RYAN VREDE analyses the key match ups and picks the winner for the Test in Sydney.
There has been belligerent rhetoric from the Springboks’ camp this week, the bulk of it focused on repelling the suggestion they are a B team. This is perplexing given how self-evident it is that they are, and while the romance of an upset win seems to have bewildered them, the more measured among us accept that they will struggle against a strong Wallabies outfit.
Synergy on attack and particularly defence will be their biggest challenge. The Boks have moved quickly to dismiss this as a concern, claiming the two weeks they spent in camp in Cape Town remedied any potential challenges in this regard. Undoubtedly it would have aided them, but not significantly enough to be optimistic about an upset victory.
That said, with heavy showers predicted, the Wallabies’ margin of victory won’t be as big as it would have been in conditions that suited their preferred expansive approach. It will also make the Springboks’ kick-chase method a more viable strategy than it otherwise would have been.
Execution will be key in this regard. A poorly weighted punt will offer the Wallabies’ backs like Kurtley Beale, James O’Connor, Quade Cooper (who is expected to defend at fullback on South Africa’s ball) and Digby Ioane – all adept in broken field situations – opportunities to punish them.
I also have reservations about the selected 22′s ability to physically dominate the Wallabies on attack or defence in general play, as well as at scrum time. Danie Rossouw will be the primary strike runner in a back row that otherwise doesn’t inspire confidence of a gainline assault, while among the tight five the Boks are relying on Test rookies to assist in bossing this facet of play. Expect Australia’s openside colossus David Pocock to thrive at the breakdown because of the Boks’ struggles here.
Furthermore, the sides that have diluted the potency of the Reds’ halfback pair of Will Genia and Cooper (in Super Rugby) have done so off the back of momentum-halting tackle fights. The Springboks don’t have the mongrel or tactical intelligence to manage this, ensuring that the aforementioned duo will have space and time to plot their demise.
Conditions are likely to demand Genia and Cooper temper their usual enterprise in favour of a more pragmatic, territory-based approach, but they have consistently shown their aptitude to do this in Super Rugby.
Combine this with fact that the Springboks lack the men to pressure them at lineout time (which has been central to any success gained against them) as well as their history of having never won in Sydney, and having won just thrice in 17 attempts in Australia overall, and it is easy to predict a comfortable victory for the Wallabies.
VREDE’S CALL: Australia by 12
Australia - 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 James O’Connor, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom (c), 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Sekope Kepu.
Subs: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Pekahou Cowan, 18 Nathan Sharpe, 19 Matt Hodgson, 20 Scott Higginbotham, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Anthony Faingaa.
South Africa: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Danie Rossouw, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Ryan Kankowski, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Adi Jacobs, 22 Pat Lambie.