The set-piece battle will determine the winner of the must-win clash between the Springboks and Wallabies in Brisbane on Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Bok backline selected for this match doesn't inspire confidence. Even with two tactical changes in midfield – Juan de Jongh replaces Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel comes in for Lionel Mapoe – the back division still lacks physicality and experience.
That said, the Wallabies have their own problems in the backline. It's been a long time since Will Genia and Quade Cooper fired on the international stage. A weak 10-12 defensive combination of Cooper and Bernard Foley will surely be targeted by the Bok attack.
However, more should be read into the selections up front. Bok coach Allister Coetzee has picked a scrummaging specialist in Lourens Adriaanse at tighthead. He has selected as many as six forwards on the bench to ensure that the Boks will not want for lineout options over the course of the game. In the back row, he has persisted with Francois Louw, a player more suited to a war in the trenches, at openside flank.
Meanwhile, opposite number Michael Cheika has backed the twin-fetcher combination of Michael Hooper and David Pocock. According to SARugbymag.co.za's Opta-powered stats, the Wallabies have made the most turnovers in this year's Rugby Championship. Cheika will instruct his loose forwards to attack the Bok breakdowns again this weekend. Pocock has already won five turnovers in the first two matches of this year's tournament. He has a good record against the Boks, particularly at the breakdown.
The 'Pooper' combination aside, Cheika has opted for some big boys in the starting pack and on the bench. The selection of Dean Mumm at blindside flank suggests that the Wallabies will look to fight fire with fire at the lineout.
The Boks have banked 95% of their own ball over the past two rounds. They're spoiled for lineout options in Eben Etzebeth (who will be playing in his 50th Test), Lood de Jager, Oupa Mohoje, and Warren Whiteley at the back.
Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit have been in brilliant form this season as far as contesting is concerned. The visitors would do well to maximise their talents at this set piece on Saturday.
Adriaanse and the scrum as a unit have an equally important job to do. The Boks need to pressure the Wallabies at these set pieces in the early stages. If the visitors get on top, they must translate dominance into points.
Of course, it will not be that simple. Both teams will be desperate for a win. The Wallabies will be looking to end a six-game losing streak. The Boks will be aiming to bounce back after a shocking loss to Argentina in Salta, and to ensure that they secure at least one win from this three-game tour. With the All Blacks in rampant form, a Bok win in Christchurch next week is highly unlikely.
It could be said that the odds are also against the Boks winning in Brisbane. They've beaten the Wallabies in Australia just three times since the turn of the century. Not many will expect this struggling Bok side to succeed where so many better teams have failed.
The Boks need to slow the game down this Saturday. They need to take the fight to the Wallabies at the set pieces, and to play for territory.
When they have a chance to shoot for goal, the kickers must show the necessary accuracy. Another wayward performance in this department may lead to another narrow defeat.
Collectively, the Boks have achieved a goal-kicking success rate of 67% in 2016. More will be expected of first-choice kicker Elton Jantjes, in particular.
Both teams will be desperate for a face-saving victory. The side that wins the set-piece battle will be in a position to win the game. The side that does not make the most of its goal-kicking chances, however, is likely to finish on the wrong side of the scoreline.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Wallabies 35, Springboks 45, Draw 1
At Suncorp Stadium: Wallabies 8, Springboks 1
STATS AND FACTS
– South Africa have won four of their last six games against Australia.
– The Wallabies will be aiming for back-to-back wins against the Springboks for the first time since 2012 after a 24-20 win in their last encounter.
– The Wallabies have won six of their last seven games against South Africa in Australia.
– The Wallabies have won only two of their last seven games at Suncorp Stadium (drawn one, lost four), though their most recent victory there was a 24-20 triumph over South Africa.
– Overall, the Wallabies have won eight of their nine games against South Africa at Suncorp Stadium, including their biggest ever victory over the Springboks in July 2006 (49-0).
– South Africa will be looking to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time since losing four on the bounce between November 2014 and August 2015, which included a defeat to Australia at Suncorp Stadium.
– Bryan Habana's try against Argentina meant he overtook David Campese (64) as the top try-scorer for any tier-one nation. He sits just four tries behind Daisuke Ohata (69) as the top international try-scorer ever.
– David Pocock has won five turnovers in the competition so far, two more than any other player.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Wallabies||Bernard Foley (9)||Nick Phipps (1)||Israel Folau (108)||David Pocock (23)|
|Springboks||Elton Jantjies (21)||Johan Goosen, Ruan Combrinck, Warren Whiteley, Bryan Habana, Pieter-Steph du Toit (1)||Johan Goosen (128)||Oupa Mohoje (30)|
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Bernard Foley, 11 Reece Hodge, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rory Arnold, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Sean McMahon, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Tevita Kuridrani/Drew Mitchell.
Springboks – 15 Johan Goosen, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 21 Jaco Kriel, 22 Morné Steyn, 23 Lionel Mapoe.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Pascal Gauzere (France)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images