Regardless of the make up of the Springboks match 23, expect South Africa to win against the Wallabies in Bloemfontein.
And expect them to win comfortably.
My Business Day Newspaper column focused on why the Springboks will win, but also cautioned against confusing beating the Wallabies in South Africa with the prospects of dealing with much stronger threats like New Zealand, England and Ireland.
We know the strength of the All Blacks and England and Ireland will pose a greater threat to the Boks than Australia, primarily because the former two have a set piece that can negate what is supposedly the big strength of the current Bok team.
England and Ireland respectively are better teams than Australia. The Springboks, despite the hammering against the All Blacks in Albany, are stronger than the Wallabies. They are also playing at altitude in South Africa. The combination of South Africa’s superiority, as a team, and Australia’s mental inferiority in being in South Africa will combine to yet again defeat the tourists.
Australians generally don’t play well in South Africa. Some great Wallabies teams in the professional era have lost to limited Springbok selections.
Australian coach Michael Cheika knows this and he also acknowledged that he didn’t know why his players turned to putty whenever in South Africa.
There has been the odd Australian highlight in the professional era.
Bloemfontein was the match venue for a remarkable Wallabies win that was a minute away from being one of the ultimate Australian chokes in Tests between the two countries.
The Wallabies surged to a 38-6 lead and then trailed 39-38 before being spared with an unlikely Kurtley Beale penalty success from 40 metres.
Beale’s kick, the last of the match, made for a famous night when the occasion looked set to be remembered as among the most infamous.
Australia won’t experience such a high this Saturday because the Springboks will be too good.
Home ground advantage is worth 10-15 points for the Boks against the current Wallabies.
Don’t confuse what the Springboks didn’t do against the All Blacks with what they will do against the Australians.
South Africa will bounce back against Australia because there is a mentality among the South African players that the Springboks don’t lose to the Wallabies in South Africa. It is as strong as the mindset that seems to suffocate any belief that a Springbok win is possible in New Zealand against the All Blacks.
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has kept the changes to a minimum when he confirmed the match 23 tasked with restoring the rugby public’s faith in the 2017 international season.
I would have taken the axe to the halfbacks, outside backs, back three and even toyed with a change in the starting tight five. I’d also have made changes to the composition of a bench, whose primary function is to provide impact.
Coetzee has said to make more changes would be to panic. I disagree.
Certain players were exposed against the All Blacks as not being good enough. Those same players will again be found wanting against the All Blacks. They’ll also come second in a two-horse race against Ireland in Dublin.
For now the Springboks will be okay because it is only Australia, and the Wallabies will be as feeble as the French were in June.
The Wallabies in South Africa are the ‘gimme’ every Springbok coach would want post a beating from the All Blacks.
The Boks were humbled in New Zealand and will be hurting from the embarrassment of taking 57 points. Australia will feel this hurt, but to emphasise the point again, it will not in any way make up for what happened to the Springboks against the All Blacks.
The Wallabies, ordinary in a home defeat against Scotland and New Zealand, were better against the All Blacks in New Zealand and also more effective against the Springboks in Perth and Argentina in Canberra.
But they still were not good enough to threaten the Springboks in South Africa.
Coetzee is right when he says the Springboks don’t become a bad team in one game, but the counter to this is that they were never quite as good as the perception after five wins against France and Argentina respectively.
The Boks have improved enough since 2016 to see off the Wallabies. And even in 2016, when they were desperately ordinary, they were still good enough to beat Australia.
Bloemfontein will provide temporary relief for the Springboks and for their supporters, but the win will only add to the delusion that those players who beat off the Wallabies are equipped to do the same to the All Blacks.
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6, Francois Louw, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Handre Pollard, 23 Damian de Allende
15 Israel Folau, 14 Marika Koroibete, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Reece Hodge, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Scott Sio
Substitutes (from): 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Lukhan Tui, 21 Ned Hanigan, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Samu Kerevi, 24 Henry Speight