Australia vs South Africa: Track the action as the Springboks face the Wallabies at the Adelaide Oval for the first time.
Australia vs South Africa: The Springboks face the Wallabies at the Adelaide Oval for the first time.
The Proteas cricket team would be more familiar with the ground, which for all its size is unlikely to generate an impressive atmosphere.
Australia will want to bring intensity to the clash especially on attack as they seek to use flair to dull the physicality of the Springboks.
AUSTRALIA VS SOUTH AFRICA: LIVE SCORES
The Rugby Championship returns to take centre stage of world rugby, as Australia host South Africa with just one bonus point separating the two nations after a frantic opening two rounds. Both sides won their opening fixtures of the tournament only to lose the following game, with Australia earning a bonus point in their initial victory over Argentina to hold an advantage over the Springboks, who will still be reeling from their contentious second round loss to the All Blacks. Both sides therefore endured a long journey to the Adelaide Oval, which will host its first Wallabies test since 2004 and this particular rivalry for the first time. That may somewhat level the playing field as far as ‘home ground advantage’ is concerned as neither side will want to give in an inch in the first of their double-header!
The Wallabies will know their defence needs to improve significantly if they’re going to remain in the mix for the Rugby Championship, after shipping 71 points in their two games against Argentina resulted in defensive coach Matt Taylor stepping down. A return home won’t spark much confidence either, given they went down 2-1 in their three match series against old foes England in July. A silver lining can be found in their recent H2H record with South Africa, against whom Australia haven’t suffered a defeat since 2013 on home soil (W6, D1), but they’re likely going to need to avoid conceding the opening points of the match for a sixth consecutive time.
After travelling to Argentina with several key players missing due to injuries and personal reasons, coach Dave Rennie seemed optimistic when naming six changes to his starting XV as he welcomed back some high profile names. Upfront, hooker Folau Fainga'a and prop Allan Alaalatoa return to the front-row alongside captain James Slipper, with Matt Philip replacing Darcy Swain at lock. Among the backs, James O’Connor makes way for Noah Lolesio, who will be looking to link up with the returning Hunter Paisami. The most talked about change has been the return to fullback of Reece Hodge, who no doubt has been brought in for security under the high ball and to help nullify the Springboks kicking game. Coach Rennie explained during the week that "with Hodgey at the back, it gives us a big kicking game which we think will be important".
South Africa will be seeking some consistency on the road given their erratic form at home this year, where a home series win over Wales and a victory over the All Blacks won’t feel all too fulfilling considering they lost to both sides along the way. The defending world champions now head down under looking to stake their claim on the Rugby Championship throne, and one would expect them to be strong favourites to get the win. However, having won only four of 29 away tests against the Wallabies since the championship began as the Tri-Nations in 1996 serves as somewhat of an equaliser.
Much like most of the rugby world, Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber is expecting an "epic encounter" as he named his side, which saw only two changes to the starting XV. Warrick Gelant takes over from Jesse Kriel on the wing, while the mercurial Faf De Klerk returns to start at scrumhalf after passing concussion protocol, meaning the forward pack remains unchanged as Siya Kolisi will continue his captaincy. This sees Malcolm Marx, who came on after 30 minutes against the All Blacks and tied the Rugby Championship record for the most ball recoveries in a game with five, drop back to the bench, where an unusual layout was named. Nienaber opted for a five-three split of forwards and backs as opposed to his usual six-three, seeing Elton Jantjies and Frans Steyn re-join the squad among the backs replacement.
Key battle: The two number 13s will engage in a heated battle as Australia’s Len Ikitau scored in each of the games against Argentina, and registered a brace the last time he faced South Africa. While Springbok outside centre Lukhanyo Am has widely been regarded as the best player in the world at the moment, and after two world-beating performances against the All Blacks and having scored against Australia in his last match against them, he’ll take some stopping.
Hot stat: A backline player has scored the first try in 12 of South Africa’s last 14 international matches.