Richard Ferguson

Australia vs Springboks: The Preview

Written by Richard Ferguson (Richard Ferguson)

Posted in :Original Content, Springboks, The Rugby Championship, Wallabies on 6 Sep 2013 at 08:00
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Australia hosts the Springboks in round three of the Rugby Championship this weekend, and a crunch match it is set to be. Let’s take a look at some of the key areas and match-ups and see if we can select a winner based on that.

Before we start, I have to note that is the toughest match of the tournament so far for the Springboks, having faced the Argentinians in the first two rounds. Even though the Boks beat the Argies comprehensively in South Africa, they struggled to a win in Argentina. The first victory may seem comprehensive, but considering the Argentinians are ranked tenth in World Rugby, the result should have been expected.

Australia comes off two losses against New Zealand, and even though their confidence might be low, they will know they have faced the toughest opposition already, and the matches from here on in will only get easier. Facing the Springboks in Brisbane, where the Wallabies have never lost to South Africa, will give them the belief that they can uphold that record and get on the board with their first win of the tournament.

Starting in the front, we have to compare packs. The Springbok pack is known to be big and tough, with plenty power and will be expected to dominate. While I agree that the Springbok front row with Beast, Bismarck and Jannie is stronger than the opposition, as well as the second row being better thanks to James Horwill being injured, the loose forward battle is a much closer contest.

In my mind, the Australian loose forwards of Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper and Ben Mowen are more mobile and better on the ground than the South African trio of Francois Louw, Willem Alberts and Duane Vermeulen. Louw may be the best South Africa have to offer in terms of a fetcher, but Hooper is most likely the best in the world and has the added benefit of being faster than Louw. Alberts is a wrecking ball, but we have seen how he can be targeted with smarter players and become wholly ineffective. As for the two eighthmen, Mowen is a more complete player, even though I am a big fan of Vermeulen.

As soon as we start looking at the backline, we will see the odds shift firmly in favour of the home team. Will Genia is the world’s best scrumhalf, there is no doubt, and South Africa are stuck with Ruan Pienaar, who may be solid, but will be under the cosh from early in this match. And we all know what happens when Pienaar is under pressure, he buckles. And a buckling scrumhalf will do the rest of the backline no favours.

Ewen McKenzie has opted to start Quade Cooper in this match, and even though he is as predictable as the weather on a Durban summer’s day, he has a point to prove. His elusive running style will haunt the South African defence and is sure to keep the back three guessing in terms of his tactical kicking game. A back three that has been shuffled and includes Zane Kirchner who has played very little rugby, might I add.

The Australians are sure to have a better kicking game on the night, having two flyhalves in Cooper and Lealiifano, both able to step into the channel to clear. The Boks have countered that to a certain degree, having two fullbacks in the back three.

Matching up the midfields we have the experience of Jean de Villiers and the brute strength and pace of JJ Engelbrecht facing up to a flyhalf in Lealiifano and a wing in Adam-Ashley Cooper. Cooper is a strong runner though, similar to Engelbrecht, with Cooper definitely the stronger on defence.

That leaves us with the back three. This is where the Aussies have got it right for this match, selecting Israel Folau at fullback. This shift from wing will give the ex-league star so much more space on attack, and with the Springboks’ game plan of kicking away possession, Folau is set to run at them all day. The wings are no slouches, with James O’Connor, yet another with flyhalf experience, as elusive as Beale on the run, and a flyer in Nick Cummings, who has pace to burn. The same can be said about the South Africans though, with Willie le Roux as elusive as his counterpart, equally quick as well. In Bryan Haban, the Boks have a try scoring machine with a nose for the tryline. A very equal back three, but with the varying game plans to be employed, I suspect the Wallabies will get to run a whole lot more.

All in all, two very talented teams, but I fear that looking at the overall picture, the Australians are set to have just too much for the Springboks. The Bok pack might be able to get the upper hand, but whether the Boks run the ball or kick the ball, the Wallabies will have both areas covered in terms of their loose forwards and attacking counter attack from the back.

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Adam-Ashley Cooper, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 James O’Connor, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia (captain), 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper

Substitutes: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 Ben McCalman, 20 Jake Schatz, 21 Nic White, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Jesse Mogg

South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.

Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Juandré Kruger, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein


  • I agree Rich, and kicking on Folau will probably be our downfall in this match.

  • Comment 1, posted at 06.09.13 08:21:55 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • Must agree, Louw ,Alberts and Duane aren’t world class, they’re big and mostly ineffectual against top 3 teams. They don’t have high speed endurance that Mcaw ,Cane ,Hooper ,Luatau and Reid have. They also tend to die with the ball.

    I like Louw, but he isn’t the answer.

