It’s going to be a huge year for our country, starting with Australia this weekend, said Matt Proudfoot. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Springbok forwards coach Matt Proudfoot is confident the Springboks will match the Wallabies in what should be another high ball-in-play encounter when the teams meet in the opening Rugby Championship match at Ellis Park on Saturday.

Proudfoot said the Wallabies, under the guidance of Michael Cheika, had been smart in deciding to train at altitude in Joburg for a full two weeks before taking on the Boks.

“The last three years’ matches between us and the Wallabies have been very tight, with a high ball-in-play component. In 2017 we drew twice against them and last year’s results were also close; they’re a very fit team and have done well to use their time in South Africa, at altitude, as a pre-season training camp.

“It’s been a wise move on their part. But, we’ve also been training up here for a few weeks now.”

While the Wallabies have been in camp for 10 days now, the Boks spent two weeks training in Pretoria and will wrap up their preparations in Joburg this week, giving them three weeks at altitude.

Proudfoot added that Cheika had picked a solid squad, built around a core of experienced Brumbies men who had fared well in Super Rugby earlier this year.

“He’s picked players who have shown form in Super Rugby, with a solid nucleus in the tight five,” said the Bok forwards boss. “There’s a lot of experience there so it doesn’t matter what kind of game they decide to play. And it’s a myth the Aussies can’t scrum well and don’t have a quality pack; they’ve got a very good pack.”

Proudfoot said that the players and coaches were excited about the Test season getting under way.

“We’re extremely excited June 23 was set in the calendar as the day we’d all get together; that was three weeks ago already. Everyone is bubbling and looking forward to the season ahead.

“It’s going to be a huge year for our country. It’s a massive challenge, with several steps we need to take along the way, starting with Australia this weekend. Every coach will tell you he needs more time, but I know we’ve planned extremely well and we’ve got a great plan in place over the next few weeks, until the World Cup.

“In the last three weeks we’ve created alignment in the group, created ownership in the group, and I can see all the players have matured, too.”

Meanwhile, the Boks have been dealt a blow before the start of the Rugby Championship with the news that wing Aphiwe Dyantyi has hurt his hamstring and will miss the next few weeks of action. He has seen a specialist to discuss treatment options.

Proudfoot also said he did not know when Siya Kolisi would return to action.

“Siya has become an exceptional leader, and while he’s not training with us he’s done great work off the field. It’s been pleasing to see how many Super Rugby captains are here with us, and it’ll be up to one of them now to take charge until Siya returns.”

Saturday’s Test at Ellis Park kicks off at 5pm.

@jacq_west

 

The Star

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