Some sobering facts need to be pointed out Boks vs Australia -preview


THERE quite rightly has been a lot of positivity about the Springbok match 22 picked for tomorrow’s Tri-Nations Test against Australia, mostly because it contains many form players from the recently ended Super Rugby competition. But at the risk of being the party-pooper, some sobering facts need to be pointed out to give this fixture perspective.

Since the advent of the Tri-Nations in 1996, the Springboks have played 19 Tests in Australia and won only three of them, with one draw, and that unfortunate record has been with full-strength teams in action barring, of course, the World Cup year of 2007 when Bob Skinstad similarly captained a “B” team that was competitive for three quarters of the match and then could not hold on in the final quarter.

Only die-hard Springbok fans will argue that tomorrow’s match will be any different.

Further, those three wins and the draw all took place in Perth, where the Boks enjoy considerable support from former South Africans while for the Aussies it is almost an away game because there is no real rugby culture in Western Australia, despite the efforts of the Western Force.

The Boks have never won a Tri-Nations match in Brisbane or Sydney. They have lost five in a row in Sydney: 1996 (16-21), 2000 (6-26), 2005 (12-30), 2006 (18-20) and 2007 (17-25). The only post-admission match they have won in Australia outside Perth was at the Sydney Football Stadium in 1993 in the first Test of their ultimately lost three-match series.

Last year, the most experienced Springbok team of all time (750 caps), and containing all of the current superstars, lost 41-39 to the Wallabies in Bloemfontein, the last time the teams met, so what realistic chance of winning has a retreaded Springbok team of 299 caps in Sydney in 2011?

The Boks would have had a much better chance if they had played this match last week in place of Samoa, who ambushed a Wallaby team suffering from a Super Rugby hangover.

Instead, the Boks have no element of surprise and they will encounter a much chastised home team that has been vilified by every soul in Australia for losing for the first time ever to Samoa – everyone has got stuck in from the fans to coach Robbie Deans himself, with former star players and indeed the current crop admitting they let their country down.

The Boks’ challenge is further complicated by the fact that a healthy crop of Reds players has been restored to the starting line-up after being rested against Samoa because the week before they had played (and won) the Super final. The Queenslanders, spear-headed by halfbacks Will Genia and Quade Cooper and hard-grafting locks Rob Simmons and James Horwill, will bring into the side the confidence and momentum of their Super triumph.

The Boks, meanwhile, lost one of their most influential players yesterday when former captain Johann Muller’s suspect hamstring packed up when the Boks were warming up for a session at the indoor arena at Sydney Boys High School.

The session was moved there from the drenched North Sydney Oval because of the heavy rain that has been hammering Sydney for the last two days and which is predicted to continue through to tomorrow morning, with the possibility of easing up through the day towards the 8pm kick-off.

But such has been the deluge of rain that Stadium officials have ruled that neither team may have a Captain’s Run today (Friday) because the playing surface is heavily waterlogged, and drainage is notoriously bad at this venue, with rugby league teams often registering complaints.

Sharks lock Alistair Hargreaves takes over from Muller to win his first run-on cap, with Ryan Kankowski promoted to the bench – flank Danie Rossouw will cover lock and he is covered on the bench by Kankowski and Jean Deysel.

The loss of Muller is cushioned by the fact that Hargreaves has been training in the starting line-up since Muller suffered his injury in the Cape Town training camp three weeks ago, but it remains a serious setback given Muller’s experience, leadership and proficiency in running the lineout.

In short, this hungry young Bok team will do their country proud, but if they win against a switched-on, determined, full-strength Australia, it will be an even bigger upset than the Samoan win the week before.

Referee: Chris Pollock (NZ)

Springboks: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Lwazi Mvovo, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Danie Rossouw 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 John Smit (capt), 1 Dean Greyling.

Substitutes: Chiliboy Ralepelle, CJ van der Linde, Ryan Kankowski, Jean Deysel, Charl McLeod, Patrick Lambie, Adi Jacobs.

Wallabies: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 James O’Connor, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom (capt), 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Sekope Kepu.

Substitutes: Saia Faingaa, Pekahou Cowan, Nathan Sharpe, Matt Hodgson, Scott Higginbotham, Nick Phipps, Anthony Faingaa

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