By Alan Dymock
BREAKS OVER, injuries assessed and motivations re-stocked, it’s time for the Rugby Championship to bark back.
South Africa will be attempting to get their Championship title challenge back on track as they welcome the beleaguered Aussies to Newlands this weekend, a place where the Wallabies haven’t won in 21 years. The glimmer of hope comes from the fact that South Africa hadn’t beaten Australia in Brisbane for 42 years but then hushed the hoodoo with a resounding 38-12 victory last time they met. Maybe Australia can return the favour?
It is not impossible, but not many would back it. Although some may be surprised with the reinstatement of Fourie du Preez to scrum-half and Adriaan Strauss to hooker for the ‘Boks, it is still a formidable, grunt-worthy pack being twinned with a backline capable to tearing past Australia.
They in turn have moved reliable workhorse Adam Ashley-Cooper to the wing to replace Nick Cummins and Joe Tomane comes in for the disgraced and exiled James O’Connor. Tevita Kuridrani forms a midfield partnership with Christian Leali’ifano which Jean de Villiers and co. may be excited about sendigng JJ Englebrect past.
The fear is that this is another one-sided game…
That fear could also be extended to New Zealand versus Argentina in La Plata. The Pumas did run the All Blacks surprisingly close in their first meeting of the Championship, scoring the first try of that match through Juan Manuel Leguizamon – a man who has joined a short list of Argentines who have scored against all three of the SANZAR nations after dotting down against Australia last time out – but this Kiwi team seems as unrelenting as an insomniac’s alarm clock.
So while Argentina have made wholesale changes in their backline, with a new centre-pairing of Bosch and Fernandez standing out, they are still up against Smith and Nonu. The replacements for the Kiwis are vastly experienced, too. Andrew Hore comes in and Dan Carter is replaced again by Aaron Cruden.
So when Kieran Read feels a little under the weather it’s OK; he could just be replaced by Messam at 8 and Steven Luatua occupies the blindside, if Luatua is not considered a capable 8 himself. The All Blacks would then be short on the bench, but they have the quality to do without.
Mind you, this could be Argentina’s greatest chance ever to beat the All Blacks, however unlikely that is. A man down in the back-row, the Pumas could throw everything they have at the All Black’s breakdown.
If they want their first ever win they have to go high-risk.
Springboks: Zane Kirchner, Willie le Roux, JJ Engelbrect, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez, Tendai Mtawarira, Adriaan Strauss, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Flip van der Merwe, Francois Louw, Willem Alberts, Duane Vermeulen.
Subs: Bismarck du Plessis, Gurthro Steenkamp, Coenie Oosthuizen, Juandre Kruger, Siya Kolisi, Ruan Pienaar, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein.
Wallabies: Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Joe Tomane, Quade Cooper, Nic White, James Slipper, Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, Rob Simmons, James Horwill (c), Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper, Ben Mowen.
Subs: Saia Faingaa, Benn Robinson, Sekope Kepu, Sitaleki Timani, Ben McCalman, Will Genia, Matt Toomua, Chris Feauai-Sautia.
Pumas: Juan Martin Hernandez; Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, Marcelo Bosch, Santiago Fernandez, Juan Imhoff; Nicolas Sanchez, Martin Landajo; Marcos Ayerza, Eusebio Guinazu, Juan Figallo, Julia Farias Cabello, Patricio Albacete, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (c), Pablo Matera, Juan Manual Leguizamon.
Subs: Agustin Creevy, Nahuel Lobo, Juan Pablo Orlandi, Mariano Galarza, Benjamin Macome, Tomas Cubelli, Felipe Contempomi, Horacio Agulla.
All Blacks: Israel Dagg; Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea; Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith; Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Liam Messam, Sam Cane, Kieran Read (c).
Subs: Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Jeremy Thrush, Steven Luatua, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Charles Piutau.