PRETORIA - Wallabies coach Michael Cheika’s frank assessment of the state of Springbok rugby ahead of their Rugby Championship clash in Bloemfontein on Saturday, is one of a wounded but still very dangerous Springbok outfit.
Cheika has called the Springboks 57-0 defeat at the hands of the All Blacks nothing but a “hiccup” and that his team will need to work extremely hard to beat the South Africans on home soil.
“I don’t think South Africa have had many issues, they had a bit of a hiccup last week but everyone was singing their praises before that. I’ve seen the footage and they’ve been going pretty good and I know how that New Zealand game can go against you," Cheika said.
"I’ve seen them in fine form this year, they had been unbeaten until that game( All Blacks) and had a draw with us on our own soil. Just like Allister (Coetzee) says you can’t let that game define the team and I don’t think it would. We are very aware it is a totally new challenge and hard work for us is going to be the key."
And Cheika has rung in the changes in an effort to reinforce his team’s weaknesses that were exposed by the Springboks in their 23 all draw in Perth with Izack Rodda getting a start at lock, Jack Dempsey also be called in to bring about some robustness in the loose trio while rugby league convert Marika Koroibete will also make his first start on the wing after making his debut as a replacement against Argentina last week.
Cheika is still to finalise his bench with flank Lukhan Tui and wing Henry Speight likely to get the chop when the decision is made.
Cheika has made no bones about the areas of improvement that he would like to see against the Springboks starting with the scrums and line-outs, to seeing his team play more with ball in hand, all areas of the game that capitulated in Perth.
What will loom large for the Australians will be a Springbok team looking for retribution after the disaster of Albany and an appalling away record in South Africa that last saw them win seven years ago ironically in Bloemfontein.
Australia team (15-1): Israel Folau, Marika Koroibete, Tevita Kuridrani, Kurtley Beale, Reece Hodge, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Sean McMahon, Michael Hooper, Jack Dempsey, Adam Coleman, Izack Rodda, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio; Replacements (still to be finalized): Stephen Moore, Tom Robertson, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Simmons, Lukhan Tui, Ned Hanigan, Nick Phipps, Samu Kerevi, Henry Speight.