Stirling Mortlock believes the Wallabies can break their Highveld hoodoo against the Boks at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The Australians have not won on the Highveld since 1963 and have just one Vodacom Tri-Nations win in South Africa in 10 meetings. With one victory from their last 18 away Tests against the Big Four rugby nations, the Wallabies are desperate to reverse the trend this weekend.
“Our preparation has been different this year, because we’ve spent the whole week training at altitude,” said Mortlock on Inside Rugby. “We’re hoping that change will bring about a change in result.”
The Wallabies are coming off a three-week break in the Tri-Nations, and Mortlock predictably said that would help his side.
“I definitely think it’s an advantage,” he said. “The last time we played the Boks [in Sydney] it was a very tight game and we didn’t play very well. We had played four or five games in a row at that stage and it did have an effect on the guys. When we had a two week break, we played really well against the All Blacks, so we’re hoping that’s the case again.”
Mortlock admitted the Boks would be far tougher opponents at home.
“They went back to their power style of play against the All Blacks [in Rustenburg], ripping at the breakdown and using their rush defence,” he said. “We expect something similar from them on Saturday. The Boks are a proud rugby nation and are very proud of their home record.”
The Wallabies have been the target of some sheep jokes this week, but Mortlock said it hadn’t bothered the team.
“Yeah, that doesn’t get under our skin at all,” he laughed. “The South Africans seem to confuse Australians with New Zealanders, so we also get the sheep jokes.”
Meanwhile, former Wallaby Rod Kafer claimed Andre Pretorius could solve the Boks’ flyhalf problems.
Kafer said the Lions No 10 was a “step up” from Jaco van der Westhuyzen and Butch James.
“His pin-point tactical kicking was superb [in Rustenburg],” he said. “His drop kicking was pretty poor though. The last time I saw them come off the boot so badly was when I kicked them. Horrible …
“But Pretorius attacked the advantage line and got the backs going forward. I think he’s a better alternative than any other South African flyhalf.”
Finally, ex-Wallaby hooker Phil Kearns said Victor Matfield had been brilliant at the line-out against the All Blacks, but questioned his contribution around the field. “Perhaps that’s a bit harsh … you definitely can’t leave him out of the side,” he added.