Will Wallabies win in Bok country?

The Wallabies have a fine recent record against the Springboks but will that continue this afternoon? [more]

Will Wallabies win in Bok country?

The Wallabies have a fine recent record against the Springboks but will that continue this afternoon?

The Lions’ next opponents have won the last five encounters between the two teams and knocked them out of the 2011 World Cup in the process.

And while much has been made of possible discord within the Wallaby camp after Quade Cooper’s ‘toxic’ comments, things seem pretty rosy when it comes to facing South Africa.

Australia won the last fixture 26-19 in Perth as they recovered from back-to-back Rugby Championship defeats to New Zealand with a hard-fought triumph despite being without the likes of captain James Horwill, stand-in skipper David Pocock and star utility back James O’Connor.

Continuing that fine run will be even more difficult than ever this afternoon, though, especially as those three key men will be missing once more. So too will Quade Cooper, Will Genia and veteran hooker Stephen Moore, as well as previous long-term absentees Wycliff Palu, Ben McCalman, Joe Tomane, Cooper Vuna and Drew Mitchell.

Google Ad Manager – In Article

Then there’s the fact that today’s match takes place at Fortress Loftus Versfeld, a venue where the Lions suffered second-Test heartbreak in 2009 and one the Springboks simply love to play at.

Australia have never won in Pretoria and even experienced one of their darkest days and most humiliating defeats there when they conceded 61 points back in 1997. The three failures that have followed at Loftus have at least been closer affairs but the 44-31 reverse last time out in 2010 suggests the Wallabies will need to shore up their defence if they are to have any hope of stopping that particular rot.

There are plenty more positives aside from the five-match winning run, however, and the Wallabies will begin their latest fixture in optimistic mood, even if their own media aren’t quite so confident. Australia’s most recent performance at altitude proved victory is well within their reach, while the Boks are hardly in the best of form themselves.

Kurtley Beale kicked the Wallabies to a last-gasp success in Bloemfontein two years ago as they registered their first win on the Highvelt for some 47 years and that has to give Australia heart. That incredible 41-39 victory was a major milestone for Robbie Deans and co so ending the Loftus hoodoo now seems somewhat less daunting.

And it’s definitely a less frightening fixture than it has traditionally been given the uncertainty within the Bok camp.

The hosts may have been on a four-match losing streak when they met at the same venue two seasons ago but at least they were packed with big-name veterans like Victor Matfield who was making his 100th Test appearance that day. This current South African outfit is far less familiar as head coach Heyneke Meyer looks to put his own stamp on the squad, and it’s far less experienced, too.

Then there’s the fact that the Boks have won just once in the Rugby Championship so far and are already receiving plenty of stick from their own fans about the nature of their recent results and performances. If the Wallabies start well, the passionate Pretoria crowd might just turn on their own and give the visitors a real boost as they bid to break new ground.

Perhaps the deciding factor could be the performance of the two tens, Kurtley Beale and Johan Goosen.

Both men have been picked to add an attacking edge to their respective sides as their coaches ignored more pragmatic choices in favour of the unpredictable and the unknown.

Beale has never started an international at fly-half, while 20-year-old Goosen has never begun a Test full stop. The inclusion of the former came after injury to Cooper while the latter’s promotion followed Morne Steyn’s off day with the boot against the All Blacks but both men find themselves with plenty to prove.

Beale was publicly berated for his form and fitness earlier in the tournament, while his opposite number is being touted as the golden boy of South African rugby. Both men have been told to play their natural games despite the external pressure, though, and that should lead to plenty of excitement and no shortage of heart-in-the-mouth moments in a season-defining encounter.

South Africa: Zane Kirchner; Bryan Habana, Jaco Taute, Jean de Villiers (captain), Francois Hougaard, Johan Goosen, Ruan Pienaar; Tendai Mtawarira, Adriaan Strauss, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Andries Bekker, Francois Louw, Willem Alberts, Duane Vermeulen

Replacements: Tiaan Liebenberg, Pat Cilliers, Flip van der Merwe, Marcell Coetzee, Elton Jantjies, Juan de Jongh, Pat Lambie

Australia: Berrick Barnes; Dominic Shipperley, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Pat McCabe, Digby Ioane, Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps; Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota Nau, Ben Alexander, Kane Douglas, Nathan Sharpe (captain), Dave Dennis, Michael Hooper, Radike Samo

Replacements: Saia Fainga'a, James Slipper, Rob Simmons, Scott Higginbotham, Liam Gill, Brett Sheehan, Anthony Fainga'a

Previous story No9 dream for Blair and Murray
Next story Wallaby injury woes worsen