Smith, Stirling for special attention

John Smit singled out George Smith and Stirling Mortlock as the players who will pose the biggest threat in the Wallaby team they face on Saturday.

Smit described how the entire Wallaby squad were a quality unit – including the coaching staff headed by Robbie Deans – but highlighted the efforts of centurion Smith and captain Mortlock as the individuals who the side is built around.

‘Australia have a number of stalwarts, but if I have to single out there are a couple of guys,’ said Smit. ‘We were talking about George the other day and in those 100 Tests – and you can also include the Super 14 in this – we can’t remember when he had a bad game. He is just so consistent.

‘You can put Stirling in the same bracket. Around that pair they also have a number of quality players. Under Robbie they have emphasised the all-round effort and evolved, so we can expect what we’ve got from them in the last couple of years – and more.’

At the Sharks and with the Boks, the South African sides have continuously gone into games as clear favourites against the Australians. The result has not always gone as expected, and Smit realised the visitors have repeatedly worked out a blueprint to topple the Boks.

‘They have different strengths to the All Blacks,’ said Smit. ‘They prepare well, they do their homework, and they probably dissect South African rugby better than most. They have many ideas to beat us and have really engineered those wins over us.’

The Cape Town weather has cleared on Friday morning and is expected to be perfect for rugby by Saturday’s 5pm kick-off.

‘Whether it rains or the sun comes out, it makes no difference to our preparations. It’s one of my favourite cliches, but it will be the same for both sides. It would be good to have a dry pitch and see both teams showing all facets and strengths of their game,’ said Smit.

The Boks have been placed as favourites, not only for this Test, but the entire tournament, and Smit was quick to emphasise how they haven’t achieved anything extraordinary with their last couple of wins.

‘Everyone has put our name on the cup already, but we’ve only done the norm,’ he said. ‘We’ve just won two of our home games and need to win another. You only start to claim for the title when you get on that plane. It’s how you travel that really matters.’

By Grant Ball, in Cape Town