The following is a preview of the Round 3 Rugby Championship clash between Australia and South Africa at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. The game kicks off at 8:05 PM AEST on Saturday, the 7th of September. The referee is George Clancy from Ireland.
South Africa hammered Argentina 73–13 in Johannesburg in Round 1. They then stumbled over the line for an unconvincing 22-17 win in Mendoza. Australia suffered a heavy 29–47 defeat to New Zealand in Sydney before losing 16-27 in Wellington. Last year the Wallabies beat the Springboks 26–19 in Perth. The Springboks then beat the Wallabies 31–8 in Pretoria.
The Wallabies have a strong home record against the Springboks, having won eight of the last nine clashes on Australian soil.
Quade Cooper starts at fly-half at the expense of Matt Toomua. After being underutilised in recent games, Israel Folau has been moved from the wing to fullback, with Nick Cummins added to the wing and Jesse Mogg dropped to the bench. In the forwards, Sekope Kepu starts at tighthead prop in place of Ben Alexander. Reds backrower Jack Schatz is in line to make his Wallabies debut from the bench. He has been included at the expense of Liam Gill. James Horwill was initially named as captain but has been ruled out for two weeks with a hamstring injury. Kane Douglas takes Horwill’s place in the second-row with Ben McCalman added to the bench. Will Genia will captain the side in Horwill’s absence.
15. Israel Folau, 14. Nick Cummins, 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12. Christian Leali’ifano, 11. James O’Connor, 10. Quade Cooper, 9. Will Genia (captain), 8. Ben Mowen, 7. Michael Hooper, 6. Scott Fardy, 5. Kane Douglas, 4. Rob Simmons, 3. Sekope Kepu, 2. Stephen Moore, 1. James Slipper
Reserves: 16. Saia Fainga’a, 17. Scott Sio, 18. Ben Alexander, 19. Ben McCalman, 20. Jake Schatz, 21. Nic White, 22. Matt Toomua, 23. Jesse Mogg
Hooker Bismarck du Plessis will make his first start of the campaign in place of Adriaan Strauss. Zane Kirchner returns to the squad and will start at fullback with Willie le Roux shifting to the wing and Bjorn Basson dropping out of the squad. One other change sees Flip van der Merwe come in at lock for Juandre Kruger.
15. Zane Kirchner, 14. Willie le Roux, 13. JJ Engelbrecht, 12. Jean de Villiers (captain), 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Morne Steyn, 9. Ruan Pienaar, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Francois Louw, 5. Flip van der Merwe, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Reserves: 16. Adriaan Strauss, 17. Gurthro Steenkamp, 18. Coenie Oosthuizen, 19. Juandre Kruger, 20. Siya Kolisi, 21. Jano Vermaak, 22. Pat Lambie, 23. Jan Serfontein
The Springboks will be looking to improve on an error-strewn performance in Mendoza where they trailed until eight minutes from time. It was a feisty encounter, with indiscipline from Los Pumas in the final ten minutes coming to the rescue for the Springboks. Given their dominant first round performance in Johannesburg, the Springboks’ away form is again under the spotlight after failing to win a Rugby Championship clash away from home last year. South African media have spoken of the need for them to improve their mental toughness if they are to start winning in Australasia again.
While they are strong at set pieces, the Springboks have been beaten by the Wallabies at the breakdown in recent years so they have put a lot of focus into that area during training. They will be relieved to know that their tormentor from the 2011 World Cup, openside flanker David Pocock, won’t feature on Saturday.
The Springboks’ policy of selecting players from outside the country’s domestic competition is stirring a lot of debate. Five players from French clubs joined the squad during the week after playing in the French domestic competition last weekend. These players all featured in the Round 2 Test in Mendoza two weeks ago, so they will accumulate plenty of frequent flyer miles if they keep this up. About a third of the 28-man Springboks squad are currently contracted with foreign clubs. Former Springboks coach Jake White warns that the current selection policy encourages players to head overseas to earn more playing for foreign clubs. This will dilute their domestic competition. The Wallabies and All Blacks each have a policy of not selecting overseas players.
The Wallabies have not made enough use of Israel Folau so far this campaign and Ewen McKenzie has responded by giving him his first Wallabies start at fullback. He will be more of an attacking threat than Jesse Mogg although it remains to be seen whether his tactical kicking is up to international standards. Folau does have a strong boot on him, however, given his experience in the AFL. Quade Cooper’s return to the starting fifteen pairs him up again with Reds teammate Will Genia so they will be on the same page from the get-go. It was always going to be tough for Matt Toomua to play his first two Tests against the All Blacks of all teams, so he arguably deserves another chance in the future. One reason for bringing in Cooper now may be his strong record against the Springboks. Cooper has won seven of his nine Tests against South Africa, including the past five.
As with any game against the Springboks, the Wallabies can expect a physical confrontation up front, with the visitors usually very strong at set pieces. The Wallabies will be looking to improve on overall execution after conceding 32 turnovers from general play and the breakdown in the two Tests against the All Blacks. The Springboks boast a lethal back-line which, when on song, is capable of punishing Wallabies’ mistakes as the All Blacks have. James O’Connor has stated that the Wallabies need to find the right balance between attack and field position on Saturday. One key area of improvement for the Wallabies will be composure under the high ball after they were badly exposed in Wellington. The Springboks have an excellent kicking game and will no doubt look to exploit any weakness. The Wallabies haven’t fully adapted to the new scrum rules yet, which will be an area that the Springboks will look to gain the ascendancy.
While Wallabies fans may be pessimistic, there’s plenty of pessimism going round the Springboks camp as well. They have been poor in Australasia of late and have lost their last eight Tests in Brisbane. You have to go back to 1993 for the last time the Springboks beat the Wallabies at an Australian venue other than Perth and 1971 for the last time they won in Brisbane. The most recent results at Suncorp Stadium are:
2010: Wallabies 30–13 Springboks
2009: Wallabies 21–6 Springboks
2006: Wallabies 49–0 Springboks
2003: Wallabies 29–9 Springboks
Given the Wallabies’ recent dominance of the Springboks on Australian soil I would back the Wallabies in the head-to-head at 1.59 (Pinnacle Sports). My initial reaction was to take the Wallabies 1-12, however recent history at Suncorp suggests 13+ isn’t out of the question.
The Springboks are a genuine chance, so if you wish to be more cautious you could pair the head-to-head bet on the Wallabies with a smaller wager on the Springboks 1-12 at 3.55 (Centrebet).
You can compare the latest bookmaker odds for the Rugby Championship in the live bookmaker odds section.