Hougaard vs Phipps

Francois Hougaard will be desperate to win the scrumhalf battle at Newlands following his return to the Springbok starting lineup, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.

Hougaard looked off the pace against the All Blacks in Wellington after replacing the injured Ruan Pienaar late in the first half. He was slow to the breakdown, his box kicks went too far and didn't give his chasers a chance to regain possession, and he kicked away turnover ball that could have been kept in hand.

The 26-year-old would not be in the match 23 for Saturday's Test against the Wallabies at Newlands if Fourie du Preez and Pienaar were fit, but their absence gives him the opportunity to show that he can still make an impact at scrumhalf at Test level.

After starting the first five Tests of the 2012 season in the No 9 jersey, Hougaard spent the next seven on the wing and then missed the whole 2013 Test season through injury. He wasn't selected for the two Tests against Wales this June and the opening Rugby Championship match against the Pumas at Loftus, coming off the bench against Scotland in PE, Argentina in Salta, and the All Blacks in Wellington.

With Cobus Reinach on the bench, Hougaard will need to step up from the start of Saturday's Test or risk being substituted and losing his starting spot for the tournament finale at Ellis Park.

He will be up against Nick Phipps, who came off the bench during the Wallabies' first five Tests of 2014 before he and Bernard Foley returned to the starting XV for the matches against the Boks in Perth and the Pumas on the Gold Coast.

Phipps brings pace to the Wallabies' game. He runs well with ball in hand, as shown by the break that led to Peter Betham's try against the Pumas, and is an excellent distributor (he made more passes than anyone else in round three of the Rugby Championship and the second-most in round four).

But, unlike Hougaard, he is not expected to kick much. Phipps has put boot to ball just once in each of the Wallabies' last two Tests.

Photos: Andrew Cornaga/Barry Aldworth/Photosport/BackpagePix

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