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Perth likely to be a battle for runner-up

Date

Paul Cully

Under pressure ... the respective coaches, Robbie Deans and Heyneke Meyer, enter this encounter with critics banging at the door.

Under pressure ... the respective coaches, Robbie Deans and Heyneke Meyer, enter this encounter with critics banging at the door. Photo: John Selkirk

Those old enough to have grey hairs will have allowed themselves a wry grin at some of the commentary emerging from South Africa this week.

Some malcontents suggested a new playing style was required to match it with the All Blacks, and that a re-evaluation of the traditional Springboks strengths was required. It's the sort of complaint that surfaces when the South Africans fail to crush an opponent through sheer physicality, as was the case in the draw with Argentina.

It won't happen. There may be tweaks but South Africa's gloriously physical style will be the same in a decade as it is now. Their under-20 side, even with the likes of outstanding prospect Jan Serfontein in the midfield, won the Junior World Championship final against New Zealand this year using four familiar bludgeons: the lineout drive, the scrum, heavy collisions and a superior kicking game. The Springboks side that takes to the field in Perth tomorrow night will not be a great one, but at least their foundations will be solid.

The respective coaches, Robbie Deans and Heyneke Meyer, enter this encounter with critics banging at the door. This is as common in coaching as selecting but Deans's situation is evidently perilous and there is no mystery behind it.

His side, in one real sense, has been going backwards for months. The Wallabies have spent progressively less time in the opposition 22 in every game this year, starting with the Scotland debacle in June. The figure fell to about 25 per cent in first Test against Wales, had dropped to 13 per cent by the third Test of that series in Sydney and stood a touch above 10 per cent in Auckland two weeks ago.

Accordingly, tinkering with the line-ups over the past three weeks has given the appearance of charging at windmills. New men have come and gone to little effect. At least the forwards can say they were simply outgunned. The lightweights behind them have underperformed.

The prevailing winds have also been against the New Zealander all year. Australian Super Rugby sides won a miserable 24 per cent of their games against South African opposition this year. The Reds, who make up almost half of the 22 to face the Springboks, succeeded in one match from five. The only team to avoid a losing record (the Brumbies, 2-2) were coached by a South African. The school of thought - recently voiced by a former coach from the analog age - that Australia is sitting on a group of players who would conquer the world if they were not being so egregiously mismanaged interprets the situation too simply.

Yet this week's XV at least gives the appearance of an improvement. Adam Ashley-Cooper at No.13 is a threat to the wonderful but declining Jean de Villiers and powerful but medium-paced Francois Steyn. Dom Shipperley is a desperately needed finisher because despite all his outstanding work, Digby Ioane's strike rate is nine tries from 27 Tests.

When the Argentinians got in behind the Springboks' defence two weeks ago, their lack of speed was palpable. Yet adventure - absent from the Wallabies this year - is first required to achieve it. The first four Argentina passes in the move that provided their try were all offloads in contact, from a counter-attacking situation. The blueprint could not be any clearer.

Problematically, South Africa have also emerged stronger from deliberations at the selection table.

The key switch is the removal of Francois Hougaard from the base of the ruck - where his clearances were substandard against Argentina - to the wing, with Ruan Pienaar taking over at No.9.

Pienaar is a confidence player but that commodity is high since playing an instrumental role in leading his Irish province, Ulster, to the Heineken Cup final.

In the pack, Andries Bekker was unrecognisably poor in Argentina, third best in every two-man collision, and makes way for the sterner Juandre Kruger. And Willem Alberts returns to his best position, at blindside, instead of Jacques Potgieter, who was repeatedly cut in half on the gainline by the low-tackling Pumas.

There should be concern about Hougaard's role on the flank, which will undoubtedly contain a roving component. If the big Springboks ball runners start to rumble through the 10-12 channel, Hougaard's eye for a gap and acceleration in the following phases will be a huge issue for Australia.

Both these sides are weaker than the outfits that contested the World Cup finals, but the result is no less in the balance.

