Rugby Union

Australia look to end 22-year Newlands drought

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Australia are looking to end a 22-year win drought at Newlands in Cape Town when Ewen McKenzie's team take on the Springboks under the backdrop of Table Mountain in round five of the Rugby Championship this weekend.

Both sides come into the all-important clash on 10-points after their first four matches, six points behind the unbeaten Championship leaders the All Blacks, with two matches still to play in the Southern Hemisphere's rugby showpiece.

Springboks dominanace

McKenzie will be under no illusions as to the task that faces his team, despite bouncing back against South Africa 24-23 and Argentina 32-25, following their humiliating 51-20 annihilation at the hands of the All Blacks in Auckland last month.

The Springboks are always a dominant force on their home turf, with the Wallabies last tasting success in Cape Town in 1992 when they triumphed 26-3.

In fact it is not just at Newlands that the Wallabies have struggled to get one over their southern hemisphere rivals after ending up on the losing side on no less than 16-occasions from 20-matches during that 22-year period.

Wallaby confidence

Despite history being against them, the Wallabies will come into the Test full of confidence after turning around a 23-14 deficit against the Boks three weeks ago, Rob Horne crossing the whitewash in the 77th minute to give them a stunning 24-23 victory.

However it must be said that the Springboks had completely dominated their hosts in all departments until Brian Habana was incorrectly sent off by referee George Clancy with 12-minutes left to give Australia the crucial advantage and the unlikely win.

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McKenzie has made three changes to his team following their win over Argentina two weeks ago. Fit-again Adam Ashley-Cooper and Joe Tomane replace Peter Betham and Rob Horne on the wings while Saia Fainga'a takes over from Tatafu Polota-Nau at hooker.

Breakdown

There might be plenty of inexperience in the Australian starting XV, however it is the loose forward trio of Ben McCalman, Michael Hooper and Scott Fardy that will provide stern test at the breakdown for the Boks.

Adding to this the ability of the Wallaby back-line to utilise stolen ball on the counter attack with pace and precision, will be very much the focus of the Bok defensive game-plan.

Folau brilliance

Mercurial fullback Israel Folau, is without question the main attacking force for the Wallabies, with his 15-Test tries in just 22-Test underlining that threat.

The Waratah's flier has incredible ability when attacking from deep and if the Springboks game plan early on is to win territorial advantage with the boot, they could very well find themselves under pressure.

The Springboks will of course start as favourites despite going into round five off the back of narrow losses to both Australia and New Zealand.

Springbok forwards

Whatever problems their scrum went through against Argentina in the first two rounds have been rectified and I expect this is one of the areas that the Wallabies will be under immense pressure.

Despite injuries to the loose forward duo of Francois Louw and Willem Alberts, the battle at the breakdown remains evenly matched when you consider the superb form of Marcell Coetzee and the physicality of Duane Vermeulen.

Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje gets his first cap on the blindside in place of the injured Louw in one of only two changes to Heyneke Meyer's team. The inexperienced Mohoje has only 10-Super Rugby caps to his name, however it is his powerful ball carrying ability that has given him the nod.

Another area of domination expected by South Africa will be in the line-out. There is no better exponent in this department than the experienced Victor Matfield, and despite his 37-years of age, the Blue Bull would still walk into any international side.

Alongside him is the precocious talent of Eben Etzebeth who provides plenty of physicality in open play and power in the set-piece.

Pienaar injured

The other change comes at scrumhalf where Francois Hougaard gets his first start since 2012 in the absence of the injured Ruan Pienaar.

Meyer is having to dig deep into his reserves at the base of the scrum following injuries to both Pienaar and Fourie du Preez, and while Hougaard has in the past shown plenty of promise, it is his kicking game that will be under the spotlight, a discipline that the Pienaar and Du Preez fulfill with precision.

Pollard factor

All eyes will be on Handre Pollard at 10 after his composed performance against the All Blacks two weeks ago. The Junior IRB International Player of the Year is just 20-years of age but without question a star in the making.

He offers so much more in both attack and defence than Morne Steyn, which falls in line with Meyer's new playing brief of scoring more tries. When you have pace out-wide in the form of Cornel Hendricks, Brian Habana and the sublime Willie le Roux, one can understand that Pollard's attacking mindset could very well be the Springboks trump card.

Jean de Villiers and Jan Serfontein are slowly forming a formidable defensive partnership in midfield and the Wallabies will have to be on their creative best if they want to breach the midfield pairing and what at this stage is the best defensive team in world rugby.

Experienced bench

Meyer's squad might be depleted with injuries, however when you have experience with the caliber of Bismarck du Plessis, Toulon's Bakkies Botha, Schalk Burger, JP Pietersen and Pat Lambie on the bench, ready to inject some pace into the second-half, it underlines the depth and quality of South African rugby with the World Cup less than a year away.

With the weather set fair for Saturday's clash it should be an absorbing encounter, although the superior power and physicality of the hosts should prove too much for the visitors, and I expect their drought in Cape Town will be extended for at least another year.

TEAMS


SPRINGBOKS: Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks, Jan Serfontein, Jean de Villiers (captain), Bryan Habana, Handre Pollard, Francois Hougaard, Duane Vermeulen, Teboho ‘Oupa” Mohoje, Marcell Coetzee, Victor Matfield, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan
Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: Bismarck du Plessis, Trevor Nyakane, Marcel van der Merwe, Bakkies Botha, Schalk Burger, Cobus Reinach, Pat Lambie, JP Pietersen.


WALLABIES: Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Joe Tomane, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Ben McCalman, Michael Hooper, Scott Fardy, Rob Simmons, Sam Carter, Sekope Kepu, Saia Fainga’a, James Slipper

Replacments: James Hanson, Benn Robinson, Ben Alexander, James Horwill, Scott Higginbotham, Nic White, Kurtley Beale, Rob Horne.

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Topics:
Rugby Union
Australia Rugby
South Africa Rugby

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