Two teams looking to right wrongs, polish the nameplate and repair their dented reputations. The Wallabies were held to a duck by the Blackness (for the first time in over 40 years) and the Bok forward pack lay on their collective backs, wagged their tails and invited the Pumas to sniff their bums in an inept display harkening back to the dark era of Dolf Straeuli.
This should set the scene for this weekend’s clash to be a humdinger, with the Boks trying to steamroll the Wallaby pack and the Wallaby backs looking to bamboozle the Bok defence by passing the ball further out than the first channel from the ruck.
Both teams are missing key players in the likes of Bismarck du Plessis, JP Pietersen, James O’Connor and Wycliff Palu. As much as decent replacements have been called up they are not in the same class as these outstanding players. They also have fly-halves who have been seriously misfiring recently.
Both coaches are tweaking their selections and strategy, which should be read as some serious head-scratching, vigorous shouting and pointing at Xs and 0s on sheets of paper. Whether this can translate into form on the field is the million buck question. Will the Boks be able to turn in a dominant forwards display with an accurate kicking game and will the Wallaby backs catch the ball and not run into each other?
In this article we look at the Wallabies team and what we make of their chances.
Deans would love to start Tatafro for this Test as he brings a big-tackling, hard-running game, which you need in order to nullify the simple Bok strategy of running through you. He’ll have to make do with Squeaky Moore, a better technical hooker and great player around the fringes. Should Moore falter, Saia Fainga’a will be munched as he is not an international-class hooker.
On the side we should see Alexander and Robinson with Slipper on the bench. I would expect to see Jannie du P. targeted come scrum time with hooker and prop boring in on him to pop him out and milk the penalty.
The second row of Sharpie and Timani will be hard-pressed to compete legally at lineout time but will make up for it by putting in sterling hard-working performances in the tight and decent support in the scrum. There is a serious question of whether Sharpie still has the puff, but whom else could Deans throw to the Terminator?
The loose trio is a huge headache for Deans without Pocock there. I definitely expect to see Hooper start with perhaps Gill and then Higginbotham, but that gives an average age about 21 from three players who also give up five inches in the lineout. I expect to Samo start, but he’s lucky to get to 50 minutes without needing a quick cup of tea and a snooze.
Perhaps Deans gives hard-grafting Dennis another go? I think Dennis is a very good player; he is just part of an unbalanced loose trio.
Genia and Cooper are a given and I expect to see a lot of plays starting way behind the gain line. In fact I suspect that they will be working on them on the practice field. Plays called things like ‘run hard at the nearest prop/lock’. Cooper really misses having O’Connor outside him. JOC seems to break the first tackle and give the Wallabies backline more momentum than it has had recently.
Genia and Cooper will be looking to snipe around the fringes, but they will find less success than they used to with the replacement of the aging Bok forwards. Funnily enough I expect Cooper to have a blinder – he seems to relish the Bok encounters.
In the centres Barnes and AAC are a good call. Barnes brings steel to the midfield channels to stop Steyn running hard at Cooper and AAC is relishing his reclaimed position as outside centre.
The outside-backs complement of Beale, Shipperly and Ioane have blistering pace and if Kirchner starts I expect him to be shown up by these speed merchants. The key to the Wallabies gameplan will be to manufacture space for these guys. I expect to see these guys field poor Bok kicks and to run the ball hard back at the Bok forwards en masse. Slow down as you approach the forward pack and then pop the ball to the supporting player coming through at full pace. See the bewildered Bok forward grasp at thin air….
Score prediction? Wallabies by 5, unless Goosen and Lambie get more than 10 minutes each.