White: ‘It will be close’

After performing so admirably in front of a dismal crowd of just 26,000 in Phokeng last weekend, the Springboks are looking forward to playing at a packed Ellis Park.

Ellis Park holds 62,500 people – the biggest rugby ground in the country – and it is expected to be filled to capacity for the final Vodacom Tri-Nations Test against Australia tomorrow.

Coach Jake White is relishing the opportunity to play in-front of a full house. “It is always a great thing to play in front of a packed stadium. We know what Ellis Park means to us and the fans and I don’t think there are too many better stadiums to play in than Ellis Park when it’s jam-packed,” White said at the team hotel on Friday.

The Boks are looking to finish a poor campaign on a high, but have not used their dominance over the Wallabies at altitude as a motivating factor. “I don’t talk about that sort of stuff with the team. Obviously it is a thing people are speaking about. I was thinking about it outside that the (the Wallabies) have won just two out of 18 games away from home yet they have won two World Cups, so you have got to put things into perspective.”

White pointed out that when the Boks won at Loftus Versfeld last year it took a late Andre Pretorius drop-goal to seal the 22-16 win. “I know we were ahead, but that drop kick that went over need to be kicked twice and it could also have been a charge down and a try on the other side. Test matches between South Africa and Australia have hardly ever been one-sided.”

The Boks are banking on home ground advantage and a a bit of Madiba Magic to help them again. Last year Nelson Mandela was present as the Boks won 33-20 in Johannesburg. This time round he will not be present, but did present every member of the squad with a personally signed copy of his Long Walk to Freedom book. “That was great,” said captain John Smit, “and I would love to get another phone call from him before the match.”

Meanwhile, news from the Wallaby camp is that Strling Mortlock did not train because of a problem hamstring. Team management though dismissed it as “precautionary” and that “he will definitely play tomorrow.”

By Andrew Hollely, at the Bok team hotel