Wallaby coach Robbie Deans kept his team selection cards close to his chest ahead of the Tri-Nations clash against the Springboks in Durban on Saturday.
Phil Coetzer writes for Rugby 365 that the coach took care not to reveal what his selections would be on Saturday, especially at loose forward, as the Aussies went through their paces at Bishops high school on Monday.
Coach Deans was in high spirits, and was obviously relishing the chance to try and reinforce Australia’s chances of winning the Tri-Nations this year.
Australia have had a break from Test rugby over the past two weekends. Their last match was the Auckland encounter against the All Blacks, which they lost 10-39 on a day when Deans’ tactic of selecting two fetchers in Phil Waugh and George Smith, backfired somewhat as the Kiwis ran riot, especially in the line-outs.
Deans was quizzed on whether he would be entertaining using such a tactic again this week, considering how South Africa struggled at the breakdown against New Zealand last Saturday, but the wily coach was not about to spill the beans this early in the week.
“When you come second everything goes wrong,” said Deans, reflecting back on the Auckland match.
“We came second on that day, but we got another one coming up. We’ll consider our selection for that obviously, and that will pertain to the Springboks.
“It’s very much a team game, but there are individual components within that, and we’ll look at what we believe will serve us best against the Boks,” he continued.
“We haven’t made those decisions yet, believe it or not, so we’ll have those discussions and settle on a combination.
“There are 22 players, all fit blokes, and we’ll be working hard to have them maximising the opportunities that they have. And whether we’ll end up with two fetchers at the ground, be it at the start, or at the finish, or at all, we’ll know soon.
“No two days are the same to that end, but we’ll make those decisions and get on with it,” he said.
The coach said that he expected somewhat of a backlash from the Springboks, who will no doubt be very keen to regain some lost pride after the manner and scoreline of the Newlands defeat.
“The Boks are just a very proud nation, and a very capable team, so you always expect the worst.
“We’ll throw everything into this opportunity this weekend, and try to make the most of it. I don’t know whether there is a secret to touring well here in South Africa.
“You have to do the best with what you’ve got, and make the most of your circumstances in every instance. I’m genuinely not interested in the past – you’re only as good as what you put out on the day.
“They’ll see us as a different proposition to the All Blacks, and they’ll identify some things that they think will work for them. I’ve got no idea what they are, but I’m sure they’ll have plans.”
The Aussie mentor gave a little bit more away when the questioning turned to his scrumhalf options.
Australia’s first-choice option at No.9 this season, Luke Burgess, did not tour to South Africa due to injury, which leaves veteran Sam Cordingley and Brett Sheehan fighting it our for a spot in the Aussie starting XV on Saturday.
“We have two [scrumhalves] with us, and other players who have played in that position before, like Matt Giteau.
“I think it wouldn’t be a surprise that we’ll look to experience. So I’m probably breaking team protocol and giving you an insight there, but that’s probably not surprising,” a smiling Deans joked.
Two players, flank Rocky Elsom and lock James Horwill, did not take part in full training, but went through some boxing drills apart from the main squad.
Both players were seen walking with ice packs strapped to one of their feet, but Deans allayed fears about their fitness.
“They’re both recovering well, their progress has been good.
“They ran today, and reported no ill effects from that, so we’ll just see how they go, and see how they respond to that work, in particular tomorrow [Tuesday].”Tweet