The Springboks and Wallabies clash in the opening match of the Rugby Championship on Saturday. JOHN GOLIATH looks at some of key battles within the war at Ellis Park.
Herschel Jantjies vs Nic White
Rookie Jantjies had a fantastic Vodacom Super Rugby campaign with the Stormers and showcased his wonderful attacking talent. Jantjies is a feisty little scrumhalf, who punches way above his weight in the physical stakes, but his service is also very good from the base. The kid is also a definite threat around the fringes.
White hasn’t played for the Wallabies since 2015, but fought his way back in the reckoning with some top performances in the English Premiership. White is a fantastic kicking No 9, who reads the play really well. He is going to put a lot of pressure on the Bok back three with high kicks and will be peppering the corners.
Eben Etzebeth vs Rory Arnold
Etzebeth missed the latter part of the Stormers’ Super Rugby campaign with an injury, and should be fresh and ready to pulverise the Wallabies. The big lock has the added responsibility of leading the side against Australia, and will need to be at his feisty best to help stop the Australian team’s maul, which is likely to be employed quite liberally at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Arnold is one of a few Brumbies players in the Wallaby pack that used the rolling maul with great success in Super Rugby. With White at No 9, it looks like they will be playing the sort of game that could deliver plenty of lineouts. Arnold is the enforcer in the Australian side and key to their mauls. He will make a lot of carries, while also hovering close to the rucks on defence to try to stop the Boks’ momentum.
Andre Esterhuizen vs Samu Kerevi
Esterhuizen is a big boy who will look to give the Boks a lot of go-forward and momentum in the middle of the park. He is a physical player that will attack the gainline, but he has also worked hard on his distribution skills. Esterhuizen also has a big left boot, which could take some of the pressure off his flyhalf Elton Jantjies.
The Wallabies decided to fight fire with fire by picking the 108kg Kerevi at No 12. The Reds centre doesn’t have the best passing game in the world, and is a surprise selection ahead of the talented Kurtley Beale, but he is a big ball-carrier who will look to punch holes on the inside to try to create momentum for their exciting outside backs to have a go.
Warrick Gelant vs Tom Banks
Gelant’s international career hasn’t quite taken off because of injury, but he can take a huge step towards World Cup selection with a top display against the Wallabies. Gelant is a great attacking talent, who can put players into gaps or put the opposition under pressure with his wonderful running skills. His kicking game has really improved over the last few years.
The Wallabies are trying to find a replacement for Israel Folau, and Banks will get the first crack at the No 15 jersey. Banks has scored 18 tries in his 46 Super Rugby games for the Brumbies and is a great attacking talent. He can slice open even the tightest defences, while he is also a great support runner. Like most Australian fullbacks, he is also very good under the high ball.
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