Boks are hurt­ing, Wal­la­bies are wary

Bloem­fontein Test a play-off for sec­ond

Sport360 - - Motorsport Malaysian Grand Prix - By Colin Bry­den @Sport360

South Africa coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee is plot­ting a “mas­sive re­sponse” to a humiliating loss when the Spring­boks host Aus­tralia to­day in a Rugby Cham­pi­onship clash set to de­cide sec­ond place.

The proud Boks, twice world cham­pi­ons, were an­ni­hi­lated 57-0 away to world cham­pi­ons New Zealand two week­ends ago.

It was the heav­i­est re­verse suf­fered by South Africa in their 126-year his­tory, eclips­ing a 53-3 drub­bing from Eng­land in Lon­don dur­ing 2002.

The re­sult shat­tered Coet­zee and his team, who had gone to Auck­land hope­ful of at least putting up a good fight af­ter five vic­to­ries and a draw this sea­son.

But ahead of the clash with the Wal­la­bies at Free State Sta­dium in cen­tral city Bloem­fontein, Coet­zee in­sisted the Auck­land hor­ror show was a one-off ex­pe­ri­ence.

Vic­tory for the Spring­boks, who are three points above the Wal­la­bies in the stand­ings, will seal sec­ond place be­hind New Zealand.

“We have buried Auck­land,” the coach stressed to re­porters ahead of the penul­ti­mate-round match.

“It was a sub-stan­dard per­for­mance from us that is now in the past as we plan a turn-around strat­egy.

“New Zealand were un­be­liev­ably good and ev­ery­thing worked out for them,” he said, re­call­ing a match in which the Spring­boks con­ceded eight tries. “The key now is how we re­spond against the Wal­la­bies – it is go­ing to be mas­sive.

“I and my fel­low coaches are hurt­ing, the play­ers are hurt­ing, and our sup­port­ers are hurt­ing. The time to show char­ac­ter has ar­rived.

“Our matches against the Wal­la­bies, and the All Blacks in Cape Town next week­end, are about dig­ging deep.”

coach Franco Smith echoed the op­ti­mism of Coet­zee, say­ing ball re­ten­tion would be key to overcoming Aus­tralia af­ter a 23-23 draw in Perth ear­lier this month.

“You can see the de­ter­mi­na­tion and hunger in the play­ers dur­ing ev­ery train­ing ses­sion,” he said.

“We had to rein them in,” he added, re­fer­ring to a squad trimmed to 27 be­fore the team an­nounce­ment. “The guys can­not wait to get out there and play.”

While Aus­tralia reg­u­larly beat South Africa at home, they strug­gle in the re­pub­lic, es­pe­cially at the 1,500-me­tre (about 5,000 feet) al­ti­tude of the Highveld.

But their last visit to Bloem­fontein was joy­ful as a mon­ster Kurt­ley Beale penalty de­liv­ered a last-gasp 41-39 tri­umph seven years ago.

“I do not know,” replied Aus­tralia coach Michael Cheika when asked what caused the Wal­la­bies to suf­fer so se­verely from “al­ti­tude sick­ness”. “It might be in our heads. We just have to go to Bloem­fontein and do our best.

“I want this group to get a bit smarter, play more con­sis­tently and im­prove our poor away record against the Spring­boks.”

Both Coet­zee and Cheika have made three changes to the teams that started in the pre­vi­ous round, where a strong sec­ond-half show­ing gave Aus­tralia a 45-20 home win over Ar­gentina.

South Africa will give winger Dil­lyn Leyds a first start in place of de­fen­sively sus­pect Ray­mond Rhule and fit-again scrum-half Ross Cronje re­places Fran­cois Hougaard.

The other change seeks to im­prove the Boks at the break­down with Fran­cois Louw re­called for his first Test this year in place of less ex­pe­ri­enced Jean-Luc du Preez.

Aus­tralia give first starts to winger Marika Koroi­bete, lock Izack Rodda and loose for­ward Jack Dempsey with Henry Speight, Rob Sim­mons and Ned Hani­gan drop­ping to the bench.

New Zealand ref­eree Ben O’Ke­effe will be in charge of a Rugby Cham­pi­onship match for the first time.

“The time to show char­ac­ter has ar­rived” – Coet­zee

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