It’s no disrespect, says Australia rugby coach Robbie Deans about resting his breakdown kingpin George Smith for today’s Tri-Nations test against South Africa at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg – but in that decision lies the confidence and the class of the Wallabies.
SuperRugby reports that the Wallabies have outplayed, or rather annihilated, the Springboks at breakdown in the two tests between the sides this year, but the reality is this is not the only facet where the Boks must improve immeasurably if they are to turn their two defeats around. And added to that, of course, is the obstruction to victory that coach Peter de Villiers’s gameplan vision brings.
Seventeen handling errors in Durban could have been just one of those days for the Boks.
But a look at the overall statistics for the 2008 Tri-Nations series to date point to an ineptitude that does not make a positive result today seem likely:
- * The Boks have turned over 42 rucks and a total of 132 balls in possession, Australia 27 and 75;
- * The Boks have missed 62 tackles, Aus 52;
- * South Africa have won 213 rucks (average 43 per game), Australia 284 (average 71 per game);
- * The Boks have conceded 68 penalties, the Aussies 37.
To beat the Wallabies, therefore, South Africa will suddenly have to work as a unit at breakdown time; hold onto their lineouts; make their tackles; hold their passes; and above all take their opportunities which have been there but squandered.
Whether this is possible with an uncertain lot who are either not buying into what De Villiers wants or don’t have the necessary skill, remains to be seen.
The feeling is that a victory will be less earned than presented to them by the Wallabies.
The uniqueness and attraction of rugby lies in the approach of the individuals and team as a whole to a match – arguably more so than in any other team sport.
Therein lies South Africa’s best hope of keeping their 45-year record in Johannesburg.
The Wallabies could be a little cocky, even over-confident after last week’s Bok fiasco in Durban.
A Wallaby win will not clinch the Tri-Nations for them as the match against the All Blacks next Saturday remains a decider – which could further lead to a feeling of comfort on the visitors’ part.
This test, as captain Victor Matfield rightly says, is important because a win will allow the Boks to undertake their year-end tour to the UK on a more positive note.
Matfield’s task it will be to make the players believe they can win. They’ll also have to play more sensibly and, if they employ De Villiers’s style, limit that to the last 20 minutes or so.
Otherwise the Wallabies will have another field day against a Bok backline packed by cumbersome tight forwards who have to tackle elusive backs; and rucks ripe there for the Wallaby picking in the absence of those forwards.Tweet