Cape Town – The Springboks may be heavy favourites to beat the Wallabies at Newlands on Saturday, but don’t expect the Australians to surrender as meekly as they did in Brisbane.
But Heyneke Meyer and his team know that they have to win with a bonus point for four tries to stay in the hunt for the Rugby Championship title, which adds a dramatic subplot to the game.
Here are five key areas where the Boks need to get on top if they hope to out-gun the Wallabies.
1 Don’t take Wallabies lightly
Bok coach Meyer insists that there is no way that his players would be complacent at Newlands despite the triumph in Brisbane. But it is easier said than done. The Boks made history at Suncorp Stadium and scored a bonus-point win on top of it, and then the Wallabies limped to a 14-13 victory over Argentina in Perth.
There would surely be a sense of injustice in the Bok camp following what happened with Bismarck du Plessis at Eden Park, but at no point can they take their eyes off Ewen McKenzie’s Wallabies.
He still has lethal attackers in Israel Folau, Quade Cooper and Will Genia in his squad, while he has finally realised that Adam Ashley-Cooper is a better wing than centre.
Brumbies No13 Tevita Kuridrani is a giant Fiji-born midfielder at 1.96m and 102kg, and his presence on debut will add some serious size and bite to that Wallabies backline, while Ashley-Cooper is a clever footballer who operates better in space than at close quarters in the midfield as he seldom passes the ball.
Even if they get scraps from their forwards, this desperate Wallabies outfit have the potential to hurt the Boks.
2 Win your set-pieces
The swirling wind and possible light rain forecast for Newlands on Saturday could make the line-outs a bit of a lottery for the Springboks. They were excellent in Brisbane, Eben Etzebeth and Flip van der Merwe winning most of their throw-ins and contesting strongly on Aussie ball.
But Wallabies captain James Horwill had to withdraw a few days before the match after injuring his hamstring in training, and that was a significant blow to an Australian line-out already missing hardened operators such as Wycliff Palu and Scott Higginbotham, and even Radike Samo.
Horwill is an experienced line-out organiser and jumper who could make life difficult for the Boks, so Adriaan Strauss may have to find Duane Vermeulen at the back of the line-out as a variation.
It’s quite a surprise that McKenzie didn’t bring Benn Robinson and Sitaleki Timani straight into the starting line-up as they would’ve added much-needed weight in the scrums, so that’s an area where the Boks can again look to be dominant.
Meyer said that he wants his tighthead to be able to scrum more than contributing in other areas, so while Jannie du Plessis missed a few tackles at Eden Park, the coach said “it wasn’t his fault (as) there were certain guys shooting out of line outside of him”. He added that Du Plessis ranked up the list of most cleans and even tackles around the field.
Tendai Mtawarira was all over Owen Franks at Eden Park, so he shouldn’t have too many problems in dealing with Ben Alexander on Saturday.
3 Unleash the Bismarck
Du Plessis is very unlucky not to be starting this Test due to a rotational policy, as he was the best Springbok forward at Eden Park despite his sending-off. He was commanding in the way he fronted up to the All Blacks, stealing balls on the ground and knocking guys out of the way (legally!) when carrying the ball up, fittingly scoring the try from that dominant maul just before half-time.
Throw him on from the start of the second half, and see him take out all his anger and frustration from Auckland!
4 Bryan’s homecoming
It was an emotional farewell for Bryan Habana when he left Cape Town at the end of Super Rugby to join French club Toulon. He spoke at length about his affection for the people of the Cape and that he would like to settle down in the Mother City.
But while he has been in great form over the last 18 months, things didn’t quite work out for him in the three away matches in the Rugby Championship in Mendoza, Brisbane and Auckland. He didn’t see much of the ball in those games, and we know all about his mistakes at Eden Park.
The 90-cap Habana, though, is much better than that, so what better way to prove it once more with a magical touchdown like the one in Dunedin last year?
5 Morné’s the man
The Bok sharpshooter will celebrate his 50th Test cap along with Jannie du Plessis tomorrow, and is often taken for granted by South African fans. When he is at the top of his game – like he is at the moment – he is the glue of this Springbok side.
The Boks were rightly praised for their bonus-point win in Brisbane, but remember that the match was at a critical stage with the score at 19-12. It was Steyn who kept the scoreboard ticking over, slotting seven out of nine kicks on the night for an 18-point haul. And he was the instigator for Jean de Villiers’ thrilling try by opting to move the ball wide from behind his own 10-metre line to release the outside backs.
If things become tight for the Boks at a slippery Newlands, they can rely on Steyn to stand strong and kick them to victory once more.
15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné 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 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Juandré Kruger, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.
15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 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 Faingaa, 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).
Kick-off: 5pm. TV: Live on M-Net/SS1/SS HD1, delayed on SABC2 (6.30pm)