Preview: South Africa v Australia
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND FIVE: Three weeks ago Australia’s Wallabies beat South Africa’s Springboks 23-18 in Brisbane. Now they meet again in Port Elizabeth.
History was against the Springboks in Brisbane, where they had not won since 2013.
Now history is on the side of the Springboks, because no visitor has won in Port Elizabeth since 1974.
That’s a big historical difference.
This time, theory has it that the Wallabies are a stronger side than they were in Brisbane, while the Springboks are a weaker side.
Can history deal with all that?
Since Brisbane, the Wallabies have got back three top players – Israel Folau and David Pocock, who are world class, and their toughest, roughest forward, Adam Coleman. Mind you, Tatafu Polota-Nau was a late withdrawal because of a hamstring injury.
The Springboks are without two apparently first-choice players in Makazole Mapimpi and Damian de Allende, though they are not so first-choice that their absence will make a huge difference.
Then they have made changes at flyhalf, No.8 and loosehead, which, Warren Whiteley apart, are of their own making.
Will the Port Elizabeth fortress be stronger than the increased strength of the Wallabies?
Rugby Championship So Far
Each side has played four matches. The Springboks have won two, the Wallabies one – but that one was against the Springboks.
In the first match between the Wallabies and the Springboks, the Springboks had the better of the scrums, the Wallabies the better of the line-outs, including that moment of madness when the ball was overthrown five metres from the Springboks’ line and Matt Toomua scored.
It was a scruffy match on a slippery field. It would seem that rain is staying away from Port Elizabeth and the weather should be warm and rain-free on Saturday. Maybe that will lay the foundation for a better match
Players to Watch
Surely when a team of Springboks and team of Wallabies are in action, all of the players are worth watching.
For South Africa: Willie le Roux, the Wasp whose creating ability could give the Springboks a sting in the tail. Pieter-Steph du Toit, the Springboks’ action man whose efforts in the last match were heroic. If he could just add a pass/offload to his repertoire, he could become on the greatest Springboks of all time. Francois de Klerk, the Springboks’ make-or-break man, but when he makes, he can make a lot of difference. Speedster Aphiwe Dyantyi with the magical feet is not an easy man to contain. Malcolm Marx, who poses the question – Will he get his old form back?
For Australia: Israel Folau, even if he is on the wing. The way he rises to a high ball, the way he evades, the relaxed acceleration he can generate – all make him a wonderful player. David Pocock – a strong, fearless robber. Will Genia – at 30, still quite possibly the best scrumhalf in the world with his swift, accurate pass usually presented to his flyhalf. He kicks rarely but always well; he breaks even more rarely but always to great effect. Talented Kurtley Beale whose strength can be so fragile. Taniela Tupou. The Tongan is starting for the first time. Will he have more of an impact than he has had when he has come off the bench?
Head to Head: David vs Goliath – Cheslin Kolbe with his slingshot pace against the force of Marika Koroibete. Centres vs Centres – with the Wallaby combination of Reece Hodge and Matt Toomua looking smoother, and so more likely to give their players on the edges a better chance. Front Row vs Front Row. That was a battle the Springboks won last time and the Wallabies will have no relief when young Steven Kitshoff replaces ageing Tendai Mtawarira.
Results in Port Elizabeth
1933: South Africa won 11-0
1953: South Africa won 22-9
1961: South Africa won 23-11
1963: South Africa won 22-6
Prediction: South Africa have won just one of their last six games against Australia, despite leading at half-time on four occasions in that time. South Africa are undefeated in five consecutive games at home against Australia and have kept the Wallabies to 10 points or fewer in all these games except the most recent encounter (27-27). South Africa are undefeated in five games at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and have never conceded more than 15 points in a match here – this is the first time Australia will play South Africa at this venue. Australia has lost their last three games on the road, a loss this weekend will equal their longest losing streak in away matches since 2008 – 2009, when they lost four games against Wales, New Zealand and South Africa. South Africa will be out to win back-to-back games against two different opponents in The Rugby Championship for the first time since 2014, after downing New Zealand 36-34 in the previous round. South Africa has a goal kicking rate of just 57 percent in this edition of The Rugby Championship, the worst rate of any side, missing an average of 2.3 kicks per game. South Africa have conceded 35 second-half points this tournament, the fewest of any team in The Rugby Championship; while Australia (23) have scored the fewest second-half points this tournament. South Africa (eight) have averaged the most turnovers won per game so far in this tournament, winning nine against the All Blacks in the last round; Australia (6) have averaged the fewest turnover wins per match, winning just five last round. South Africa’s Pieter-Steph du Toit (61) has made the most tackles in this tournament, including 24 in Round Four against New Zealand which was a career-best tally for him in a Springboks shirt, he also leads his team for carries (39). Australia’s David Pocock (eight) has won the most turnovers of any player this tournament; despite playing just three games, he has made more than double that of Australia’s next best player in this category (Bernard Foley, three). History vs Strength? No, it’s not about that but it is about what is in the hearts, minds and hands of the players. Our prediction is that the Springboks will win by 15 points or more. The impetus is with them.
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Rudolph Snyman, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse.
Australia: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Izack Rodda, 4 Adam Coleman, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 17 Sekope Kepu, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rory Arnold, 20 Rob Simmons, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Bernard Foley, 23 Jack Maddocks.
Date: Saturday, 29 September 2018
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Kick-off: 17.00 (15.00 GMT 01.00 AEST Sunday, 30 September)
Expected weather: Mainly sunny with a high of 19ºC and a low of 12ºC
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Matthew Carley (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)
By Paul Dobson
* Statistics provided by Opta Sport