Wallabies pack eye 'Goliath' Springboks
September 7, 2013
Sekope Kepu has been brought back in to add size after a strong game in club rugby last weekend © www.seiserphotography.com
The Wallabies' under-pressure greenhorn pack is primed for a "David vs Goliath" result over the powerhouse South Africans in Saturday night's Rugby Championship rumble.
Without James Horwill, David Pocock, Scott Higginbotham, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Wycliff Palu, Australia must muscle up without their most abrasive enforcers at Suncorp Stadium.
They're also without overlooked prop stalwart Benn Robinson and man mountain Sitaleki Timani but have dismissed concerns about their physicality and promised to combat the Springbok challenge head-on.
While the visitors have been lavishing praise on the Wallabies' rock-star backline, the Boks are eyeing an opportunity up front against an inexperienced and smaller pack.
Horwill's late withdrawal due to a hamstring injury means the back-five - missing the likes of the captain, Pocock, Palu and Higginbotham - average just 12 caps between them.
But playmaker Quade Cooper has no doubts the forwards, who traditionally produce their best performances against the Boks at home, will once again rise to the challenge and lay the platform for his backline.
"I have full faith in them," Cooper told AAP. "The boys are fantastic players. The boys really step up (against the Boks). I think it's that David vs Goliath approach when you are confronted by something a lot bigger than you and more physical than you, you put in a lot more heart as well, and that goes a long way."
"We have a lot of skilful players and when you are playing against a big team, nine times out of 10 skill is what gets you across the line - using your skill and using it wisely."
Tight-head prop Sekope Kepu says the Wallabies forwards know they must negate the Boks power game, to built on set-piece pressure and mauling, lay the platform for Cooper and co. out wide.
"The Boks have a big pack, we can't shy away from that, but we'll be doing our best to counteract that," he said. "Ewen (McKenzie) has picked a team who can meet them up front but also run them around. We're hungry to get back on track and put some wins on the board."
Kepu has a pivotal role to help fix the scrum woes against the All Blacks by getting underneath the Boks front row of Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis.
Horwill's second-row replacement, Kane Douglas, said the Wallabies' self-belief was also fostered by past Test and Super Rugby displays.
"Over the last couple of years you've seen some of the Australian Super Rugby teams really take it to the South African teams so we know we can do it," the 122kg lock said. South Africa's pack have their own concern with lock Eben Etzebeth in doubt due with a virus.
Follow live text commentary of the Mandela Challenge Plate Test between Australia and South Africa on Saturday, September 7, from 730pm (AEST), 1130am (SAST), 930am (GMT)
It was another bumper year of rugby action in 2014; join us as we take a look back at some of the season's top statistics
Salary caps, Saints, sinners and scrums - Monday Maul looks back at the key talking points from an eventful weekend
The latest Week in Pictures takes in a fiery East Midlands derby and all the action from the Aviva Premiership and Top 14