Australia out to make amends
July 21, 2011
Australia and South Africa prepare for Tri-Nations kick off%]
Robbie Deans' wounded Australia are out to bounce back from their 32-23 defeat to Samoa in their Tri-Nations opener against South Africa on Saturday.
The Wallabies - who came unstuck against a resolute Islanders side last Sunday - have recalled a host of well-known names for Saturday's clash, with Matt Giteau the most notable casualty from the Samoa defeat. The Springboks have similarly rung the changes after declaring 21 players unfit to travel to the away legs of their Tri-Nations campaign.
With the Rugby World Cup around the corner, both coaches are hoping to see their sides prevail in their 34th meeting in the Tri-Nations. With inclement conditions expected at ANZ Stadium, the forwards will relish a battle in the engine room - though rugby purists will hope the Wallabies' half-back partnership of Quade Cooper and Will Genia get their fair share of ball.
Australia - Player to Watch: All eyes will be on Wallabies fly-half Quade Cooper as he bids to carry his spectacular Super Rugby form onto the international stage.
Australia - Team News: Deans has made seven changes from the side that lost to Samoa. James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale come into the back-three while Pat McCabe keeps his spot at inside-centre. James Horwill and Rob Simmons start in the second-row while David Pocock is restored on the openside flank. Giteau is omitted from the 22 with Deans favouring a five-two split on the bench.
South Africa - Player to Watch: Winger Bjorn Basson is back in a Springbok jersey after his 2010 tour to the northern hemisphere ended in controversy. He will aim to prove to the Springbok selectors that he is the man to partner Bryan Habana on the wing come the World Cup.
South Africa - Team News: Props Dean Greyling and Werner Kruger and loose forward Ashley Johnson all make their debuts for the Springboks. Influential captain John Smit will make his 103rd appearance for the Boks and starts at hooker while Flip van der Merwe and Alistair Hargreaves come into the second-row. The half-backs charged with guiding the side to victory are Ulster's Ruan Pienaar and the Bulls' Morne Steyn. The backline is full of pace with Super Rugby's joint top scorer Basson taking one wing berth with Lwazi Mvovo the other. Gio Aplon will take the reins at fullback.
Key Battle: With awful conditions expected on Saturday, the match may be won and lost at the set-piece. South Africa's hooker Smit will hope to prove - despite concerns over his age - that he can still cut it at the highest level while Wallabies No.2 Stephen Moore will look to make amends following Sunday's shock defeat.
Trivia: History is on Australia's side going into the Test, with the Wallabies having won all three of their Tri-Nations games against South Africa at the ANZ Stadium - though try-scoring his been difficult. The hosts crossed the line just seven times in the three Tests.
Stats: Discarded Wallabies back Matt Giteau is Australia's leading try-scorer in Tests between the two nations, having crossed the whitewash on nine occasions.
"This second string stuff, I'm not listening to it. It's a Springbok team and if you get picked for a Springbok team, you give your best. We've got the best 22 for this game and that's how it is. It's not nice to be called the second-string team." - South Africa back-row Danie Rossouw on being labelled part of a second-string Springbok side.
"They can say what they're going to do but they have to execute and we feel like we can exert pressure on them not just through our attack but through our defence as well." - Wallabies scrum-half Genia came out fighting after it became apparent the Boks will target the Australian half-back paring.
Prediction: Australia will have the eyes of the rugby world on them come Saturday as they attempt to bounce back after defeat to Samoa. With Cooper and Genia back at the helm much will depend on the conditions, but even if the rain turns the pitch into a swamp, expect Australia's grit and determination to prove doubters wrong pay dividends.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.