The Wallabies and Springboks meet at Suncorp this Saturday night and I am really struggling to pick a winner.
The Boks have form on their side with a recent winning streak, while the Wallabies have the advantage of playing at fortress Suncorp, their favourite home ground.
The Wallabies may have lost four of their last five matches, but those were against the British and Irish Lions and the All Blacks, two of the strongest teams in rugby. The Australians have had the tougher preparation and are possibly more battle-hardened.
The bookies have installed the Aussies as the favourites at $1.60, with South Africa out at $2.36 which seems overly optimistic. I can easily see the Boks winning this game although I’ll be screaming for the Wallabies throughout.
Let’s review a few different facets of play and look to see where each side could find advantage.
Starting with the scrum. Up front Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis and Jannie du Plessis will face off against James Slipper, Stephen Moore and Sekope Kepu.
The Boks have certainly adjusted to the new laws better than the Australians and the South Africans may be about to find some ascendancy in an area the Aussies have been on top of them in the last few years.
I’d expect Slipper to make inroads on du Plessis, rate the hookers close to even and think Mtawarira and Kepu are quite similar in effect as well. However that advantage to the Australian loosehead means naught if the weight from behind isn’t coming through, and the Bok back five look likely to add a lot to their side’s shove.
I am hoping the Aussies improve on their last few scrumming performances but think the Boks will be in control up front.
In the lineout both sides are loaded with jumpers, and as long as the throwers don’t get the yips I think this will be a fairly even contest.
Mauling is a clear win for the South Africans as well. The Brumbies defended mauls quite well this year so Moore, Fardy and Mowen will have to lead their teammates in trying to limit the South African advantage.
The Wallabies have not got many strong carriers in their pack, while the Boks are loaded in this area. Man for man the South Africans are generally more powerful, so the Wallabies are going to have to work harder, win the race to the ball and turn up in numbers.
When I look at the two packs I do fear a bit of a repeat of the Sharks v Reds semi-final from 2012 and am hoping McKenzie has learnt lessons which can be applied in the Test arena.
In the backline the Wallabies have the potential to be more dangerous. I think if Cooper’s passing game fires, we have some great target men in Adam Ashley-Cooper, Nick Cummins, James O’Connor and Israel Folau to hit out wide.
If those players can get over the advantage line then the wider runners from the pack can punch through the line, with Michael Hooper incredibly dangerous and Ben Mowen more than capable in this space as well.
It is the work to earn the right to go wide which could be a concern, with a lot resting on the shoulders of Kepu, Slipper, Moore and Kane Douglas. They are all going to need to play strongly in contact. Not all of them are noted in that area but they are simply going to have to perform in order for the team to have a chance.
Rob Simmons and Scott Fardy are going to have to be hitting breakdowns low and hard to keep their side in the game. If they get blown off the ball then the Boks will walk away with it.
The goal kicking contest will see two very accurate kickers in Morne Steyn and Christian Leali’ifano go at it, with Steyn having giving South Africa the edge due to his experience and longer distance on his kicks.
General field kicking will be anoth advantage to the South Africans. With Mogg on the bench the distance of the Aussie kicking game suffers greatly.
Defensively the Springboks have the edge as well. Vermeulen and Alberts will certainly fancy running at Quade Cooper in the 10 channel with Michael Hooper and Christian Leali’ifano either side of him.
The rest of the pack are going to have to help pick up and fill the defensive channels. Rob Simmons put on some big hits in the first Bledisloe and I’m hoping for more of the same in this match.
The Wallabies have some high work-rate players in their pack but the back row in particular need to step up. They are capable of pushing the running throughout the game and will have to in order to break this Bok side down.
To be honest I’m really not sure how the bookies have installed the Wallabies as such strong favourites. Maybe the travel factor will put some lead in the legs of the South African, but the Wallabies are in for a fight and I can’t wait for the game.
Where are these two sides going to find their competitive edges? What do you think Roarers?