Australia eye maiden win under McKenzie
September 5, 2013
South Africa are two from two in the 2013 Championship © Getty Images
South Africa will be looking to maintain their 100% record in the 2013 Rugby Championship when they come up against Australia in Brisbane on Saturday.
Australia v South Africa
Make no bones about it, the Suncorp Stadium is a tough place to play the Wallabies. Few know the ground better than Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie after he enjoyed a successful tenure in charge of the Reds and he will hope home advantage pays dividends when his Australia side come up against South Africa on Saturday.
It has been a tough international baptism for McKenzie with his side currently without a win in their opening two matches of the Championship. But they could not have come up against a harder proposition than the best side in the world, the All Blacks. Back-to-back losses to the Kiwis can just about be forgiven as McKenzie has barely had a chance to get his feed under the table at the Wallabies, but the Australian public will be expecting them to beat the Springboks come Saturday.
However, it will not get any easier for McKenzie's men. The Springboks are two from two in the Championship and look to have found an impressive collective spirit under Heyneke Meyer. They opened their tournament with a 73-13 thrashing of the Pumas and backed that up a week later in Argentina with a 22-17 win. There is a feeling in South Africa that Meyer's men are on the brink of something special, to borrow Saracens' phrase, but they will only be regarded alongside the Kiwis as potential Championship winners if they triumph on Saturday.
Australia - Player to Watch: This one is easy. All eyes will be on Quade Cooper on Saturday. He will play in the ground he knows so well as a Reds player in front of his adoring fans. If ever there is a stage for the mercurial fly-half to shine, Saturday's Test is it.
Australia - Team News: Will Genia is named as Wallabies captain with James Horwill ruled out for two games through injury. Kane Douglas replaces Horwill in the second-row. Quade Cooper is named at fly-half in what will be his first start in a Test shirt since 2012 with Matt Toomua relegated to the bench. Elsewhere, Nick Cummins starts on the wing with Israel Folau named at fullback and Jesse Mogg among the replacements.
South Africa - Player to Watch: Ruan Pienaar is facing a very real challenge to his starting spot in the side from Fourie du Preez. Du Preez is only free to play in South Africa's home Tests but Pienaar will hope to show Meyer he is the right choice to start every game, regardless of the World Cup-winning scrum-half's availability.
Nick 'the honey badger' Cummins is back on the wing for the Wallabies © Getty Images
South Africa - Team News: The Springboks have made four changes to their starting line-up from the one that begun against South Africa. Bismarck du Plessis starts at hooker in place of Adriaan Strauss while Flip van der Merwe is promoted in place of Juandre Kruger. Zane Kirchner recovers from a hand injury to take the fullback shirt with Willie le Roux shifting to the wing in place of Bjorn Basson.
Key Battle: There should be fireworks in the front-row as McKenzie's pride and joy come up against the fearsome Boks trio of Tendai Mtawarira and the Du Plessis brothers. Whoever wins the tussle there, will stand a good chance of prevailing in the Test.
Trivia: Saturday's match between Australia and South Africa is the eighth time the two sides have met in Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium. Australia have won on all seven previous occasions.
Stats: Australia have scored a try against South Africa in their last 30 consecutive matches. The last time Australia failed to cross against South Africa was when they lost 20-15 in 2001.
Betting: What better way for Cooper to announce his return to the Test stage than with a try against the Springboks - he is 18/1 to bag the first score with bet365. For an any-time try-scorer, then look no further than Willem Alberts at 9/2.
Quote Unquote: "I feel like I'm in good shape and good condition and hopefully full of running come Saturday night." - Australia scrum-half and skipper Will Genia
"If you want to grow as a group and go forward you would like to get a result here" - Ruan Pienaar on the challenge awaiting the Springboks
Prediction: Ewen McKenzie will get his first win as Wallabies coach but it will only be by a couple of points.
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)
Quade will hope to enjoy home comforts at the Suncorp © Getty Images
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Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.