Preview: Springboks vs Wallabies

The Wallabies will be more tactically astute than their inept neighbours but the Springboks will still edge this one at Newlands.

The Wallabies have not won in Cape Town since 1992, and while they will take heart from their 27-15 win over South Africa in Durban in 2008, this is a far less naive Springbok side who seem to have found, stuck with, and mastered an approach that suits their strengths.

Don’t expect the hosts to veer from the kick-chase approach that proved so successful against the All Blacks over two Tests, although the difference will be that the Wallabies boast superior tactical kickers to the Blacks, and the patience to play a game of ping-pong in the hope that they’ll wear down the Springboks’ resolve and force them to gamble by attacking from within their territory.

The Springboks have to remain patient and not be drawn into attacks from deep which characterised their play in Durban last year. If they do, the Aussies will prosper.

Key to their game plan is the halfback pair of Fourie du Preez and Morne Steyn, who kicked excellently at King’s Park, as well as fullback Frans Steyn, whose massive return punts will ensure the Aussies are reluctant to kick directly to him, particularly in his 22.

The kick is only as good as the chase, and in this regard the likes of wingers Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen, as well as outside centre Jaque Fourie will look to build on last week’s solid performance. The Australia back three of Adam Ashley-Cooper, Lachie Turner and Drew Mitchell are unlikely to display the same cavalier spirit their All Black counterparts did, and are all competent punters, making the chase essential if the Boks are to gain the territorial advantage they hope for.

The Aussies have intimated that they will mimic the Springboks’ kick-chase approach, with Matt Giteau and Berrick Barnes leading the charge. The success of either side will, however, depend largely on how their set phases fare.

The Wallabies will look to circumvent what they lack in pure strength at scrum time, with intelligence. They have progressed tremendously in this facet of play under coach Robbie Deans and will pose a greater threat than the Blacks did. Similarly at lineout time, veteran lock Nathan Sharp and the fast improving James Horwill will prove more difficult to rattle than Isaac Ross and Brad Thorn were. Lineout colossus Victor Matfield won’t be denied for the entire contest, and there’s always a sense of inevitability that he will trouble his opponents at some stage.

With relative parity at the set phases, and a chess match in general play, a try from turnover ball could be decisive to the outcome. George Smith will lead Australia’s ground-level assault and substitute David Pocock will ensure that they pose a sustained threat at ruck time.

Springbok openside flank Heinrich Brussow is yet to be outclassed, but part of his success must be attributed to his team-mates’ brutality and accuracy at the tackle point. If they continue in that vein, expect Brussow to continue his dominance over the best fetchers in the business.

Ruck time infringements cost the All Blacks dearly, and if the Springboks can pressure them there, the white hot Morne Steyn is sure to punish them. That said, the Aussies have a sharp-shooter of their own in Giteau, and must ensure their discipline is impeccable, particularly with the often pedantic Alain Roland refereeing the Test.

I’m calling a Springbok win to extend their record to nine wins in their last 10 Tests. But it will be close.

Springboks by seven

Some interesting stats

- Australia and South Africa have met on nine previous occasions at Cape Town, with the Springboks having won six matches to three, including the last four in succession.

- Australia’s first appearance at Newlands was in 1933. That 3-17 loss is still the Wallabies’ heaviest defeat at Cape Town.

- Australia achieved its wins in 1953 (18-14), 1963 (9-5) and 1992 (26-3).

- Five of the nine matches played between the two teams in the city have been determined by margins of four points or less. This includes the three Tri Nations games that have been played – in 1999, 2003 and 2007.

- In South Africa, the two countries have played 35 matches, with South Africa winning 27 games to Australia’s eight.

- Overall, the two countries have met on 67 occasions, with South Africa winning 40, Australia 26, as well as one draw.

- Prior to South Africa’s readmission to international sport in 1992, Australia had won just seven of the 31 matches played.

- The scoreboard stands 19 wins to 16 in Australia’s favour, along with a draw, in the time since then.

- South Africa has won 30 of the 48 Tests it has played at Cape Town, losing 14 and drawing two others.

By Ryan Vrede