South Africa v Australia, Tri-Nations, Bloemfontein
Boks and Wallabies eye Mandela Plate
September 3, 2010
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has been talking tough in the build-up to the game © Getty Images
With the Tri-Nations silverware long since tucked away at New Zealand Rugby Union headquarters, these two sides have been playing for pride and the small matter of the Nelson Mandela Plate.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has been talking tough this week insisting his players must raise their game if they want to be part of his plans for next year's Rugby World Cup and it would also appear that the axe is hanging over Springboks coach Peter de Villiers following his latest ill-thought comments.
South Africa - Player to Watch: Bryan Habana. The winger is not the only Springbok struggling for form but his gaff that led to a try for Wallabies fullback James O'Connor last week did little to ease the pressure on the former IRB Player of the Year. Without a try in five Tri-Nations outings this year, a return to form could add some gloss to the Boks' otherwise disappointing campaign.
Australia - Player to Watch: Kurtley Beale. The Wallabies fullback was the star performer in a talent-heavy backline last time out with his speed and dancing feet cutting the Boks open on more than one occasion. Seemingly reluctant to play second fiddle to messrs Cooper, Giteau and O'Connor, he can cement his place in the Wallabies make-up with another eye-catching display.
Key Battle: The Wallabies against the altitude. An unfair contest as any side that has attempted to go toe-to-toe with their hosts on the Highveld will testify too. A Wallabies whirlwind blew past the Springboks at Loftus Versfeld but ran out of steam in the second half as the elements took their toll. Will a week at sea-level in Durban recharge the visitors sufficiently for a more rewarding trip up country where they have not tasted success since 1963?
Trivia: Bryan Habana needs one try to become South Africa's most prolific try scorer in Test rugby. Habana currently shares the record with Joost van der Westhuizen with 38 tries.
Stats: With a total of 750 Test caps in their starting XV, this is the most experienced Springboks side ever.
Odds: The Springboks are heavy favourites to heap Highveld woe on the Wallabies with Bet365 offering them at a paltry 2/7 - but those who think the visitors could build a lead and then hang on to it may well be tempted by odds of 11/4. If you think the Wallabies will come flying out of the traps once again - how about 6/1 for the first score to be a try for Australia?
Prediction: The odds and the elements appear to be stacked against the Wallabies but they showed last week that they have the armoury to beat the Springboks. If they can sure up their leaky defence they could well hasten the departure of Boks coach Peter de Villiers.