Wellington Regional Stadium, WELLINGTON
Robbie Deans believes his young Wallabies have finally "come of age" to book a Rugby World Cup semi-final blockbuster with the All Blacks.
Deans hailed his Gen-Y Australians' incredible courage under fire in Sunday's tension-filled 11-9 quarter-final triumph over the defending champion Springboks in Wellington.
Despite enduring four times more defensive work than South Africa, the Wallabies somehow conjured victory through a late penalty goal to ice-cool winger James O'Connor.
"What you saw was the most experienced World Cup side in the world really turn the screws on the youngest," Deans said.
"So the boys came of age as far as they accepted that challenge and stood up to it.
"It was an epic World Cup encounter."
While no player was more heroic than champion Australian flanker David Pocock, 21-year-old O'Connor's nerve to boot the Wallabies into the last four with a 72nd-minute penalty from 34 metres out typified the side's newfound composure on the biggest stage.
"The encouraging thing about that was that he wanted that - he was looking forward to that opportunity to kick that goal," Deans said.
"It's a great sign and it's a great trait in a competitor."
O'Connor is renowned for his exciting attack, but Deans was delighted that Australia's youngest player showed maturity beyond his years.
"He showed a lot of courage defensively in his tackling. He also showed a lot of courage in the air," Deans said.
"No doubt a lot of South Africa's approach was targeted at him and he not only stood up to it, but I guess he also had the last say."
New Zealand confirmed their semi-final appointment with a comfortable 33-10 win over Argentina in Auckland in Sunday's last quarter-final.
The All Blacks will enter the mouth-watering trans-Tasman showdown warm favourites to extend Australia's 25-year hoodoo at Eden Park, but midfielder Berrick Barnes said Sunday's Houdini act at the Cake Tin had galvanised the Wallabies.
Barnes also heaped the pressure on Australia's fierce foes, reminding New Zealanders that the All Blacks had never beaten the Wallabies at a World Cup.
The Wallabies ambushed New Zealand in semi-finals in 1991 and 2003 in the two southern hemisphere giants' only two previous meetings at the global showpiece.
"They're worried about us come World Cup time too," Barnes said.
"There's Aussie hoodoos left, right and centre here and 80 minutes at Eden Park come next Sunday.
"So that will tell us won't it."
The high-stakes encounter between Australia's Tri Nations champions and the world's top-ranked line-up will also carry the added edge of New Zealander Deans sitting in the Wallabies' coaching box after being controversially overlooked for the All Blacks' top job in 2007.
Deans was assistant coach of New Zealand when the Wallabies upset the Blacks eight years ago in Sydney and said he couldn't wait for the next chapter in the two sides' World Cup history.
"World Cup semi-finals - nothing better," he said. "There will be a lot of emotion running, don't worry about that."
Wales and France will square off in the first semi-final in Auckland on Saturday and Deans believed anyone could win the tournament.
"I've got no doubt that the next couple of weeks will be the best World Cup Rugby that we've ever seen," he said.
"The bar just keeps going up in terms of the capability of the sides."
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The clearing of a number of injuries has allowed Australia to return almost in its entirety to the combination which opened its Rugby World Cup campaign, after the Wallabies side was announced today for Sunday’s quarter-final against South Africa in Wellington.
Australia kicked off the tournament with a commanding 32-6 win over Italy and all of those starters apart from centre Anthony Fainga’a, who returns from injury via the bench, reappear in the run on list for this weekend’s sudden death encounter with the defending Rugby World Cup champions.
Fullback Kurtley Beale, winger Digby Ioane and inside centre Pat McCabe all return, after coming off the injured list, amongst a raft of changes from the run on side which featured last Saturday when Australia out-classed a gallant Russia 68-22 in its final Pool C match in Nelson.
Beale replaces injured winger Drew Mitchell, with James O’Connor relocating back to the right wing; McCabe steps in for Berrick Barnes, while Ioane resumes in the place of stand in Radike Samo, who relocates back to his favoured No 8 jersey.
