Springboks close in on title
September 4, 2009
Berrick Barnes returns to the Australian midfield © Getty Images
Peter De Villiers Al Baxter Robbie Deans Jean de Villiers Fourie du Preez Jaque Fourie Will Genia Bryan Habana
South Africa are within touching distance of adding the Tri-Nations title to their trophy cabinet, with Robbie Deans' stuttering Wallabies standing in their way at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane this Saturday.
A win for Peter De Villiers' settled side will deliver the trophy for the first time since 2004, when the Springboks won a tightly-contested tournament thanks to a thrilling 23-19 victory over Australia at Kings Park in Durban.
Last weekend's 32-25 loss to the Boks in Perth extended Australia's losing run in this season's tournament to four games, adding to mounting pressure on the coaching structure after a positive start to the season with comfortable victories over France and Italy.
The Springboks have gone from strength to strength since the start of their international season, following up a thrilling series victory over the touring British & Irish Lions with performances of rare power and precision in the Tri-Nations.
Criticised for their apparently negative, kick based, approach the Boks have nevertheless steamrolled their way to the top of the IRB world rankings and an unbeaten run in the southern hemisphere's showpiece tournament.
Deans has reacted to a sloppy backs display last weekend by including Queensland Reds scrum-half Will Genia for his first Test start, Luke Burgess paying for some indifferent performances with his place in the XV. Genia will go up against Fourie du Preez a week after the Bulls No.9 rubber-stamped his status as the world's finest.
Du Preez and fly-half Morne Steyn will be vital in the Springboks' pursuit of the title, the boot of Steyn likely to play a deciding role once again. Australian fly-half Matt Giteau will hope for some better service this week after scoring 18 points, including a brace of tries, with little help from his backline colleagues in Perth.
Berrick Barnes returns from injury at inside-centre for the hosts, providing some much needed composure and a second kicking option after a limp midfield display last weekend.
With Heinrich Brussow continuing to keep Schalk Burger on the bench for the visitors, the Wallabies have shuffled their back-row.
Veteran openside George Smith moves to No.8, where he has won just seven of his 103 caps, David Pocock and Rocky Elsom completing the trio. Richard Brown drops out of the 22 after some ill disciplined performances in recent Tests.
Nathan Sharpe has failed to recover from the injury that ruled him out of contention last weekend and Mark Chisholm continues in the second-row. Al Baxter, a mainstay of the Australian front-row since 2003, has been dropped from the squad in favour of young Western Force product Pek Cowan after struggling in this year's tournament.
The Springboks showed great enterprise in attack in Perth, notching the first try bonus-point of the tournament and dispelling criticism of their kicking game. They will hope for a similar showing on Australia's east coast, but will have to do it without wing JP Pietersen.
The Sharks flyer has been ruled out for the remainder of the tournament after tearing his hamstring and is replaced in the side by his club team-mate Odwa Ndungane. Fitness fears over Bryan Habana and Bakkies Botha have subsided, with the wing and lock both taking their places.
Centre Jaque Fourie will win his 50th cap, becoming the fifth Springbok this season to do so after Jean de Villiers, Burger, Habana and du Preez.
Australia: James O'Connor, Lachie Turner, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Berrick Barnes, Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau, Will Genia, George Smith (captain), David Pocock, Rocky Elsom, Mark Chisholm, James Horwill, Ben Alexander, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson.
Replacements: Stephen Moore, Pek Cowan, Dean Mumm, Wycliff Palu, Luke Burgess, Quade Cooper, Peter Hynes.
South Africa: Ruan Pienaar, Odwa Ndungane, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez; Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, John Smit, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Heinrich Brussow, Juan Smith, Pierre Spies.
Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Jannie du Plessis, Danie Rossouw, Schalk Burger, Ricky Januarie, Adi Jacobs, Frans Steyn.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand), Vinny Munro (New Zealand
Television Match Official: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)