BRISBANE, July 22 – World champions South Africa will look to steady their rocky start to this year's rugby Tri-Nations with victory over the transitional Wallabies at Lang Park here on Saturday.The Springboks crashed to back-to-back defeats against the All Blacks in New Zealand and need a morale-boosting victory against the Australians to give themselves any hope of holding on to the Tri-Nations trophy they emphatically won last year.
But the South Africans will have to end a 45-year drought if they are to succeed this weekend, having not won at Brisbane’s Lang Park in six attempts, stretching back to 1965.
Indeed the Springboks have not even registered a try in their last four visits to the ground.
The 2007 World Cup champions and last year’s top-ranked nation began their Tri-Nations title defence disastrously with consecutive 32-12 and 31-17 losses to the All Blacks, conceding to the Kiwis a maximum 10 points start in this season’s series.
Flanker Ryan Kankowski believes the ‘Boks will be smarting to atone at the Wallabies’ expense.
"Any team coming off a loss will be more dangerous," Kankowski said.
"You’ve got a point to prove and the way I look at it you are only as good as your last game and we didn’t play to our potential in the last two games.
"We want to pick each other up from the last two weeks and hopefully get it right."
Coach Peter de Villiers reacted to the defeats by making four changes to the starting fifteen and a further five on the reserves bench.
Gio Aplon starts in place of the suspended Jean de Villiers on the right wing and Ruan Pienaar is promoted in place of Ricky Januarie at scrum-half, while BJ Botha starts ahead of CJ van der Linde at tighthead prop and Kankowski is preferred to Francois Louw.
"We have two tough games behind us, but if we stick to our structures and use our opportunities I believe this team is capable of getting a result," De Villiers said.
The Wallabies, under Kiwi coach Robbie Deans, have struggled against their southern hemisphere rivals in recent years, and are searching for their first Tri-Nations’ crown since 2001.
Australia have had a mixed start to 2010 with victories over Fiji, Ireland and England, but losing their second game against the English 21-20 in Sydney last month with an injury-depleted forward pack.
The home side look to be more dangerous this time with Queensland Reds’ duo, Will Genia and Quade Cooper, reuniting at the halves and sturdy Benn Robinson returning in the front row.
Genia and Cooper were the most exciting and dangerous players in the Reds’ Super 14 resurgence this year, but have only played one Test together when scrum-half Genia broke his hand early in the loss to England.
The Genia-Cooper playmaking combination adds an extra attacking dimension to the Wallabies and to combat it coach De Villiers has switched specialist number eight Kankowski to flanker.
But the Brisbane Test comes at a time of growing unease about the Wallabies’ development under Deans a year out from the World Cup in New Zealand.
In three seasons under Deans, the Wallabies have won only 18 of 32 Tests, and only won four of 14 Tests against New Zealand and South Africa in that time.
Deans is expecting the Springboks to improve immensely against his team this weekend.
"We know they will be grumpy and we know they will be wanting a result and they have communicated themselves the importance of away wins," Deans said.
"They hold the trophy and they won’t want to be letting that go so we expect the best of them."