Australia v South Africa - teams and predictions
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND THREE: Jacques Nienaber has never beaten Australia Down Under as a member of the Springbok management.
It is a sore point with the Bok coach, who will look for his team to make a “big step-up” when they face the Wallabies in Adelaide on Saturday.
Both teams will look to bounce back from crushing defeats in the Rugby Championship – the Wallabies losing 17-48 to Argentina and the Springbok imploding by conceding two late tries in a 23-35 loss to the All Blacks.
It has left the Rugby Championship delicately balanced – each team having one win and one loss after two rounds.
Argentina and Australia are on five points, Los Pumas topping the standings on a superior points difference. South Africa and New Zealand have four points each, and the Boks are also marginally ahead on points difference.
However, Nienaber world champion Springboks are seeking some consistency after erratic form in their five home matches against Wales and New Zealand – which saw them win three Tests and lose two.
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“We had a thorough review of our last match against New Zealand, and we have identified the areas of our game in which we need to improve,” said Nienaber, whose side is aiming to win on Australian soil for the first time since 2013.
“We know we need to make a big step-up in the quality of our performance to start the tour on a positive note, and that is a big objective for us this weekend.
“The fact that this will be the first Test between the teams in Adelaide will serve as extra motivation for both teams this weekend, so we are preparing for another epic encounter against them,” he added.
Nienaber also dismissed the suggestion that their track record Down Under is the result of an ‘obsession’ with the rivalry against New Zealand.
“We are not regarding Australia as a lesser team,” Nienaber said, adding: “Australia in Australia is tough.
“We, as a group, have played them three times in Australia since 2018 and have lost all three [matches].
“It is a big challenge for us and shows Australia’s passion in front of their home crowd.”
Australia won both Rugby Championship Tests against South Africa last year, which sent them on a five-game winning streak.
Wallaby coach Dave Rennie is keen for a repeat after their embarrassing loss to Argentina, but admitted it will be a big task.
“They’re almost at full strength and they’ll be grumpy after their second Test loss to the All Blacks,” he said.
“We’re well aware of what’s coming, based on last year’s couple of wins, that’ll only create a bit more of an edge for the Springboks.
“We’re going to have to be at our best, no doubt, and it’s a massive series for us.”
Rennie and assistant coach Dan McKellar spoke about the ‘massive challenge’ of fronting up to the Boks’ gargantuan forward pack.
“They are huge men who are happy to play without the ball and back their defence,” Rennie said.
“They have some genuine gas [pace] out wide and hurt you if you turn it over.
“You have to be prepared to stay in the fight against them.
“We are going to have to bring a lot of physicality.”
Rennie spoke of the need to “kick smart” and create opportunities through that.
Reece Hodge was the key to the Wallabies’ two wins in 2021 and he will again have a big role to play.
Players to watch
For Australia: To help counter South Africa’s kicking threat, the Wallabies recalled the versatile Reece Hodge to start at fullback – with Tom Wright shifting to the right wing and Marika Koroibete on his familiar left. They also welcome back a host of players who were either injured or who missed the last Test for personal reasons, including experienced tighthead prop Allan Alaalatoa and hooker Folau Fainga’a. But the Wallabies are again without influential captain Michael Hooper, who is on mental health leave, with 119-Test veteran James Slipper again assuming the leadership duties.
For South Africa: Scrumhalf Francois de Klerk returns after missing the second All Blacks Test with a concussion and wing Warrick Gelant replaces the injured Jesse Kriel in the only other change. South Africa’s bench – popularly referred to as the ‘bomb squad’ due to its impact – has also been shuffled. It features five forwards and three backs rather than the usual six-two split, with Jaden Hendrikse replacing Herschel Jantjies, and Elton Jantjies and Frans Steyn providing further cover at the back – with Willie le Roux and Jasper Wiese missing out.
Head to head
Australia have won their last two Tests against South Africa, both in the 2021 edition of the Rugby Championship The last time they won more than two successive games against the Springboks was a five-game stretch from September 2010 to
South Africa are winless in their last seven Tests against the Wallabies in Australia (six losses and a draw), with all but one of those games decided by a margin of six points or fewer. Their last win against the Wallabies in Australia came in September 2013 in Brisbane (38-12).
This will be just the third time that Australia have played a Test in Adelaide and the first time since July 2004. The Wallabies have won both of their two previous Tests in the South Australian capital (29-14 against the Pacific Islanders in 2004 and 142-0 against Namibia in 2003).
@rugby365com: South Africa by seven
Australia: 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Jed Holloway, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper (captain).
Replacements: 16 David Porecki, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Darcy Swain, 20 Rob Leota, 21 Pete Samu, 22 Tate McDermott, 23 Andrew Kellaway.
South Africa: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Warrick Gelant, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Albertus Smith, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Francois Steyn.
Date: Saturday, August 27
Venue: Adelaide Oval, Adelaide
Kick-off: 15.00 (07.30 SA time; 05.30 GMT)
Expected weather: Partly cloudy. Light winds becoming north to northeasterly 15 to 20 km/h. High of 20°C and low of 2°C.
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Tual Trainini (France)
TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
* Additional reporting by AFP & stats provided by Opta Data