Wallabies skipper James Horwill said on Monday he was taking no comfort from Australia’s recent success against South Africa ahead of their Rugby World Cup quarterfinal showdown next weekend.
Australia have defeated South Africa in five of their past six meetings, including twice this year on their way to the Tri-Nations title.
But Horwill said the dynamics of tournament rugby were completely different to the annual southern hemisphere competition and Australia could not afford any complacency against the defending world champions.
“World Cups are different,” he told reporters. “It’s a tournament, it’s knockout — this is it.
“You can put all history behind you, this is a game that we need to win, it’s a quarterfinal against the Springboks. It’s a huge occasion and you can’t read too much into what’s happened in the past.”
Horwill predicted a tight contest in Wellington and warned the Wallabies could not afford to squander any chances against the miserly Boks’ defence.
“They’re a very good defensive team, we know that because we’ve played them twice already this year,” he said.
“The games we have played, especially the one over in Durban [a 14-9 win to Australia], there wasn’t a lot in it.”
“We need to take our opportunities when we get them, whether that’s through the boot or scoring tries, we’ve got to be precise,” Horwill said.
He did not believe South Africa’s loss of in-form centre Frans Steyn to a shoulder injury would diminish the Springboks’ threat, saying fly-half Morné Steyn was also dangerous with the boot.
“Morné Steyn’s a fantastic kicker, his record at this World Cup is pretty high,” he said.
“So you’ve got to be aware that their goalkicking ability is pretty strong across the board, with or without Frans Steyn.”
Wallabies’ assistant coach David Nucifora said South Africa, who like Australia are two-time world champions, had gained momentum since the Tri-Nations.
“They were probably a little bit slow to start and they’ve gained a fair bit of momentum since they arrived here and that’s showing in the confidence in the way they’re playing,” he said.
“It’s for keeps now and they’re experienced at this type of footy, so it’s going to be a great contest.”
Getting back into the side
Nucifora predicted the quarterfinal between the southern hemisphere powerhouses would go down to the wire.
“The team that loses concentration for a split second will be the team that’s going home,” he said. “I don’t think it’ll come down to much more than that.
“There’ll be one or two opportunities to win this game on Sunday and the team that’s up for it and ready to take those chances is the one that will be staying.”
The injury-hit Wallabies received reinforcements on Monday when winger Lachie Turner and flanker Matt Hodgson arrived in Wellington to fill in for Drew Mitchell and Wycliff Palu respectively.
Turner said arriving just ahead of the quarter-finals was “nerve-wracking” but he was raring to go.
“I haven’t come over here to watch the boys play, I’ve come over here to try and get back in that side, so it’s a great opportunity for me,” he told reporters at Wellington airport.
“The team’s got the goal of winning the World Cup. I certainly share that goal and I’ll be doing everything I can to ensure I’m part of a team that goes on to win.” — AFP
View our Rugby World Cup special report for the latest news, features, match reports and multimedia here.