The following article previews this weekend’s Rugby Championship clash between the Springboks and Wallabies at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria. The game kicks off at 1:00 AM AEST on Sunday, the 30th of September. The referee is Alain Rolland from Ireland.
The two sides last faced off in Perth in Round 3. The Wallabies trailed 6-13 at the break but second half tries to Scott Higginbotham and Ben Alexander saw them win 26-19 and cover the -3.5 line. This extends the Wallabies’ winning streak over the Springboks to five Tests.
Historically Australia have struggled in South Africa. While they boast a 21-11 record at home they are 10-30 on South African soil. The Wallabies have won their last two Tests in South Africa, however, winning 14-9 in Durban in 2011 and 41-39 in Bloomfontein in 2010. The last time the two sides played at Loftus Versfeld was in 2010 where the Springboks won 44-31. Loftus Versfeld has been a graveyard for Wallabies sides in the past. The Springboks boast a 5-0 record against the Wallabies at this high altitude venue.
In the first of three changes to the starting line-up, Johan Goosen starts ahead of the out of form Morne Steyn at fly-half. Inside-centre Frans Steyn is struggling with an ankle injury and has been bracketed with Jaco Taute. Jean de Villiers will play at outside-centre if Frans Steyn starts and at inside-centre if Taute plays. Eben Etzebeth returns from suspension to partner Andries Bekker at lock.
In four changes to the bench, Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe, Elton Jantjies and Jaco Taute have been included.
15-Zane Kirchner, 14-Bryan Habana, 13-Jean de Villiers/Jaco Taute, 12-Francois Steyn/Jean de Villiers, 11-Francois Hougaard, 10-Johan Goosen, 9-Ruan Pienaar, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Willem Alberts, 6-Francois Louw, 5-Andries Bekker, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Tendai Mtawarira.
Reserves: 16-Tiaan Liebenberg, 17-Coenie Oosthuizen, 18-Flip van der Merwe, 19-Marcell Coetzee, 20-Elton Jantjies, 21-Jaco Taute/Juan de Jongh, 22-Pat Lambie.
Fly-half Quade Cooper will miss the rest of the Rugby Championship with a knee injury. Cooper is expected to be available for Australia’s spring tour of France, England, Italy and Wales in November. Kurtley Beale takes Cooper’s place to make his first Test start in the No. 10 jersey.
Hooker Stephen Moore has had to return home after reinjuring his hamstring in training during the week. Tatafu Polota-Nau will start at hooker with Saia Faingaa on the bench.
Coach Robbie Deans has opted for five forwards on the bench, adding Rob Simmons to the reserves.
15-Berrick Barnes, 14-Dominic Shipperley, 13-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12-Pat McCabe, 11-Digby Ioane, 10-Kurtley Beale, 9-Nick Phipps, 8-Radike Samo, 7-Michael Hooper, 6-Dave Dennis, 5-Nathan Sharpe (captain), 4-Kane Douglas, 3-Ben Alexander, 2-Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1-Benn Robinson
Reserves: 16-Saia Fainga’a, 17-James Slipper, 18-Rob Simmons, 19-Scott Higginbotham, 20-Liam Gill, 21-Brett Sheehan, 22Anthony Fainga’a
South African place kickers will be relieved to return to an outdoor stadium after their dire kicking performance at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin. The Springboks were arguably the better team a fortnight ago but failed to take their opportunities. As well as botching a near certain try in the opening minutes, Morne Steyn, Frans Steyn and Johan Goosen missed 20 points of kicks between them in their 11-21 loss. South Africa can take plenty of positives out of Dunedin. Their ball retention was good and they contested well at the breakdown. The Springbok forward pack was highly competitive against the All Blacks and a repeat performance will be required on Saturday after the Wallabies dominated the scrum against the Springboks in Perth. Fly-half Morne Steyn was dreadful against the All Blacks last weekend and has been dropped from the squad despite this fixture taking place at his home ground.
Quade Cooper’s Twitter comments regarding his issues with Wallabies’ coaching and management will have ruffled a few feathers in the Australian camp, so it’s probably a good thing Cooper’s knee injury has kept him out of the touring squad. Cooper’s absence isn’t a huge loss for the Wallabies. While he has been an integral part of the Queensland Reds he hasn’t found any consistent form at the international level since the 2011 Tri Nations series. His first half performance against Argentina a fortnight ago was error-ridden, with the fly-half appearing short of confidence.
Pat McCabe will likely continue with his no-frills ball running style and with no James O’Connor or Quade Cooper in the squad, Kurtley Beale will provide the Wallabies’ creativity in attack. Points from place kicking could be the difference between the two sides this weekend so Berrick Barnes must be more consistent than he was against Argentina.
Both sides have been guilty of directionless kicking in previous Tests, playing one-dimensional kicking rugby at times. It will be interesting to see if much changes with Johan Goosen playing at fly-half for the Springboks this week. He’s part of the Cheetahs outfit that played an entertaining brand of rugby in the 2012 super rugby season. The Springboks are expecting Australia to keep ball in hand in a high scoring game this weekend. The last fixture between the two sides at Loftus Versfeld ended 44-31 to the Springboks. The two sides also played at Bloemfontein that year, with the Wallabies prevailing 41-39 to start their winning streak against South Africa. Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer predicts more of the same this weekend, saying the Wallabies “will definitely play an attacking game, move the ball around, but that will suit our game plan as well. We will also open up the game.”
With New Zealand having all but won the inaugural Rugby Championship, there’s less on the line for this fixture, so hopefully we’ll see an open, free flowing game. I expect things to be tight, and with Australia having won the last five fixtures between the two sides, including the last two on South African soil, my best bet is to back Australia +8 at the line with Luxbet.
Springboks winger Bryan Habana has scored a try in three of the four Tests this series. The 2.88 odds with Sportsbet for him to make it four from five is good value. For a cheeky high odds wager, the scorecast bet with Sportsbet on Habana to score the first try and for the Springboks to win by 1-10 is 26.00.
A comparison of live bookmaker odds for this fixture can be found in the Live Odds section.