Super Rugby 2015

Round 1
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CRU 10 vs REB 20 Report Stats
BRU 47 vs RED 3 Stats
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
LIO 8 vs HUR 22 Report Stats
BLU 18 vs CHF 23 Report Stats
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
SHA 29 vs CHT 35 Report Stats
BUL 17 vs STO 29 Report Stats
WAR 13 vs FOR 25 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHF 19 vs BRU 17 Report Stats
REB 28 vs WAR 38 Report Stats
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
BUL 13 vs HUR 17 Report Stats
HIG 20 vs CRU 26 Report Stats
RED 18 vs FOR 6 Report Stats
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
STO 27 vs BLU 16 Report Stats
SHA 29 vs LIO 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
HIG 20 vs RED 13 Report Stats
FOR 13 vs HUR 42 Stats
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHT 25 vs BLU 24 Report Stats
CHF 40 vs CRU 16 Stats
REB 15 vs BRU 20 Report Stats
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 43 vs SHA 35 Report Stats
LIO 19 vs STO 22 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF 17 vs HIG 20 Report Stats
BRU 27 vs FOR 15 Report Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
BLU 10 vs LIO 13 Report Stats
RED 5 vs WAR 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHT 20 vs BUL 39 Report Stats
STO 29 vs SHA 13 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 30 vs BLU 23 Report Stats
FOR 17 vs REB 21 Report Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU 34 vs LIO 6 Report Stats
HIG 26 vs WAR 19 Report Stats
RED vs BRU 29 Stats
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
STO 19 vs CHF 28 Report Stats
CHT 10 vs SHA 27 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
HIG 13 vs HUR 20 Report Stats
REB 16 vs LIO 20 Report Stats
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU 57 vs CHT 14 Report Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 25 vs FOR 24 Report Stats
SHA 12 vs CHF 11 Report Stats
WAR 28 vs BRU 13 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 36 vs REB 12 Report Stats
RED 17 vs LIO 18 Report Stats
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF 37 vs CHT 27 Report Stats
HIG 39 vs STO 21 Report Stats
WAR 23 vs BLU 11 Report Stats
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
SHA 15 vs FOR 9 Report Stats
BUL 31 vs CRU 19 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs STO 18:35WS
REB vs RED 20:40AAMI
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs BLU 18:35WS
BRU vs CHT 20:40GIO Stadium
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
SHA vs CRU 01:00Growthpoint Kings Park
LIO vs BUL 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BRU 18:35EP
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HIG 18:35AMI
WAR vs STO 20:40AS
FOR vs CHT 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO vs SHA 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
BUL vs RED 04:10Loftus Versfeld
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs CHF 18:35AMI
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
HUR vs WAR 15:30WS
HIG vs BLU 18:35FBS
BRU vs REB 20:40GIO Stadium
FOR vs STO 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
SHA vs BUL 02:05Growthpoint Kings Park
CHT vs RED 04:10FSS
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CHF vs FOR 18:35WS
BRU vs HIG 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs BLU 18:35AMI
WAR vs REB 20:40ANZ
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO vs CHT 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
STO vs BUL 04:10DHL Newlands
RED vs HUR 17:05SS
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
HIG vs SHA 18:35FBS
BRU vs WAR 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs FOR 16:30EP
HUR vs CRU 18:35WS
REB vs CHF 20:40AAMI
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT vs STO 02:05FSS
BUL vs LIO 04:10Loftus Versfeld
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs RED 18:35AMI
REB vs BLU 20:40AAMI
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs SHA 18:35WS
FOR vs WAR 20:40nib Stadium
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO vs HIG 00:00Emirates Airlines Park
STO vs BRU 02:05DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BUL 18:35EP
RED vs REB 20:40SS
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs CHF 18:35WS
WAR vs SHA 20:40AS
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO vs BRU 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
CHT vs HIG 04:10FSS
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
CHF vs BUL 18:35Rotorua International Stadium
RED vs SHA 20:40SS
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HUR 18:35Emirates Airlines Park
WAR vs CRU 20:40ANZ
FOR vs HIG 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT vs LIO 02:05FSS
STO vs REB 04:10DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HUR 18:35Trafalgar Park
BRU vs BUL 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
SHA vs REB 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
HIG vs CHF 18:35Rugby Park
FOR vs RED 20:40nib Stadium
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
STO vs CHT 02:05DHL Newlands
LIO vs WAR 04:10Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
HUR vs HIG 18:35McLean Park
FOR vs BRU 22:00nib Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
REB vs BUL 16:30AAMI
BLU vs CRU 18:35EP
RED vs CHF 20:40SS
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
CHT vs WAR 00:00FSS
STO vs LIO 02:05DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HIG 18:35EP
REB vs FOR 20:40AAMI
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
BRU vs CRU 16:30GIO Stadium
CHF vs HUR 18:35Yarrow Stadium
WAR vs RED 20:40AS
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
BUL vs CHT 02:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs STO 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
View All Fixtures
Super Rugby 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Hurricanes 6 6 0 0 85 27
Brumbies 6 4 2 0 73 20
Sharks 7 4 3 0 11 19
Chiefs 7 5 2 0 46 24
Bulls 6 4 2 0 24 18
Waratahs 6 4 2 0 36 18
Highlanders 6 4 2 0 22 20
Stormers 6 4 2 0 15 16
View all
 
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