Rugby Championship
Wallabies braced for Boks backrow
September 24, 2014
Australia's Scott Fardy wins the ball above New Zealand's Aaron Smith, Australia v New Zealand, The Rugby Championship, ANZ Stadium, Sydney, August 16, 2014
Scott Fardy has taken some big hits in preparation for the Springboks © Getty Images
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Breakdown warrior Scott Fardy's menacing scar on his forehead shows what the Wallabies are braced for at Newlands on Sunday morning.

Fardy is sporting a long gash over his left eye, his second in a week of intense training, due to the friendly fire of high-contact sessions aimed at quelling South Africa's rising strength at the tackle area.

Wallabies forwards coach Andrew Blades - predicting the "biggest physical challenge of the year" - has identified the Springboks' powerful back-row and their punishing breakdown work as their major improvement area under Heyneke Meyer. The Boks pulled off a whopping 11 ruck turnovers in their gritty 14-10 loss to the All Blacks in Wellington and Australia are on guard for a ferocious breakdown battle.

One helping hand to the Wallabies is the loss of open-side flanker Francois Louw, who has undergone neck surgery, which may propel rookie Teboho Mohoj into the back-row ahead of local hero Schalk Burger. But Marcell Coetzee and rampaging No.8 Duane Vermuelen remain, and the big Boks have a number of noted pilferers across the field since employing Scottish ruck guru Richie Gray.

"Louw is one of the best in the world at the breakdown, he's excellent there, and with Coetzee it's probably the first time a South African team have played with two traditional on-ballers," Blades said. "It really poses more problems ... it's probably the biggest change they've made in their game in the last couple of years. The change of the profile has forced a major rethink of how to play them with how much better they are in that area of the breakdown."

In the past, the Wallabies have thrown the ball wider to tire the big South African forwards but Blades says the answer now is to be more adept, and better equipped, to think on their feet.

"Because we want to run the ball teams play 14 [defenders] against us in the front line," he said. "So we're trying to work out the balance of when to run and when to kick. We want to be a very dangerous ball-in-hand team but also recognising when teams look to shut that down and leave a weakness somewhere else."

Fardy's head split, resulting in an array of stitches, came on Sunday with a collision against Brumbies team-mate Sam Carter, and only days after another gash at the back of head. "We've certainly had intensive contact and that's been one of the side effects," Blades said.

© AAP

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