CAPE TOWN, August 8 – South Africa aim for a home clean-sweep when they tackle Australia in the Tri-Nations on Saturday having comfortably disposed of the All Blacks with back-to-back wins.But the world champions know that Robbie Deans’ side, with fly-half Matt Giteau in prime form, will pose more challenges than New Zealand.
South Africa have leapt to the top of the Tri-Nations table after recording successive wins against the All Blacks, while Australia will go into the game having last played three weeks ago.
On that occasion the Wallabies suffered a 22-16 defeat to New Zealand.
Deans’s men will, however, be well-rested this weekend, while the Boks are coming off not only two gruelling battles with their fiercest rivals, but also a three-Test series with the British and Irish Lions, which they won 2-1.
Both starting teams are unchanged from their last matches, with the only newcomers to the sides taking up places on the replacement benches.
For the Boks, fit-again Ruan Pienaar replaces Wynand Olivier, while Peter Hynes comes in for veteran loose forward Phil Waugh on the Wallaby side.
A win for the Boks on Saturday would set them up for the away leg of the competition, and a possible third Tri-Nations title to go with the ones captured in 1998 and 2004.
Springboks coach Peter de Villiers, however, was reluctant to look too far ahead this week.
"We’ve got four matches to go, three of those away from home so it’s not going to be easy," said De Villiers.
"A lot can still happen and on Saturday we face an Australia team who play with a lot of structure and who like holding onto the ball for long periods.
"They like putting phases together and will certainly ask a lot of questions in the lineouts."
De Villiers added: "On top of that they have a genius in Matt Giteau, so we’re in for a tough Test."
The Wallabies will, indeed, look to fly-half Giteau to dictate matters, but it is up front where Deans’s men will have to find a solution to thwarting the Boks pack.
De Villiers’s forwards, led superbly by captain John Smit, with Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Bismarck du Plessis and Pierre Spies not far behind, must now rank as the best assembled pack in world rugby following their dominant display against the All Blacks.
And in flanker Heinrich Brussow, the Boks have unearthed a player who got the better of All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw.
He will again be key on Saturday as he comes up against George Smith, widely regarded the best openside alongside McCaw.
Their individual battle for possession on the ground will go a long way in determining who comes out on top.
Deans said he could not wait for the clash.
"It’s a fantastic task coming up against the world’s best team. This is a big opportunity for all of us," he said.
He added he wasn’t expecting anything new from the Boks.
"They’ve got a good kicking game, and it worked well for them against New Zealand. I’m sure they’re going to play similarly against us."
The Boks may play straight-forward rugby, but it’s effective and in new fly-half Morne Steyn they have a goal-kicker who will punish any Wallaby mistakes.
Australia haven’t won in Cape Town against the Boks since 1992 and if they are to change that statistic, Deans’s team will have to produce a far better performance than the one they dished up in Auckland three weeks ago.