Boks and Wallabies draw battle lines
September 1, 2009
Sharks winger Odwa Ndungane has been drafted into the Springboks' line-up for the clash with the Wallabies in Brisbane © Getty Images
A much-changed Australia side will take on an ominously-settled South Africa at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday.
South Africa coach Peter de Villiers has unsurprisingly opted to retain the vast majority of the team that accounted for the Wallabies last weekend. The inclusion of winger Odwa Ndungane in the place of the injured JP Pietersen is the only change to the side that started the convincing 32-25 victory in Perth.
As a result Ndungane, who made his last appearance for the Springboks against the British & Irish Lions in July, will earn his fifth Test cap. Pietersen, sidelined with a hamstring injury, was sent home this week alongside replacement lock Andries Bekker whose tour was ended by a shoulder injury.
Versatile forward Danie Rossouw has been added to an otherwise unchanged Springboks bench while Sharks lock and captain Johann Muller will join the squad in Australia as a replacement for Bekker.
De Villiers said that including Ndungane had not been a difficult choice. "Whilst we have a lot of versatile players in the squad, Odwa in the natural winger and therefore was the first choice. He has been running the moves with us for sometime and is familiar with the defensive patterns so he should fit in pretty easily".
The match will also see centre Jaque Fourie collect his 50th cap and in doing so he will become the fifth Bok player to reach that milestone this year after Schalk Burger, Bryan Habana, Jean de Villiers and Fourie du Preez.
With his side's Tri-Nations hopes disappearing with last weekend's defeat, Australia coach Robbie Deans has made five changes to his starting line-up.
Scrum-half Will Genia and openside flanker David Pocock will both start a Tri-Nations match for the first time, while Berrick Barnes, Drew Mitchell and Tatafu Polota-Nau also return as the Wallabies look to snap a four-game losing streak.
Barnes' return from a head injury suffered against New Zealand in Sydney allows Adam Ashley-Cooper to revert to outside-centre at the expense of Ryan Cross, with Mitchell to replace Peter Hynes on the wing in the other change out wide.
Polota-Nau's inclusion at hooker sees Stephen Moore dropped to the bench, while skipper George Smith has been shifted to No.8 to allow Pocock to start at openside flanker. Richard Brown has paid a heavy price for a poor performance last time out, dropping out of the match-day 22 to allow Wycliff Palu to return on the bench.
Meanwhile, prop Al Baxter's career hangs in the balance after he was dropped from the squad for Western Force young gun Pek Cowan. Utility Quade Cooper has been selected on the bench but must prove his fitness after spraining his knee at Subiaco Oval.
While the Tri-Nations and Mandela Trophy are both out of reach for the Wallabies this year, Deans was quick to remind his charges of the importance of Saturday's clash with the world champions.
"It's a Test match and against the world's best team at one of the premier venues in world rugby. That's not a prospect any of our blokes would take lightly," Deans said. "Every time you put on your national jumper you want to - and expect to - do your best. That motivation doesn't change, regardless of the circumstance."
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