Boks lay siege to Suncorp
Jean de Villiers (Gallo Images)
Sydney - South Africa, with little fanfare, have constructed an eight-match winning streak over the last 11 months but to extend it to nine they will need to manufacture a first ever win over Australia at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.
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The Springboks opened their Rugby Championship campaign with back-to-back victories over Argentina and while the second was far less convincing than the first, they arrived in Australia ranked number two in the world and ready for business.
The Wallabies, by contrast, have slid to fourth in the world, lost their first two matches of the tournament to New Zealand and then their captain James Horwill to a hamstring injury on Thursday.
South Africa still go into Saturday's Test (kick-off 12:05 SA time) as underdogs by virtue of their relatively poor record on the road and having lost all seven matches against Australia at the arena where Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie enjoyed the Super Rugby success that earned him his job.
Still looking for his first win, McKenzie has restored his former Reds charge Quade Cooper to the starting flyhalf position after preferring Matt Toomua against the world champions.
Back in tandem with scrumhalf Will Genia, who will captain the side in Horwill's absence, Cooper will be expected to ignite a backline that largely failed to fire against the All Blacks.
To counter the expected aerial barrage from the Springboks, McKenzie has rejigged his back three by moving Israel Folau to fullback, putting the hulking Nick Cummins on one wing and retaining James O'Connor on the other.
"It's a really full-on attack team, without talking them up too much, I truly believe it is one of the best back lines we have faced, not just this year," Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer said.
"They're going to move the ball with Folau at fullback, they'll attack our forwards on the blind. With Cummins coming in, I've always rated him, he is a very strong runner.
"And the one thing they'll look for is that their back three is very good under the high ball so they know how we're going to play and we know how they're going to play."
McKenzie agreed with Meyer that there would be few surprises.
"I think that they've been pretty consistent with how they've played the game, so there's a lot of certainty about how they go about their business," he said.
"They've got a lot of experienced players in key positions so that's been working for them.
"I don't think there's any confusion about how they go about it. Their formula works for them so that's how they do it, that's the Springbok way.
"We're in the process of working on how we want to do it - the Australian way - but it's a bit different so you've got a clash of rugby approaches but that's just the way it is."
Meyer has changed his own back three with fullback Zane Kirchner deployed for the first time this year after he recovered from a hand injury.
But a first start in more than a year for abrasive hooker Bismarck du Plessis and the continued selection of flyhalf Morne Steyn might be a better indication of how Meyer is looking to break the Lang Park hoodoo.
"Away games will always be an arm wrestle," he said. "You get stuck in, you have to have your set phases at 100 per cent.
"You need good defence, to absorb the pressure and you need a 90-percent plus goal-kicker."
15 Israel Folau, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Adam-Ashley Cooper, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 James O'Connor, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia (captain), 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper
Substitutes: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 Ben McCalman, 20 Jake Schatz, 21 Nic White, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Jesse MoggSouth Africa
15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Juandré Kruger, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)