Australia v South Africa, Tri-Nations, August 29
Springboks eye rare away day success
August 27, 2009
Can Springboks coach Peter de Villiers and captain John Smit take a step nearer the 2009 Tri-Nations crown this weekend? © Getty Images
South Africa can close in on this year's Tri-Nations crown with victory over Australia at the Subiaco Oval in Perth on Saturday.
Peter de Villiers' side are on the brink of only their third Tri-Nations title thanks to an impressive home leg that began with victory over the Wallabies and was followed by back-to-back wins against New Zealand. But if they are to add southern hemisphere glory to their series victory over the British & Irish Lions then they are also going to have to re-discover the ability to win on the road and overcome the weight of history.
South Africa has prevailed only three times on Australian soil since they were readmitted to international rugby in 1992 and have got the better of the Wallabies just twice in the 15 matches of the Tri-Nations era which kicked off in 1996. That dominance will give the win-less hosts some hope of an unlikely turnaround as they prepare for the first of two clashes with the Boks - the second of which will take place in Brisbane next weekend.
De Villiers has kept faith with the large majority of the side that has brought them so much success so far in 2009 and has made just two changes to the side that accounted for Australia in Cape Town last month.
Ruan Pienaar has been granted a recall with De Villiers insisting his aim is to keep the Sharks star "motivated and interested" but he cannot displace the impressive Morne Steyn and must settle for a run at fullback with Frans Steyn the unlucky one to drop out. Elsewhere, flanker Schalk Burger joins the replacements in the place of Danie Rossouw while Heinrich Brussow continues to command the Boks' No.6 shirt.
De Villiers is refusing to get carried away with his side's impressive run of form perhaps all too aware of his side's disappointing record on their travels in the Tri-Nations but has reason to be confident of a rare away day success. His vastly experienced side may have had their critics in this year's Tri-Nations for their style of approach but they are the form team and have the victories to prove it.
Scrum-half Fourie du Preez has arguably been Springboks most potent weapon in their march to the top of the standings and the accomplished 27-year-old will have further cause to celebrate on the occasion of his 50th cap.
Australia would normally welcome the return to home soil but such is the growing pressure on coach Robbie Deans and his players that this may not be the case this time. Deans in particular has come under the microscope as his side have seemingly failed to learn from their mistakes.
The Wallabies have lost their last five Tri-Nations matches - three of which have come in the first half of this year's battle - and one more would not only heap woe on Deans and co but also match their miserable run in the 2005 campaign. But whereas in that year the shorter season prevented any further collateral damage - the latest crop of Wallabies face the Boks again next weekend before one final clash with the All Blacks.
Australia have been the subject of a certain amount of praise for their endeavours and at least mathematically they are still in the running but their lack success means patience is wearing thin amongst fans and commentators. Injuries have also taken their toll as Deans prepares for one final throw of the dice with lock Nathan Sharpe and centre Berrick Barnes the latest to fall by the wayside.
As a result the Wallabies' line-up features four changes from that which once again capitulated at the hands of New Zealand last weekend. Deans has put his faith in a core of Western Force players who called the Subiaco Oval home in this year's Super 14. Fullback James O'Connor, centre Ryan Cross, fly-half Matt Giteau and No.8 Richard Brown have all been named to start while flanker David Pocock and winger Drew Mitchell could be involved from the bench.
The selection of Cross, who appeared off the bench during last weekend's Bledisloe Cup Test in Sydney, is one of three changes to the side that started that clash with the return of lock Mark Chisholm the most notable change. Elsewhere winger Peter Hynes is promoted to the starting line-up while tight-head Al Baxter pays for his shortcomings last time out with Ben Alexander getting the nod a No.3. In the other change Quade Cooper onto the bench.
Amidst the injury woe there was some good news for the home side with the eye-catching O'Connor shaking off a calf injury and flanker Rocky Elsom showing no ill-effects from his first international appearance for 11 months.
An ill-disciplined performance from the Wallabies cost them dear at Newlands and they failed to match the ferocity of their opponents and as a result were bullied into submission. They have since shown improvement but they will need to kick on again if they are to derail the Springboks.
Australia: James O'Connor, Lachie Turner, Ryan Cross, Adam Ashley Cooper, Peter Hynes, Matt Giteau, Luke Burgess, Richard Brown, George Smith (captain), Rocky Elsom, Mark Chisholm, James Horwill, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson
Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Al Baxter, Dean Mumm, David Pocock, Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Drew Mitchell
South Africa: Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie , Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Morné Steyn, Fourie du Preez, Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, Heinrich Brüssow, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, John Smit (captain), Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Jannie du Plessis, Andries Bekker, Schalk Burger, Ricky Januarie, Adi Jacobs, Frans Steyn
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Vinny Munro (New Zealand)