PRETORIA - Veteran Wallabies scrumhalf Nick Phipps believes that it will be the impact and spark of the “finishers” that is likely to win the game for the Wallabies ahead of their Rugby Championship clash against the Springboks in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Over and above playing against a wounded Springboks, Phipps fully appreciates the difficulty that faces his teammates in playing at altitude, with their last win having come seven years ago with a last gasp penalty kick from Kurtley Beale at the very same venue.
There can be no doubt that the Springboks will use the altitude as an ally, first by running the Wallabies out of breath before going for the jugular with their bench.
Phipps says it will be important for their bench to have the same impact on proceedings, especially if they find themselves chasing the game.
“I think that is one of Michael Cheika’s biggest things, he wants those finishers to come onto the field and add that spark and energy. What we talk about massively, especially the blokes coming on in the back end of the game, is get a touch early and add that impact," said Phipps.
"Be able to provide that spark so the boys who have been on there for 60 to 70 minutes to be able to get behind you and keep ticking along. It is something that we are quite proud of that our bench can try be one of the best benches in the world to be able to close out that game or try and get us back into it.”
It is with that reality in mind that Phipps has willingly embraced having to play second fiddle to the in-form Will Genia.
“This is the role I can fulfil at the moment, the energy I can spark, especially with a lot of our newer players coming in off the bench give them that guidance and experience to come off and add that impact and not be overwhelmed by the occasion. It is something I really enjoy doing at the moment.”
But Phipps is also mindful of the genuine threat that the Springboks will pose and he is wary of the Springbok backlash after their 57-0 demolision by the All Blacks.
“Obviously, they are coming off the back of a pretty big defeat over in New Zealand but we certainly know they are a much better team than what happened over there. One defeat doesn’t tarnish a team like that and we certainly know that they are a very good team, they are extremely physical and their backs out wide have been getting the business done. They are a very dangerous team and we expect them to be coming with a fair bit of revenge especially on their home turf and in front of their home fans,” Phipps said.
And the return of Ross Cronje at half-back will be another cause for concern in the Wallabies camp as Cronje could be the catalyst to reviving the Springbok backline into life again.
“He will bring that spark certainly around the field, that energy and he’s got that experience as well. He’s someone that’s been brought back in and he’ll be a big impact player for them and bring in something different to what they’ve had.”