Rugby Championship

Boks v Oz: 4 big one-on-ones

2014-09-04 11:41
Willie le Roux (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - The fullbacks, the flyhalves, the open-side flankers and a front-row collision ... these could be critical battles in the quest for overall supremacy when two currently slightly fragile foes, South Africa and Australia, meet in the Castle Rugby Championship on Saturday.

The Perth kick-off is at 12:05 (SA time).

Here is my choice for a potentially very appetising quartet of head-to-heads ...

Israel Folau v Willie le Roux

Finally ... it’s here! Two of the most crowd-pleasing fullbacks in the world game a little belatedly start against each other at Test level. They did lock horns twice in last year’s Championship, of course, but Le Roux was stationed at right wing in both Brisbane and Cape Town - much-maligned Zane Kirchner wore No 15 each time - and registered a try in each Bok victory. He has since blossomed increasingly in the last line of defence, adding pretty consistent defensively solidity and positional sense to his X-factor qualities on attack. Expect the Wallabies to want the explosive, strong-striding Folau bursting through the midfield a fair bit, testing a new-look Bok centre pairing with Jan Serfontein rather out of position in the outside channel. As for Le Roux, look for those trademark little dinks and unorthodox off-loads if the game opens up.

Bernard Foley v Morne Steyn

Halfback is the area of wholesale change by the Aussies after their Auckland mauling from the All Blacks, with Foley now installed at flyhalf and Nick Phipps at No 9. The Boks stay a little more settled with Ruan Pienaar retaining his scrumhalf slot, although the seasoned, less-than-mercurial Steyn is tasked with bringing some “direction” (or read: conservatism, perhaps?) at ten after being deputy to raw Handre Pollard against the Pumas. We know Foley was an assertive factor in the Waratahs’ Super Rugby title-winning campaign this year; Steyn’s big thrust here must surely be to show that he isn’t simply a knee-jerk pick who may impede the new, more up-tempo and vibrant Bok approach to things (until they were uncomfortably forced onto the back foot too often by the Argentineans). Still, one doesn’t want to knock the former Blue Bulls star too much: if the game is played in the predicted damp and windy conditions, he could be a trump-card, especially with the accuracy of his place-kicking game.

Michael Hooper v Francois Louw

Even in the Eden Park walloping, Wallaby open-side flank dynamo Hooper was one of few visiting players who refused to be cowed: he gave ace All Black poacher Richie McCaw another tough contest at the breakdown to only confirm his own class. Hooper also proved his praiseworthy stamina by staying the pace despite the bombardment, and got a try in the brief, late Aussie fightback. It’s another humungous pilfering match-up here as the lean but ever-gutsy customer takes on established Bok “Flo” Louw. The South African is crucially aided in this area by the selection of Marcell Coetzee, so used to No 6 duty for the Sharks this season, at blindside for this fixture.

Sekope Kepu v Tendai Mtawarira

I’ve chosen this particular contest, between meaty Wallaby tighthead Kepu and Bok loosehead favourite Mtawarira, because from a South African point of view I fancy the “Beast” is likeliest front-ranker to produce a genuinely decisive performance at scrum-time. When there’s a bee in his bonnet, the Sharks man can be unstoppable and he is probably due a Vickery-type demolition job on an unsuspecting opponent, isn’t he? Waratahs anchor Kepu will be well aware that his direct rival is probably smarting after being overlooked for Gurthro Steenkamp (who then under-delivered lamentably) at starting loosehead in Argentina, and on a statement-making mission. The Boks are seeking scrummaging redemption after the embarrassment at Salta ... Mtawarira must lead it!  



15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper

Substitutes: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 James Horwill, 20 Scott Higginbotham, 21 Matt Hodgson, 22 Nic White, 23 Kurtley Beale

South Africa:

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.

Substitutes: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Warren Whiteley, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Damian de Allende

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


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