Springboks eye unbeaten home leg
August 6, 2009

Peter De Villiers' South Africa take on the Wallabies in Cape Town on Saturday with the aim of taking control of this year's Tri-Nations.

The Springbok coach has seen his side weather the challenge of New Zealand in back-to-back Tests and will want to register victory in their final home fixture of the tournament. The Wallabies have not played since their disappointing 22-16 loss to the All Blacks in Auckland, and need to put down a marker against the physical South Africans.

They have trained this week without coach Robbie Deans, who returned to New Zealand in order to attend his father's funeral. Senior players have maintained that his absence did not affect the squad, although there will undoubtedly be some last-minute tweaks in their remaining sessions.

Doubts remain over the Wallabies' ability to mix it up-front, and the verbal barbs have been flying in the build-up after De Villiers accused their front-row of going to ground easily in the hope of milking penalties from referees.

Al Baxter was frequently penalised during the loss to New Zealand, Craig Joubert taking issue with the Waratahs veteran. The Wallabies will need to be careful in this area, with Morne Steyn no stranger to punishing any indiscipline after his 31-point haul last weekend.

Springbok skipper John Smit will anchor their scrum, starting in a settled trio alongside Bismarck du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira. They will face off against Baxter, Benn Robinson and Stephen Moore. The battle between Moore and du Plessis will be fascinating; the world's most physical, and arguably best, hookers going head-to-head.

Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha will be hoping for more dominance at the lineout following their strong showings against the creaking All Black set-piece, and face the veteran Nathan Sharpe and whole-hearted Queensland Reds skipper James Horwill.

In the back-row, there is another tantalising contest as South African rugby's rising star, Heinrich Brussow, gets a chance to test himself against George Smith. Brussow outplayed Richie McCaw over two Tests, and will be relishing the exchanges with Test centurion Smith.

There are plenty of battles to savour in the pack, but the game may well hinge on the respective half-back combinations. Fourie du Preez again links up with Steyn after the Bulls fly-half broke the Tri-Nations scoring record against the All Blacks, the duo facing Luke Burgess and Matt Giteau.

Giteau was hampered by poor ball retention from the forwards and wayward delivery from Burgess against the All Blacks, and the scrum-half will have to tighten up against such precise opposition. With Berrick Barnes providing a second kicking option at inside-centre, the Wallabies have a potent attacking arsenal that was woefully under-utilised in Auckland.

Barnes partners skipper Stirling Mortlock in the centre, and they will have to be on their toes against the in-form duo of Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie. Coach De Villiers has again resisted the temptation to restore the fit-again Adi Jacobs to the midfield, sticking with Fourie after the Lions man justified his selection with two fine performances against the All Blacks.

Out wide there is plenty to excite, with Lachie Turner and Drew Mitchell facing off against the Springbok duo of JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana. With the Springboks favouring a conservative kicking game against the All Blacks and questions over the Wallabies' distribution it could be a quiet evening for the wingers however.

The Wallabies face the All Blacks in Sydney on August 22 and will need a win in Cape Town to keep their hopes alive. For the Springboks, their powerful showings in recent weeks will give them great heart, especially after Australia struggled to deal with the physicality of the All Blacks. Another win this weekend and their Tri-Nations dream will be approaching reality.

South Africa: Frans Steyn (Sharks); JP Pietersen (Sharks), Jaque Fourie (Lions), Jean De Villiers (Stormers), Bryan Habana (Bulls); Morne Steyn (Bulls), Fourie Du Preez (Bulls); Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Bismarck Du Plessis (Sharks), John Smit (Sharks, capt), Bakkies Botha (Bulls), Victor Matfield (Bulls), Heinrich Brussow (Cheetahs), Juan Smith (Cheetahs), Pierre Spies (Bulls)

Replacements: Chilliboy Ralepelle (Bulls), Jannie Du Plessis (Sharks), Andries Bekker (Stormers), Danie Rossouw (Bulls), Ricky Januarie (Stormers), Ruan Pienaar (Sharks), Adi Jacobs (Sharks)

Australia: A Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies); L Turner (Waratahs), S Mortlock (Brumbies), B Barnes (Reds), D Mitchell (Western Force); M Giteau (Brumbies), L Burgess (Waratahs); B Robinson (Waratahs), S Moore (Brumbies), A Baxter (Waratahs), J Horwill (Reds), N Sharpe (Western Force), R Brown (Western Force), G Smith (Brumbies), W Palu (Waratahs).

Replacements: T Polota-Nau (Waratahs), B Alexander (Brumbies), D Mumm (Waratahs), D Pocock (Waratahs), W Genia (Western Force), P Hynes (Reds), J O'Connor (Western Force)


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