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Australia Vs. South Africa
2016 Rugby Championship, 11 September, 2016
|Australia 23 defeated South Africa 17|
|Referee: N Owens|
|Touch judges: W Barnes & P Gauzere|
The Wallabies have finally got themselves back into the winners circle, recording a tough six-point victory over the Springboks.
It wasn’t clinical, but they were the better team and executed on their set plays much better than in previous games.
After an early scare as they went down by two tries, the Wallabies worked themselves back into the game and eventually were good enough to take victory.
So far this year both the Wallabies and Springboks have disappointed their own fans and failed to flatter – but tonight at Suncorp Stadium, one side at least will come away with their season kick-started, and much-needed spring in their step. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the game from 8:05pm (AEST).
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is in the unusual position of being under fire from many quarters for presiding over six successive losses, yet there being no credible prospect of him coming under pressure to retain his position.
Accordingly, there is no sense of panic in and around the Wallabies camp, they genuinely believe they are close to righting their ship and returning to the winner’s circle. The selected side thus retains the Michael Hooper and David Pocock combination at Nos.7 and 8, and Israel Folau at fullback, and also the inside back combination of Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley, as used in Wellington.
Changes mostly occur at the fringe – Dean Mumm at 6, ostensibly to beef up the lineout, and Reece Hodge to start for the first time, on the wing. What it does mean however is that there are five starting players effectively playing out of their usual position.
An obvious area of concern this season has been lineout, but if the Wallabies were expecting any relief in that area, it will be short lived – the Springboks boast the world’s best line-out exponent, Eben Etzebeth, and a forest of other tall timber options in the middle row and loose forwards.
The Wallabies need to get lineout success early – otherwise their confidence will take a massive hit and they could be in for a long night.
They also need to get their attack rolling early – get plenty of touches into Cooper and get Folau running at the Springboks, which will build confidence and bring the crowd into the game.
South Africa, for their part, has yet to achieve the fluidity and cohesion to their play this season that coach Allister Coetzee is seeking. He has a number of players from the successful Lions Super Rugby side in his line-up, yet hasn’t been able to provide them with the licence to play their natural game.
They have players with high skill and finishing ability all over the park – at 33 years old, Bryan Habana remains one of the best in the business – but have yet to settle on a clear, discernible style under the new coach.
Expect them to sternly test the Wallabies up front – the versatility of Francois Hougaard starting on the wing but covering halfback as well, allows them the luxury of a 6/2 bench split – but also look for plenty of tricks from the hot and cold Elton Jantjies.
Both sides will have benefitted from having the week off and will be fully charged to hit back from their respective disappointments. And even if the Wallabies dial back slightly the overt aggression they showed in Wellington, I expect them to again come out with plenty of physical intent.
Australia has won six of their last seven home tests against South Africa. The overall record at this ground is 8-1.
I don’t think South Africa is going well enough right now to overcome those statistics. Wallabies by 10.
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