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McKenzie considers changes for Wallabies to face Boks

  
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3/09/2013


Qantas Wallabies head coach Ewen McKenzie is considering injecting some fresh faces in to the starting line up to face the Springboks in Brisbane on Saturday night in the third round of the Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship.

''We've won one Test in the last five, that's the reality of it, so I'm going to keep searching,'' McKenzie told the media in Brisbane on Monday.

''Obviously that's against quality opposition (the All Blacks and the British and Irish Lions), but that's the reality of it. If we have a bunch of guys who we think are good and you get down to 50-50 decisions and you can flick one across because you think the game or circumstance might suit it, or you haven't got the outcome you might want, then you'll have a look at that situation.”

McKenzie has a talented squad at his disposal and one player itching to get on the field in Brisbane is Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper.

''I think we've got a pretty competitive squad,” said the former Reds and Waratahs head coach, “so there are definitely positions we've got where you can make subtle changes and at the same time create some competitive tension in the group, which is the only way you're going to get the best out of the guys.''

''Quade's our most-winning Test player. 'I had a look at the numbers and aside from winger Nick Cummins - who has won six from seven - Quade is punching around the 67 per cent mark, which is the best in this Wallaby group. That's over 38 or 40 Test matches and defies the perception that he can't play at this level.''

Young Reds backrower Jake Schatz may also come into contention for a place in the match day 23.

In the Wallabies favour is the Boks dreadful record in Brisbane where they have lost their last eight Tests, including all eight at Suncorp Stadium, formerly Lang Park.

The venue was in fact the site of one of the darkest days in South African Rugby history, the 49-0 loss suffered by Jake White’s Springboks in 2006.

You have to go back 42 years, to 1971, to find a South African victory over Australia in Brisbane, a hard fought 14-6 win at the Exhibition Ground.

Overall the Wallabies and the Boks have met 11 times in Brisbane with Australia winning nine Tests and South Africa just two. The Wallabies have outscored the Boks 277-132 in the city with an average match score of 25-12, a comfortable victory to the Wallabies.

But McKenzie was not underestimating the challenge the Boks would provide as in contrast to the Wallabies one from five record in 2013, the Boks have a perfect five from five.

They started with a 44-10 win over Italy in Durban, then a 30-17 win over Scotland in Nelspruit before a 56-23 hammering of Samoa in Pretoria in the final of the quadrangular tournament.

Heyneke Meyer's team then upped the ante with a nine-try 73-13 romp over the Pumas in Soweto as part of the inaugural Nelson Mandela Sport and Culture Day celebrations. But the scores were much tighter in a bad-tempered match in Mendoza a week later with the Boks outscored two tries to one, and only the trusty boot of Morne Steyn getting them home 22-17.

''There's a genuine excitement in the group about challenging ourselves,'' said McKenzie.

''We've made mistakes, but if we just hose it down and say, 'Let's stop, it's too hard, let's just play field position', that's just going to put us in the same bucket as a bunch of other teams and they're just going to outmuscle us or do something different.''

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