PREVIEW: Wallabies vs Springboks

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Wallabies and the Springboks will clash at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night, the same venue at which the sides played out a thriller in their only 2015 clash.

Australia comes into the match off six straight Test losses dating back to last year’s World Cup final, but have one of their most stable teams of the season.

The Wallabies have made just two changes to their starting side, with Dean Mumm replacing Scott Fardy at blindside flanker and Reece Hodge coming on to the wing for Adam Ashley-Cooper, while Sean McMahon and Drew Mitchell will make their respective Wallabies returns off the bench. Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has stuck with the combination of Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley as his 10-12 duo.

Quade Cooper has retained the number 10 spot. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyBoth sides find themselves in somewhat of a transition phase, with the Springboks heading to Brisbane after a loss to Argentina in Salta. South Africa coach Allister Coetzee has brought in a new centre pairing in returned South African Sevens player Juan de Jongh and Jesse Kriel. Another Sevens bronze medallist, Francois Hougaard has been named on the wing for the Springboks, shifting Bryan Habana to the right wing.

Key stats

The Wallabies need just two tries to notch their 100th at Suncorp Stadium, though they have scored just one in their past two matches.

South Africa has beaten Australia just three times in Australia since 2000, in 2005, 2009 and 2013.

David Pocock has won five turnovers in the competition, two more than any other player in the Rugby Championship.

Australia is looking for its first back-to-back wins over the Springboks since 2012 and the first consecutive wins by other side in this rivalry since 2013.

Key Match-ups

Reece Hodge vs Bryan Habana

Reece Hodge will make his run-on debut on Saturday. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyReece Hodge’s Test debut was a baptism of fire and the heat will be on again this weekend. Hodge’s direct match up will be one of the most experienced wingers in the world. Habana became the most prolific try scorer in a Tier One nation in South Africa’s last Test and sits just four tries short of Daisuke Ohata as the leader across all of rugby. Hodge has answered every challenge so far in a whirlwind debut into Super Rugby season, though, and will need to do that again.

David Pocock vs Francois Louw

David Pocock will be crucial this weekend. Photo; ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyThey’re not direct opponents but Pocock and Louw will be the greatest backrow weapons on Saturday night and whoever stakes dominance in their patch will have a major impact on the result. The Springboks won’t be shying away from breakdowns against Australia, despite seeing the way the All Blacks negated Pocock’s influence in the Bledisloe Tests. Louw nearly won last year’s clash for the Springboks, with a destructive showing in Brisbane and will be a threat again. Pocock has managed a tournament-high five turnovers so far and it’s only a matter of time before that defensive strength turns a match.

Where will the game be won?

'it's a collective': Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyThe lineout. It’s an area that has let the Wallabies down in recent weeks and against the Springboks locking combination of Lood de Jager and Etzebeth, Australia’s set piece will be in the spotlight once again. This is the first Test this year that the Wallabies have selected the same second row pairing for consecutive matches, with Coleman and Kane Douglas lining up in the starting team. If the Wallabies can improve their lineout percentage, it will give their backs more opportunities, something of which they’ve been starved in recent weeks.

Wallabies team (1-15)

Scott Sio, Stephen Moore, Sekope Kepu, Kane Douglas, Adam Coleman, Dean Mumm, Michael Hooper, David Pocock, Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Reece Hodge, Bernard Foley, Samu Kerevi, Dane Haylett-Petty, Israel Folau. Reserves: Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper, Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Sean McMahon, Nick Phipps, Tevita Kuridrani, Drew Mitchell,

Springboks team (1-15)

Tendai Mtawarira, Adriaan Strauss, Lourens Adriaanse, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Francois Louw, Oupa Mohoje, Warren Whiteley, Faf de Klerk, Elton Jantjies, Francois Hougaard, Juan de Jongh, Jesse Kriel, Bryan Habana, Johan Goosen. Reserves: Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Trevor Nyakane, Franco Mostert, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jaco Kriel, Morné Steyn, Lionel Mapoe