Reece Hodge has suggested the Wallabies will have some tricks up their sleeve aimed at cracking the Springboks’ much-improved defence, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Port Elizabeth.
The Boks’ memorable victory over the All Blacks in Wellington was primarily based on an immense defensive performance that required the visitors to make 235 tackles. That effort, and the intensity that the Springboks maintained until the final whistle, has not escaped the attention of the Wallabies.
In an analysis from SARugbymag.co.za earlier this week, we looked at just how brutal the Boks were on defence in that clash, with the All Blacks battling to establish momentum as they were regularly met with a flat, fast and physical line of Springbok defenders.
It’s a template that particularly worked wonders in Wellington, and the Boks will be determined to reproduce a similar level of intensity and execution against an Australian team that certainly has some dangerous strike runners.
Besides the presence of influential playmaker Kurtley Beale, the Wallabies have also recently welcomed back Israel Folau, who missed the clash against the Boks in Brisbane due to injury.
Speaking to the media from the Wallabies’ team base on the Port Elizabeth beachfront, Hodge said Australia knew they would need to have some variation on attack to break down the Bok defence this Saturday.
‘We’ve worked on some interesting plays this week that we’ve designed around how the Springboks have defended, and that’s an exciting prospect for myself and some of the other outside backs in terms of creating some pace and go-forward for the team.
‘They [the Boks] did very well to deny the All Blacks time and space. New Zealand obviously have backs who can create something from nothing, and I think the fact that they didn’t give them a chance to get moving in the first place is a huge part of why South Africa won that game,’ he added.
‘Teams that use that kind of defence have to be very fit, and you have to keep it up for 80 minutes, so the pleasing thing for them would have been that they didn’t have many defensive lapses over that time. It’s something that I’m sure they’ll look to bring against us, but the challenge is for us to find holes in their defence.’
In the context of this upcoming clash, plenty has changed since the Boks slumped to defeat against Australia on 8 September. While the Springboks rebounded a week later to claim a rare win in New Zealand, the Wallabies were humbled at home by Argentina.
Hodge acknowledged that the odds would be stacked against the visitors, but suggested that the Wallabies would be quite happy to accept the underdog tag.
‘From their perspective, they will be a lot more confident, but I also think there’s a fair bit of pressure on them. Of course, they’ve had a great game against the All Blacks, but their fans will want to see some consistency, so it’s a huge occasion for both of us. The two teams really want to start building some momentum, and don’t want to let another opportunity slip.’
Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images