Boks hope to kick-start campaign
August 11, 2011
World Cup winning fly-half Butch James will look to guide the Boks from fly-half © Getty Images
South Africa will look to breathe some life back into Tri-Nations campaign when they tackle Australia at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.
The Springboks enter this latest clash following back-to-back defeats to the Wallabies and the All Blacks on their recent overseas tour and while an under-strength squad made the trip, the pressure is on to pacify the disgruntled fans now they are back on home soil.
And with Boks boss Peter de Villiers admitting the Tri-Nations title is now beyond his side, he will hope to unite the country behind his under fire charges ahead of the visit of World Cup favourites New Zealand and the tournament itself. The Wallabies were taught a rugby lesson by the All Blacks last weekend and with coach Robbie Deans having just one further chance to hone his side before the World Cup, the pressure is on to remind the world at large that there is more than one southern hemisphere side capable of winning the Webb Ellis Cup.
Entering this latest Mandela Plate clash, the Wallabies will also take hope from the fact that they broke their South African jinx last year with a 41-39 win in Bloemfontein while Durban also holds little fear following their 27-15 victory on their last visit. But they are unlikely to get everything their own way with so much on the line.
South Africa - Player to Watch: Scrum-half Fourie du Preez comes into the Springboks side for the first time since lining up against Ireland in November 2009. On his day - du Preez is one of the world's premier half-backs though he will have an immense weight of expectation on his shoulders come Saturday.
South Africa - Team News: Du Preez and Heinrich Brussow are named in the side for the first time in 21 months while John Smit captains the side. He is joined in the front-row by Tendai Mtawarira and Jannie du Plessis while Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha take their place in the second-row. Danie Rossouw and Pierre Spies join Brussow in the back-row. Butch James and du Preez take the half-back reins while Bryan Habana and J.P Pietersen will start on the wings. Jacque Fourie and Jean de Villiers are the starting centres while Francois Steyn aims to guide the side from fullback.
Australia - Player to Watch: Following a fairly quiet performance by his standards against the All Blacks last weekend - Quade Cooper will aim to make amends against the Boks. Despite his undoubted quality, if the tide is going against Cooper he has been seen to go back into his shell and make a series of errors.
Australia - Team News: Scott Higginbotham gets his first start for the Wallabies while Nathan Sharpe comes back into the side in place of Rob Simmons. Elsewhere, it is the same side which took the field against the All Blacks last weekend. Digby Ioane will hope to continue his rich vein of form against the Boks having crossed the line in their 39-20 win back in July.
Key Battle: Following the breakdown lesson handed to him by Richie McCaw last weekend - David Pocock will go out all guns blazing against his opposite number on Saturday. Brussow will hope to re-find his 2009 form which saw him recognised as one of the stand-out fetchers on the planet but has had limited game time since then. With Schalk Burger hoping to accrue some match time before the World Cup starts - Brussow will hope to prove to de Villiers that he is worthy of selection in the 30-man squad and more importantly in the starting line-up.
Trivia: Despite appearing for the Springboks five times in the last 14 months - the last time Butch James took the fly-half reins from the outset was back in 2008 against the Australians in Johannesburg.
Stats: The Springboks have a mixed record in Durban against the Australians having won two of their four match-ups with the Wallabies prevailing on the two other occasions. The Wallabies won the last time the pair met at Kings Park edging the hosts 27-15.
"It's great to have Fourie and Heinrich back as they were two of the leading players in world rugby when they last played in 2009, and they contributed a lot to Springbok success that season. This is the first step back for them, but we're looking to them to have the same impact in due course."
"We didn't handle the opening onslaught in Auckland and that set us on the back foot for the remainder of the match. The South Africans won't have missed that. More of the same will be coming. It is important we adapt better and get ourselves into the contest from the start."
Prediction: With many of their stellar names back in the side for their clash with the Australians, South Africa will be out to impress in front of their home crowd. Expect the game to be played at a ferocious pace with the Springboks prevailing by a 10 point margin.
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