Samo’s return to the back of the scrum is one of five changes to last week’s forward pack, with flanker Rocky Elsom (bench), second row Dan Vickerman (rested), tighthead prop Ben Alexander (rested) and loosehead prop Sekope Kepu (bench) all reinstated.
No 8 Ben McCalman, lock Nathan Sharpe, prop James Slipper and hooker Tatafu Polota Nau all drop to the bench while loose forward Scott Higginbotham has been omitted, with the versatile McCalman tagged to cover all three loose forward positions.
The versatility amongst the Australian backline resources has also played its part in the make-up of the bench, with reserve halfback Luke Burgess joined by flyhalf/inside centre Barnes and proven midfielder Fainga’a among the back reserves, in a substitutes bench which features a traditional three-back, four-forward split.
“We’ve gone with the players, and the combinations, which have served us best through the year to date,” Wallabies coach Robbie Deans says.
“Obviously injury, and managing individual player work-loads, has been a factor in selection through the tournament so far, but fortunately a lot of the injury problems that we’ve had are now behind us. The players that are coming back into the team after breaks are good to go.”
One of those is McCabe, who has overcome a sub-luxed shoulder, suffered after coming off the bench as a replacement during the 67-5 defeat of the United States of America in Wellington two weeks ago.
Prior to the injury, which forced the 23-year-old to miss last weekend’s match, he had occupied the Wallabies inside centre position for seven consecutive Tests this year.
This includes both of Australia’s previous Test wins over its quarter-final opponent.
The full Australian backline for Sunday’s game is the same as that which featured when the Wallabies beat South Africa 14-9 in Durban two months ago en-route to the country’s first Tri Nations title in a decade.
All but two of the starting forwards are also the same, with the differences being that Samo starts, after coming from the bench at King’s Park, while Vickerman takes over as the starting second row from Sharpe.
While Australia boasts a good recent record against South Africa, Deans says results in the past are “irrelevant”.
“All that matters is Sunday. The winner goes on, the loser goes home. Taking comfort from previous games is the quickest path way to the airport! The knock out phases of the World Cup are completely different to every other type of rugby we play: the stakes are higher, the intensity greater and the margins between success and failure smaller. We’ve seen that to some extent already in the tournament through the key pool matches and you can pretty much guarantee that it will all only intensify from here.”
Deans has previous coaching at experience at the tournament, having been the coaching coordinator of an All Black side that finished third in 2003 – New Zealand’s best World Cup return since the All Blacks were beaten in the 1995 final.
New Zealand eliminated South Africa 29-9 in Melbourne in the quarter-finals of that event, which rates as South Africa’s most recent defeat in Rugby World Cup, after the Springbok class of 2007 went through that tournament unbeaten.
“South Africa still has the core group from the last World Cup together. They know what it takes to be successful in knockout rugby and know how to close out the tight games,” Deans says.
“They’ve already shown that in this tournament when they came from behind to beat Wales by a point [17-16]. They have a group which has the knowledge and belief that it can get things done. They will bring that mentality forward with them on Sunday. If we are going to earn the right to advance to the next round, we have to match it.”
The match will be refereed by Bryce Lawrence of New Zealand.
The Wallabies team to play South Africa in the third quarter-final at the Rugby World Cup, at the Wellington Regional Stadium on Sunday (kick-off: 6pm NZ time, 4pm AEDST) is:
15. Kurtley Beale (NSW Waratahs)
14. James O’Connor (Western Force)
13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies)
12. Pat McCabe (Brumbies)
11. Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds)
10. Quade Cooper (Queensland Reds)
9. Will Genia (Queensland Reds)
8. Radike Samo (Queensland Reds)
7. David Pocock (Western Force)
6. Rocky Elsom (Brumbies)
5. James Horwill (Queensland Reds, captain)
4. Dan Vickerman (NSW Waratahs)
3. Ben Alexander (Brumbies)
2. Stephen Moore (Brumbies)
1. Sekope Kepu (NSW Waratahs)
Run on Reserves:
16. Tatafu Polota Nau (NSW Waratahs)
17. James Slipper (Queensland Reds)
18. Nathan Sharpe (Western Force)
19. Ben McCalman (Western Force)
20. Luke Burgess (NSW Waratahs)
21. Berrick Barnes (NSW Waratahs)
22. Anthony Fainga’a (Queensland Reds)
Australia v South Africa – Historical Notes
• This will be the 77th meeting between Australia and South Africa at all venues. Australia has won 31 and South Africa 44, while one match has been drawn.
