Springboks won't be taking injury-depleted Wallabies scrum lightly

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Springboks captain Eben Etzebeth says South Africa won't be taking an injury-depleted Wallabies front row lightly at Ellis Park on Sunday morning (AEST).

The Wallabies have lost three of their regular props, with looseheads Scott Sio (adductor) and Tom Robertson (ankle) flying home mid-week and Allan Alaalatoa (foot) ruled out of Sunday’s match later in the week.

Australia still has experienced 86-Test prop James Slipper and centurion Sekope Kepu lining up in their front row but they could be relying on debutant Harry Johnson-Holmes, who only arrived in Johannesburg on Wednesday night, late in the game.

Etzebeth said he expected the Aussies to provide as tough a contest as ever despite their injuries.

“Beast and Trevor (Nyakane) and those guys will probably have a look at that,” he said.

“They'll make their own plans between them and give us some feedback on that but definitely think they'll be prepared for the scrum battle and I know Beast is always ready for a nice scrum battle. 

“I think, also for Australian guys whoever steps into the position, they'll play for Australia they'll do good for Australia. 

“Once you put on your international jersey, well that's how it is for us South Africans, you're a different guy and you always give your best, so I'm sure those guys who are filling those gaps are great rugby players.”

South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus said earlier in the week he expected Israel Folau’s absence would be a blow to Australia’s aerial game and Etzebeth echoed that view on Friday local time.

“It's not a state secret that Israel Folau is probably one of the best in the world so they definitely lose a little bit without him but...there's guys filling in, Banks is in his place,” he said.

“There's guys filling in his spot and I'm pretty sure they will do just as good as a job but Folau is great in the air, that's probably the aspect they will miss but they will prepare in other ways for that.”

Etzebeth will step into the captaincy for the first time in two years when he runs out at Ellis Park and said it was a responsibility he took seriously.

“Words can't really describe, it’s a massive honour,” he said.

“There's some big names who have led South Africa before and just to be in the same role as them again is an unbelievable honour for me and it's just great running in front.

“Obviously when you're captain, you always feel a little more responsibility, you lead the team, you make the decisions on the field. 

“There's always a little bit more responsibility but there's senior guys in the team who has my back and it's really good.”

The Wallabies take on South Africa at Ellis Park, Johannesburg on Saturday July 20, kicking off at 5:05pm local, Sunday 1:05am AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and Kayo.