Springbok combinations to be put to the test ahead of Wallaby clash

BY MARC JACOBSON - SEPTEMBER 28, 2016

South Africa is set to play Australia on Saturday at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, in each side’s fifth encounter of the 2016 Rugby Championship campaign.

Australia has never beaten the Springboks at Loftus throughout their rugby history, which makes this encounter evermore defining and pivotal for the men in green and gold. The Springboks have yet to display a convincing performance in 2016 so far, with three losses on the trot amidst prior unconvincing wins in possibly their worst form since 2006 when the Boks lost five matches in a row – including a 49-0 loss to Australia.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating for Allister Coetzee and his troops, as controversy remains to cloud over the team with regards to certain selections and combinations in the team as a whole. This week, Morne Steyn is unsurprisingly set to start ahead of the out-of-sorts Elton Jantjies, while the controversial Rudy Paige, who cannot even leapfrog the Bulls’ competitive scrumhalf counterparts, is set to start in the number nine jersey. Francois Hougaard was possibly set to start at scrumhalf, but it is now believed that Coetzee will leave him at left wing, where he played against the All Blacks two weeks ago.

The much-criticised Juan de Jongh is also being slammed for his inclusion at inside centre ahead of the likes of Damian de Allende and the red hot, inform Rohan Janse van Rensburg, who has yet to make his Springbok debut and unjustifiably so. Through this, either Lionel Mapoe or Jesse Kriel is set to start at outside centre alongside de Jongh.

In the front row, Adriaan Strauss, who has been significantly absent and of-form is set to remain as captain and start at hooker, with yet another controversy selection of Bongi Mbonambi filling the hooker berth on the bench. In the hooker pecking order, neither of these two selections should be leading from the front, as both have not sufficiently proved their worth; while the impressive Malcolm Marx was dropped out of the Bok squad all together.

Marx showed deterioration in his lineout-throwing against the All Blacks two weeks ago, but his general play was still on par. After all, with a player mainly warming up the stands in all four games prior to that, rustiness in lineout throwing is excusable – conversely it is ultimately a facet of his game that is fixable.

The match this weekend against Australia remains a pivotal fixture in the context of the Springboks’ season, and possibly history as a whole. Winning should be their only priority, as even in the Springboks’ worst of times through history, namely the 2002, 2003 Tri Nations or the 2006 Tri Nations campaign; South Africa always at least managed to win their home games against the Wallabies. After losing 23-17 against Australia in Brisbane three weeks ago, the encounter this weekend is a must-win for the Springboks through the greater scheme of events.

The Springboks have played the Wallabies six times at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, throughout history, winning all six – hoping to make it seven out of seven this weekend.

Past results at Loftus:

South Africa 31 – 8 Australia (2012)

South Africa 44 – 31 Australia (2010)

South Africa 22 – 16 Australia (2005)

South Africa 20 – 15 Australia (2001)

South Africa 61 – 22 Australia (1997)

South Africa 14 – 3 Australia (1963)

Last five results between South Africa and Australia:

Australia 23 – 17 South Africa (2016)

Australia 24 – 20 South Africa (2015)

South Africa 28 – 10 Australia (2014)

Australia 24 – 23 South Africa (2014)

South Africa 28 – 8 Australia (2013)