• The two teams have opposed each other twice previously at Rugby World Cup, splitting the results. South Africa beat Australia 27-18 at Cape Town in 1995 in what was the country’s maiden World Cup match. Australia returned the favour four years later, edging the Springboks 27-21 in extra time in London to eliminate the defending champions from the 1999 tournament, which Australia went on to win.
• The 1999 defeat was the first suffered by South Africa in a World Cup match, and one of only three the Springboks have sustained at the tournament, being followed by losses to England (pool) and New Zealand (quarter-final) at the 2003 event in Australia.
• Wallabies coach Robbie Deans was co-coach of the New Zealand side which beat South Africa 29-9 at Melbourne in 2003 to eliminate the Springboks in the quarter-finals of the fifth Rugby World Cup.
• Australia, which has competed at all seven Rugby World Cups, and South Africa, which is attending its fifth tournament, are the only two nations to have twice been crowned as Rugby World Cup winners.
• Sunday’s match is the 39th to be played by the Wallabies at the Rugby World Cup, and Australia’s seventh quarter-final. The Wallabies have won 31 of their matches at the tournament, and four of their six previous quarter-finals, with the losses at that stage of the tournament being sustained against England in 1995 and 2007.
• Adam Ashley-Cooper is the only surviving starting back from Australia’s 2007 quarter-final against England, while Rocky Elsom, Dan Vickerman and Stephen Moore remain from among the run on forward pack. Bench players Berrick Barnes and Nathan Sharpe also featured four years ago at Marseilles where Australia exited the tournament following a 10-12 defeat.
Coach Peter de Villiers made three changes to the team that started against Samoa – one of the changes forced by injury – in a combination featuring 836 caps, surpassing the previous record of 815 posted against Wales in the team’s opening match of the tournament.
Captain John Smit and loosehead prop Gurthrö Steenkamp return to the front row, while Jean de Villiers resumes his place in the No 12 jersey in place of Frans Steyn, who suffered a tournament-ending shoulder injury in the 13-5 victory over Samoa.
The XV includes eight players who started in the 2007 Rugby World Cup final as well as three players who were part of the squad. Only Pat Lambie, Morne Steyn and Heinrich Brüssow of the starting team were not involved in 2007, while Pierre Spies was originally selected but had to withdraw due to illness.
Bismarck du Plessis drops to the bench where he is joined by CJ van der Linde, Willem Alberts and Francois Louw, who were all replacement forwards against Samoa.
The versatile Francois Hougaard retains his place among the back replacements where he is joined by flyhalf Butch James and outside back Gio Aplon.
1. Gurthrö Steenkamp
2. John Smit (c)
3. Jannie du Plessis
4. Danie Rossouw
5. Victor Matfield
6. Heinrich Brüssow
7. Schalk Burger
8. Pierre Spies
9. Fourie du Preez
10. Morné Steyn
11. Bryan Habana
12. Jean de Villiers
13. Jaque Fourie
14. JP Pietersen
15. Pat Lambie
16. Bismarck du Plessis
17. CJ van der Linde
18. Willem Alberts
19. Francois Louw
20. Francois Hougaard
21. Butch James
22. Gio Aplon
TEAM MILESTONES AND RECORDS
• The starting lineup has 836 combined caps. This is the most experienced Springbok side of all time, with 21 more caps than the team that played against Wales in South Africa’s opening game in this tournament.
