 9-Nic White, 8-Ben Mowen, 7-Michael Hooper, 6-Scott Fardy, 5-James Horwill (captain), 4-Rob Simmons, 3-Ben Alexander, 2-Stephen Moore, 1-James Slipper.
Replacements: 16-Saia Fainga’a, 17-Benn Robinson, 18-Sekope Kepu, 19-Sitaleki Timani, 20-Ben McCalman, 21-Will Genia, 22-Matt Toomua, 23-Chris Feauai-Sautia.
Referee: Jerome Garces (France).