Boks’ Brisbane blues

The Springboks will lose both Rugby Championship matches in Australasia.

And they will beat the Wallabies and All Blacks in South Africa.

I also think the Springboks will run the All Blacks closer in Auckland than most think, and lose by more in Brisbane against the Wallabies than most think.

Here’s the thing: South Africa’s players always find that something extra; that something special when fronted with the challenge of the Haka and the black jersey.

It goes back to past generations and the glorious battles between the two greatest rugby nations.

South African players measure their status on how they do against New Zealand. Playing Australia is just another Test match. Playing New Zealand is an occasion.

I spent three years working with the Boks as Communications Manager and have reported on the Boks since 1992. There’s something in the Bok psyche that is always different for a Test against the All Blacks.

Unfortunately, the passion and precision hasn’t always been there for the Australians. Brisbane, in particular, has not been a great tour venue for the Boks in the professional era.

The Boks have played there six times and taken a beating six times. The average score is 32-9 to the hosts and while I don’t expect the result to be as emphatic this Saturday I still expect Australia to win.

The Boks are an improving side. They are unbeaten in eight Tests, with four of them having been played overseas.

They are better at this juncture of 2013 than they were in 2012. Those players, new to international rugby, are a year more experienced and in most cases a year better.

But they are still not good enough to be spoken of as a side expected to win successive Tests in Australia and New Zealand.

The 2009 Tri-nations-winning Springboks were among the best South African squads in the professional era and even they took a 23-6 beating in Brisbane at SunCorp stadium.

It is the one venue that gives the Australians something extra. The stadium is like a modern Newlands and the crowd is very close to the field. It makes for a fantastic atmosphere, but it is the only rugby stadium in Australia where, as the opposition, you really get a sense you are the visitors.

The crowd gets into the face of the opposition player, the Queensland rugby tradition is probably the strongest among the Australian regions and the fast paced surface does aid the Australians.

The All Blacks have been successful at SunCorp stadium and the British and Irish Lions sneaked a win when Kurtley Beale botched a penalty kick in the last minute to win the 1st of the three Tests.

No other team has enjoyed success in Brisbane against the Wallabies, especially the Boks. Remember the 49-0 horror show of a few years back?

A week ago I wrote the Wallabies were not as bad as many make them about to be and, after watching the Boks struggle in Mendoza, the South Africans currently aren’t quite as good as we’d want them to be.

They will get better as a unit. Of this I have no doubt and I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute picking the Boks to win at home against the very same Wallabies, but in Brisbane I just don’t have a similar confidence.

There are some fantastic individual performers among the Boks, but then Australia, for all their 2013 woes against the Lions and All Blacks, also have some super players.

Bryan Habana, Jean de Villiers, Morne Steyn, Adriaan Strauss and Jannie du Plessis have been consistently good among this season’s Boks, which means there’s an awful lot that have been a mixture of magical and mediocre in the Test wins against Italy, Scotland, Samoa and Argentina.

The Bok pack should have an advantage in the scrums. The lineouts will be evenly matched and the breakdown is an area I believe will favour the hosts.

Wallabies scrumhalf Will Genia struggled against the All Blacks, more because of the pressure of the Kiwis than poor form, but I have reservations about the Boks ability to impose a similar strangle on Genia.

Genia remains the greatest threat to the Boks, especially on his home track in Brisbane.

Israel Folau will also have a greater influence than he had against the All Blacks.

I’d be more bullish about the Boks’ prospects in Brisbane if Fourie du Preez was at scrumhalf and if the loose-forward mix included Schalk Burger in his prime.

Willem Alberts, in the Bok pack, is expected to make way for one of Marcel Coetzee or Siya Kolisi, but like Sam Cane is no Richie McCaw, the South African duo are not Schalk Burger when it comes to menace and impact.

The Boks won’t be bad in Brisbane, but they won’t be good enough to win.