The Springboks will beat the Wallabies at Ellis Park, but it won’t be because South Africa are a better team. Guess the right score and win a year’s subscription to SA Rugby Magazine.
If the All Blacks are the grand masters of choking in World Cups, then Australia don’t so much as choke when arriving in South Africa, they simply go AWOL. The Wallabies, regardless of coach, preparation, quality of team or form, just can’t win in the Republic.
They’ve arrived with some glorious teams and left shattered at another defeat to the Boks. It is something no one can quite explain. The Boks can’t win in Australia and Australia can’t win in South Africa.
Saturday’s test is devalued because the Tri Nations is long gone and both teams have used the opportunity to blood a couple of exciting prospects. Ellis Park will be near capacity because in South Africa the Boks are again supposed world beaters after a one point win against the All Blacks.
And when they beat the Wobblies, Jake White will say that if his team had started the competition like they ended it, they would probably have won it. And everyone will want to believe him. The truth is a bit different. The Boks have been diabolical in the Tri Nations and the one point win against the All Blacks was nothing more than a plaster on a gaping wound.
The festering will continue and will be exposed at Twickenham. For now, though, South African fans will just want to enjoy a Saturday where the Boks win and all South Africans get to feel good about themselves for a couple of months.
John Connolly has expressed optimism that his team is capable of winning. They will definitely play a different kind of game to the robotic phase plays that undid Eddie Jones in South Africa. Expect to see Australia play the percentages more and actually slow the game down as much as possible. The Boks have relied on Australian mistakes to win so often, but invariably the Wallaby players don’t learn. And when under pressure the same players make the same mistakes and cough up seven points that usually is the difference.
There’s always a shocking 20 minute period from the Wallabies when they play the Boks in South Africa. Saturday will produce those vital 20 minutes and the Boks won’t refuse the invitation of a seven pointer.
Individually, several Boks are playing for their end of year tour places. White’s conservatism and closed-door policy means he is unlikely to look at Currie Cup form in the next month, so the team to play England will come largely from those playing on Saturday.
Andre Pretorius needs to show he has added consistency to his game. Pretorius has often excelled when there has been no expectation and crumbled when his task has been to dicate structure and pattern.
Hopefully Ruan Pienaar will get an earlier introduction and JP Pietersen will be better off for the experience, no matter how it goes.
The selection of Wynand Olivier is short-term and adds no value. He is not going to be the test winger at the World Cup and there is no value in playing him there. The experience of Breyton Paulse would have been far more comforting and Australia will pry on the vulnerability of a back three with minimal test experience as a unit.
The Bok pack will give the customary home town performance, but it will be interesting to see if Australia’s lineout mathematician (skills coach Scott Johnson) has managed to crack the Boks’ lineout code. I’m picking Victor Matfield to embarrass the Wobblies again.
And I’m picking a very ordinary Bok team to beat a superior Wallabies team.
Boks by 10 (30-20)
In Currie Cup action, it will be Cheetahs by 7 against Western Province in Bloemfontein.