The Wallabies make their way to Bloemfontein this Saturday (Sunday, 1:05am AEST) to take on the Springboks.
The game may fly somewhat under the radar of Australian fans, played overnight between the AFL and NRL grand finals. But there’s plenty at stake for the men in gold, while both sides will be raring to go after a week off.
Whether it’s a motivational tactic or simple rotation, Michael Cheika still seems unsure of his best 15 ‒ especially when it comes to the wing and second row.
Izack Rodda is in line for a starting berth alongside Adam Coleman, while Jack Dempsey comes in for Ned Hanigan.
In the backline, Marika Koroibete earns a start at the expense of Henry Speight. Promising Reds rookie Lukhan Tui is also vying with Rob Simmons for a spot on the bench.
If Tui gets the nod, he’s set to become the eleventh Wallaby debutant this year.
For the home side, Allister Coetzee has made a handful of changes to the squad demolished 57-0 by the All Blacks a fortnight ago.
Dillyn Leyds takes over from Raymond Rhule on the wing after the latter’s impression of a well-greased turnstile in defence, Francois Louw replaces Jean-Luc du Preez at breakaway and Ross Cronje starts at 9, with Francois Hougaard dropped altogether.
On the bench, Lood de Jager and Bongi Mbonambi make way for Pieter-Steph du Toit and Chiliboy Ralepelle respectively.
1. Scott Sio 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau 3. Sekope Kepu 4. Izack Rodda 5. Adam Coleman 6. Jack Dempsey 7. Michael Hooper (c) 8. Sean McMahon 9. Will Genia 10. Bernard Foley 11. Reece Hodge 12. Kurtley Beale 13. Tevita Kuridrani 14. Marika Koroibete 15. Israel Folau.
Subs: Stephen Moore, Tom Robertson, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Simmons, Lukhan Tui, Ned Hanigan, Nick Phipps, Samu Kerevi, Henry Speight (one to be omitted).
1. Tendai Mtawarira 2. Malcolm Marx 3. Ruan Dreyer 4. Eben Etzebeth (c) 5. Franco Mostert 6. Siya Kolisi 7. Francois Louw 8. Uzair Cassiem 9. Ross Cronje 10. Elton Jantjies 11. Courtnall Skosan 12. Jan Serfontein 13. Jesse Kriel 14. Dillyn Leyds 15. Andries Coetzee.
Subs: Chiliboy Ralepelle‚ Steven Kitshoff‚ Trevor Nyakane‚ Pieter-Steph du Toit‚ Jean-Luc du Preez‚ Rudy Paige‚ Handre Pollard‚ Damian de Allende.
The Wallabies missed a golden chance to beat the Springboks in Perth, and they’ll be better prepared for the breakdown battle this time around.
But, don’t underestimate the desperation of the South Africans to prove their North Harbour nightmare was just a blip.
I’ve been a tad unkind to the Wallabies in recent predictions. Call it self-preservation. I’m reluctant to raise any kind of hope in these fraught times.
Winning at altitude is never easy, but Australia will be hoping for a repeat of their thrilling 41-39 win when the sides last met in Bloemfontein in 2010.
Kurtley Beale’s right boot was the hero that day. Could it be a long-range Reece Hodge missile this time?
It’s probably foolish to write off the Springboks at home after such a brutal thumping. Bugger it. I’m daring to dream.
Wallabies by 3.
Date: Sunday 1 October (AEST)
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 1:05am (AEST)
Betting: South Africa $1.40, Wallabies $3
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Jerome Garces (France), Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)