    Im also not a fan of our midfield ,10-12-13. I seriously am dubious about JJE at 13. We would be better off with a player like Rob Ebersohn

  • Comment 2, posted at 06.09.13 09:00:38 by Talent Reply
  • nice preview Rich

  • Comment 3, posted at 06.09.13 09:15:58 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • Ouens, did you see the Aussie video? Jaaanie…
    If I had faith like I had at the start of Heinekens stint as coach, I would have said that the ausies are going to kak for that lame video… Now I donno…

  • Comment 4, posted at 06.09.13 09:22:16 by R Hayward Reply

  • Nice one Rich! A few of my observations:
    – Keep in mind that we have a fourth loose forward who is also a menace at the breakdown in Bissie.
    – If the Aussies don’t get under Flip and Eben’s skins they might help even the odds a little further if they hit the rucks hard and fast.
    – I reckon we have an advantage in our bench over theirs IF we deploy Kolisi, Vermaak and Lambie (and Oosthuizen, Strauss and Serfontein when legs grow tired) smartly.

    Should the coaches ensure that cooler heads prevail, bad decisions by the ref don’t get to us and use their bench smartly I reckon we could sneak it. Lots of ifs and buts in there I know :mrgreen:

    My main concerns for the team at the moment are commitment (especially in defence) and not allowing the opposition or ref to get under our skin.

  • Comment 5, posted at 06.09.13 09:31:01 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • I certainly cannot argue – we are stupid and predictive enough to kick on their back three.

    That said, rugby is a game where the forwards decides who wins the game, with the backs deciding by how many.

    Simple formula in my mind – we kick, we lose. We maul and keep ball in hand, we win. Either with tries or from Steyn’s boot.

    But if Steyn and Kirchner kick the high ball all day, its all over. Not because they were better than us, but because we wouldve been oh-so-stupid.

  • Comment 6, posted at 06.09.13 13:16:40 by VinChainSaw Reply
  • It’s going to be a close game but even though better Bok teams have lost in Brisbane, they have lost better Aussie teams. Australia are ripe for the picking, they’ve had an extremely tough Lions tour and two hard games against the AB’s. They have a new coach with different philosophies and some quality players missing from the pack and back line. With no Horwill, Pocock, Beale and even Barnes, it leaves them thin and with a much weaker bench. Where will Quade defend, unlikely at fullback because Israel is a weapon under the high ball. Guess we just send Eben, Bismark and Alberts down his channel. On defense, we also need to keep our pillar and post tight around the rucks to prevent Genia’s snipes.

    The Bok game plan is obvious, but the crux is in the execution. Contesting high balls, suffocating defense, ruck and set piece dominance with the cherry as pin point goal kicking. As individuals, Morne, Zane and even Duane are limited players, but in a team game, they have their roles that make the collective better than the sum of its parts. I’m looking forward to the game and believe the Boks can take it, but I also look forward to the day when the Boks have players that can play multiple game plans, give me Lambie and anybody but Zane any day. Lets build for the future.

  • Comment 7, posted at 06.09.13 16:44:28 by Gaff Reply

  • Ah well, keo has tipped the Aussies.

    Boks are sure to take it now.

  • Comment 8, posted at 06.09.13 16:49:10 by VinChainSaw Reply
  • Think the Aussies have a lot more to fear than we do of them.

    Am not a fan of Zane but the guy is rock solid under the high ball and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. Who else could he really trust? Willie had to be moved to wing. Basson not firing and Willie not so good last game under the high ball. With Willie at FB we’d just be giving the aussies another option on attack. Personally I’d have liked to see Ludik there if he had been given a few deserved caps. Lambie, as much as I hate to admit it, is just way too useful coming off the bench slotting easily in 10 or 15.

    The Bissie and Willem combo were simply devastating before Bissie got injured. When both were starters they played off each other so well and made it almost impossible for the opposition to mark and gang tackle either one of them without allowing the other to come smashing through a weaken defence. Hoping to see some more of that tomorrow.

    I’ve got no problem with Morne as a starting 10. No one can match his accuracy with his boot and his distribution behind a dominating pack has improved massively. He also puts that invaluable extra bit of doubt in the minds of the opposition when in their half. Whenever we’ve played the Bulls I’ve feared Morne more than any other Bulls player.

    Ruan is probably my one gripe. I’d preferred a Jano start with Charl (obviously) on the bench. I don’t think HM is justified in selecting him over our local 9s.

  • Comment 9, posted at 06.09.13 18:07:39 by gregkaos Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • I for the first time am a little optimistic. No Jaundre ‘the kitten’ Kruger and a fresh and mean Bizzie. I think this time it will be a case of bigger is better. As long as we can keep it amongst the forwards all day. A sad day when I’m happy Flip is an a team lol.

  • Comment 10, posted at 06.09.13 20:07:13 by rumblo Reply
  • They do say that the forwards decide who wins a game and the backs determine only by how much.

  • Comment 11, posted at 06.09.13 23:11:54 by David12246 Reply


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