• This will be South Africa’s 30th test match in RWC tournaments. Of the previous 29 tests, only three were lost, for a winning percentage of 89.7%, the best of any participant in this tournament.
• South Africa have scored 115 tries in Rugby World Cup tournaments and 1 000 points.
• The first test that was played by South Africa on a Sunday was against Italy in Rome on 12 November 1995. Since then the Springboks have played in 13 tests on a Sunday. They have won them all.
PLAYERS’ MILESTONES & RECORDS
• John Smit will captain the Springboks for a world record 83rd time, in his 111th Test and 17th RWC match, both Springbok records. All 17 tests have been consecutive, placing him alongside Brian Lima of Samoa and one match behind record holder Martin Johnson of England who played in 18 consecutive RWC Matches. Smit is the only captain in RWC history to have captained his team in three RWC tournaments.
• Victor Matfield will play in his 110th test for the Springboks. He is the most capped lock forward in Rugby Union and has scored 7 test tries in his Springbok career.
• Bryan Habana extended his Springbok career try-scoring record in tests for South Africa to 40 tries in 73 tests against Samoa. His 10 RWC tries are also a Springbok record.
• Jaque Fourie is the most capped Springbok centre (57) and leading centre try scorer (28). Fourie and Jean de Villiers will extend their Springbok record as a centre pairing to 26 tests on Sunday.
• Morne Steyn passed the 400-points mark in Springbok rugby during the test against Samoa. He is currently the top point scorer in this tournament with 53 points. He will also play in his 22nd consecutive test match.
• Pierre Spies is South Africa’s top try scorer in tests as a No 8 with 7 tries.
• Schalk Burger is South Africa’s most capped flank forward with 65 tests and shares the Springbok try-scoring record for a flank with Juan Smith with 11 tries each.
• Danie Rossouw has scored six tries in RWC tournaments, a Springbok record for a forward.
• Gurthrö Steenkamp is South Africa’s top try scorer as a prop in tests with 6 tries. Three of his six tries were scored against Australia.
• Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis will play together as brothers in their 20th test should Bismarck be used from the bench.
• Butch James is South Africa’s most capped flyhalf with 37 tests. Butch played in 6 tests in RWC 2007, but only once as a substitute against Wales in this tournament.
• Francois Hougaard is South Africa’s top try scorer in this tournament together with Frans Steyn with 3 tries each.
• CJ van der Linde will play in his 35th test as a substitute should he be used off the bench.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
24/07/2010 Australia won 30-13 in Brisbane.
28/08/2010 South Africa won 44-31 in Pretoria.
04/09/2010 Australia won 41-39 in Bloemfontein.
23/07/2011 Australia won 39-20 in Sydney.
13/08/2011 Australia won 14-9 in Durban.
Peter de Villiers made his International Coaching debut in June 2008 against Wales in Bloemfontein. His match record is as follows: 47 test matches of which 30 were won with 17 losses for a win percentage of 63.8%.
Robbie Deans is a former All Black who played in five test matches for New Zealand. Following a successful career with the Canterbury Crusaders (under his guidance the Crusaders played in seven Super Rugby Finals of which his team won five), he was appointed as Head Coach of the Australian Wallabies in 2008. He made his International Coaching debut in June 2008 against Ireland in Melbourne.
His match record since then is: 52 test matches of which 30 were won, 21 lost with one drawn for a win percentage of 57.7%.
WELLINGTON REGIONAL STADIUM
South Africa have played seven Tests at the venue: Five were lost – all against the All Blacks – while two have been won during this tournament, against Wales and Fiji.
Bryce Lawrence of New Zealand made his Test debut in 2008 in a Tri-Nations test between Australia and South Africa. The test was played in Perth and was won by Australia 16-9.
Sunday’s match will be his 20th Test appearance and his seventh involving the Springboks. Of the previous six tests South Africa won 4 and lost two. Both losses were against Australia, the most recent, earlier this year in Durban when the Springboks lost 14-9.
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