AUDIO: Boks have Beast(ly) plan for Wallabies
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP SPOTLIGHT: Australia’s depleted front row could be their ‘soft underbelly’ in their encounter with South Africa at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The Springboks will field an impressive front row – including a centurion loosehead prop Tendai Mtawarira, seasoned hooker Mbongeni Mbonambi and tighthead prop Trevor Nyakane with the experience of 37 previous Tests – two of those starting at looshead and the rest off the bench.
On the bench, they have veteran hooker Schalk Brits, Test rookie in Lizo Gqoboka and seasoned Vincent Koch.
The picture in the Wallaby camp looks very different.
The Ellis Park Test on Saturday is James Slipper’s first since December 2016 – with the Wallabies front row stocks decimated by injury.
He will carry a heavy load against a burly Boks outfit, who pride themselves on their set-piece.
Fellow looseheads Scot Sio (adductor) and Tom Robertson (ankle) were sent home midweek from Johannesburg, while his Brumbies teammate Alan Alaalatoa (foot) was also ruled out.
Waratahs rookie Harry Johnson-Holmes, 22, was rushed from Australia to be included on the bench.
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Not surprising Bok captain Eben Etzebeth eyed the scrum as a possible area of dominance.
He spoke of the “great all-round” front row of the home team, anchored by 107-Test veteran Mtawarira.
“I think Beast [Mtawarira], Trevor [Nyakane] and Bongi [Mbonambi] have had a look at that [Wallaby front row],”Etzebeth told the media scrum.
“They will make their own plans between them and give us some feedback on that.
“However, I definitely think they prepared for the scrum battle and I know Beast is always ready for a scrum battle,” the Bok skipper added.
Etzebeth said he does not expect the Aussies to give up without a fight.
“The Australian guys, whoever steps into the position, will do good for Australia.
“I’m sure those guys who fill in are great rugby players,” added Etzebeth.
Slipper echoed the Boks skipper sentiments.
“I think over during my career I have played them a few times and it has always been a tough game – especially up front,” Slipper told a media briefing.
“In Trevor and Beast, they have experienced props.
“There hasn’t been a game against the Springboks I haven’t seen the Beast not play well against us.
“He is a big player, very physical and I think those two – Beast and Trevor – the way they scrum, is very powerful.
“It is going to be a challenge for us as a forward pack, but it is always nice challenging yourself against the best,” said Slipper.
Slipper added that he is ready to repay the selectors faith in him by putting in a big performance on Saturday after a two-month ban for cocaine use in 2018 left him thinking that his Wallabies days were over.
“There was a point there where I probably didn’t see it happening [a Wallaby recall] and that’s probably what makes it special.
“I just want to go out there and do my job.
“That is the best way to pay back [coach Michael] Cheika and the selectors,” he added.