Boks look to prolong Wallabies' misery

The world champion Springboks can take a significant step to winning their first Tri-Nations title in five years if they can prolong the Wallabies’ winless misery on Saturday.

South Africa lead the All Blacks by four points (12 to 8) heading into their Australasian tour leg after beating New Zealand twice and the Wallabies in their three home encounters in late July and August.

South Africa have recalled Ruan Pienaar to their starting side for Saturday’s match.

Pienaar, better known as a scrumhalf or flyhalf, was surprisingly named at fullback ahead of his Sharks teammate Frans Steyn, who announced earlier this year he had signed a deal to move to French club Racing Metro.

Steyn, who became the youngest player to win a World Cup when he helped the Springboks to victory in 2007 aged 20, was relegated to the bench.

He joined flanker Schalk Burger, making his comeback from a ban for eye-gouging against the British and Irish Lions in June, on the reserve bench.

Burger replaced Danie Rossouw, who is nursing a slight hamstring strain, in a Springbok squad unbeaten in this year’s Tri-Nations.

The Springboks have employed their effective kick-and-chase game to master the British and Irish Lions, the All Blacks and Wallabies this year, and coach Peter de Villiers predicted much the same tactics upon arrival in Perth this week.

“Entertainment is one of the boxes we want to tick off but it doesn’t mean it is the first one,” De Villiers said. “We didn’t invent this game and we didn’t write the laws.

“The law changes called for us to adapt and our adaptation, at this moment, is spot on and I am proud of how the team has adapted.

“It doesn’t mean that we can’t carry the ball, that we can’t drive, that we don’t have a good line-out game or scrumming game.

“We are winning and our obligation is firstly to all South Africans, and then to the rest of the world.”

While South Africa are in the ascendancy, the Wallabies are looking for their first win in the southern hemisphere championship after going down agonisingly in the final minutes 19-18 to New Zealand in Sydney last week.

Injuries to inside-centre Berrick Barnes and lock Nathan Sharpe haven’t helped their cause this week but coach Robbie Deans has hinted at continuing with an expansive game plan against the dour Boks.

“In terms of our personnel, we are confident we can get the job done,” he said.

The Wallabies have just two losing bonus points from their three Tri-Nations Tests, and simply must beat South Africa this weekend to keep alive in the tournament or again endure another week of soul-searching.

South Africa, who last won the Tri-Nations in 2004, have struggled for recent results in Australia, winning just once and securing a draw in 12 encounters this decade.

The Springboks’ overall record at Perth’s Subiaco Oval looks far better, with two wins and a draw in five meetings with the Wallabies.

One area that will be a fascinating contest will be in the scrums.

Australia dominated at scrum time during the second half of the Springboks’ 29-17 win in Cape Town earlier this month.

Wallabies prop Benn Robinson expects the Springbok forward pack to come looking for redemption in Perth.

“They’ll come back looking at that game and come back firing,” Robinson said.

“You’ve got players there like [John] Smit who have played 70-odd Test matches, so he’s got plenty of experience.

“And you’ve got the Beast [Tendai Mtawarira] at loosehead as well.

“They’ve got a very experienced front row so we can’t take that for granted.

“You are only as good as your last scrum.”

One Wallaby walking a fine line this week is Richard Brown, who has the threat of suspension hanging over him if he transgresses again with another yellow card.

The back-rower was sent to the sin bin in the Cape Town loss to the Springboks and the Bledisloe Cup defeat in Sydney last Saturday.

If the Wallabies can break through for their first win in this year’s series, they will get another opportunity against the Springboks in Brisbane on September 5.

The Boks then face a potential title showdown with the All Blacks in New Zealand a week later.—AFP, Reuters

South Africa: Ruan Pienaar; JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana; Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez; Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, Heinrich Brussow; Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha; John Smit (captain), Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Jannie du Plessis, Andries Bekker, Schalk Burger, Ricky Januarie, Adi Jacobs, Frans Steyn.

Australia: James O’Connor; Lachie Turner, Ryan Cross, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Peter Hynes; Matt Giteau, Luke Burgess; Richard Brown, George Smith (captain), Rocky Elsom; Mark Chisholm, James Horwill; Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson.
Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Al Baxter, Dean Mumm, David Pocock, Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Drew Mitchell.

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