Writing Wallaby test match previews has become a game of Russian roulette; you’re never quite sure which chamber is about to blow your brains across the internet. Fiji – click. Poms Perth – click. Poms Sydney – BOOM!
This probably explains why Robbie Deans has started to take on the haunted look of a prisoner out of the Deerhunter and we’ve become lax on writing the previews!
So ignoring that round lurking somewhere in the cylinder, here’s my thoughts on the game tomorrow.
As Austin pointed out so clearly in his video post, the All Blacks have shown us the key to beating the World Champs; aggressive defence. Hitting the Boks behind the gain-line is critical. It kills their forwards momentum and perhaps even more importantly neutralises their attacking kicking game, as an effective (onside) kick chase can’t be mounted.
The Wallabies can do this. See the game against the Poms in Perth and the Boks last year in Brisbane. The technique and skillset is no doubt there, but as the saying goes, “it’s all about the top two inches”. If I have a fear in this respect, it’s who will be the catalyst for the commitment and aggression that’s needed? In last year’s match up it was Polota-Nau who led the way with some fantastic hits. Who can do it this time around? In my mind this would be the single most important role Rocky Elsom could play as captain.
If I were the Boks, the area I would be targeting would be the set piece. While I don’t believe the Bok scrum is particularly formidable, Saturday’s Wallaby pack is at least 4 men down from its best, and hinges on Benn Robinson coming back from injury.
While the scrum could end up at about parity, the lineout – a crucial attacking platform for the Wallaby backs – will have King Victor all over it. In the games last year where the Wallabies inexplicably let their Tri-Nations competitors off the hook, the lineout was a much underrated source of the Wallabies undoing. Even with a predominantly ball in hand game-plan, winning territory through penalties or a territorial kicking counts for nothing if the ensuing lineout is lost or spoilt.
However, assuming the Wallabies can get hold of enough quality ball, there is attacking opportunity aplenty. If Sanchez Genia can recapture his usual form, then I see him creating havoc with runs and flat passes to the likes of Faingaa, Sharpe and Elsom through the transition zone of the ruck. Having made three or four incisions past the gainline, expect the Bok up-and-in defensive line to be in tatters, offering Quade Cooper and Matt Giteau a veritable smorgasbord of holes to aim at.
Eddie Jones on Ruggamatrix pointed out that the majority of tries scored in this years Super 14 came in under 5 phases. In other words, endless recycling doesn’t magically create tries. Make the first few phases count, take that momentum and strike. Static ball is dead ball.
Injury, and it would seem random selection luck, has resulted in the Pee Divvy rolling out a faster, more dangerous side than the plodders who got walloped in the Shaky Isles; with the likes of Kankowski, Pienaar and Aplon providing much needed speed in both attack and defence.
However, this has a been a long grind of a tour for the South Africans, at the end of which they traditionally falter. Add to the this the hoodoo of BrisVegas where they last won in 1971, and you’ve got to think this Wallaby team with the average age of 24yrs 11months (3rd lowest ever in Tri-Nations history, 28 months younger than RSA) and a pack weighing 41kg lighter should have the ability to play the pace of game that a Boks squad with five players on the wrong side of 30 will struggle with.
Despite the missing Wallaby personell, this is a game the home team should win; “click” or BOOM?
Gagger says: Click. Wallabies by 8
|Benn Robinson||1||Gurthro Steenkamp|
|Saia Faingaa||2||John Smit [c]|
|Salesi Ma’afu||3||BJ Botha|
|Dean Mumm||4||Danie Rossouw|
|Nathan Sharpe||5||Victor Matfield|
|Rocky Elsom [c]||6 / 7||Ryan Kankowski|
|David Pocock||7 / 6||Schalk Burger|
|Dick Brown||8||Pierre Spies|
|Will Genia||9||Ruan Pienaar|
|Quade Cooper||10||Morne Steyn|
|Drew Mitchell||11||Bryan Habana|
|Matt Giteau||12||Wynand Oliver|
|Rob Horne||13||Jaque Fourie|
|James O’Connor||14||Gio Aplon|
|Adam Ashley-Cooper||15||Zane Kirchner|
|Stephen Moore||16||Chiliboy Ralepelle|
|James Slipper||17||CJ van der Linde|
|Rob Simmons||18||Flip van der Merwe|
|Ben McCalman||19||Dewald Potgieter|
|Luke Burgess||20||Francois Hougaard|
|Berrick Barnes||21||Butch James|
|Kurtley Beale||22||Juan de Jongh|