It’s the battle of the heavyweights. Two two-time world champions face each other for only the third time in a Rugby World Cup. The victors of the past two occasions have gone on to take home the Webb Ellis Trophy. Will it happen a third time?
Date: 9th October 2011
Time: 6.00pm NZDT/6.00am BST
Venue: Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (NZ)
After the scare against Wales in their first pool match, the reigning champions have eased into the quarter-finals finishing top of Pool D. But the physical and controversial last pool match against Samoa has left key players Frans Steyn and Bakkies Botha ruled out of the tournament through injury. This will be a tough match for the Springboks, against the last side to beat them before the Rugby World Cup started, but they have players who have succeeded in knock-out rugby and won the World Cup before. That experience could prove vital in what should be a close encounter.
Nobody would have expected Australia to end up on this side of the draw but defeat to Ireland in the pool stages made it a Northern/Southern Hemisphere split. Like their opposition, Australia too have struggled with injuries as centre Rob Horne broke his cheekbone against USA and the unlucky Drew Mitchell pulled up with a hamstring strain against Russia. They will want to do better than the quarters this time, having failed to get past England in Marseille four years ago, but beating South Africa and possibly New Zealand in consecutive weeks is something they managed in the Tri-Nations this year, can they do it again?
What to Expect from South Africa:
South Africa will want to make sure that it is a forwards dominated match so they can deny Australia’s backs from getting any ball. The set pieces will be crucial: Matfield and Roussow vs Horwill and Vickerman is a tasty line out battle, meaning Smit and Moore will have to be at their best throwing in. I expect the loose forwards: Brüssow, Burger and Spies to be menaces at the breakdown, particularly Brussow who has David Pocock to contend with. The backs will be exploiting any gaps made in the Wallabies defence – Fourie and de Villiers will be key to releasing the wingers Pietersen and Habana.
What to Expect from Australia:
In contrast to South Africa, Australia will want to make sure that they give their backs as much ball as possible. The Wallabies need Quade Cooper at his best for breaking through South Africa’s defence while James O’Connor’s kicking needs to be spot on. The pressure will be on the forwards, who are improving but still struggle against sides who treat forward power as their speciality, as shown against Ireland. If Australia can get their scrum and line out right then they’ve got that platform for their backs to showcase their creativity.
All Eyes On:
John Smit has had his critics over the past couple of years. The emergence of Bismarck du Plessis: who has pushed Smit out of the hooker jersey and into the tighthead one for their Super 15 franchise The Sharks, has left fans wondering if Smit still is the best South African hooker. Not forgetting Saracens’ Schalk Brits either as a contender. The captain will need a big match on Sunday, showing not only his leadership, but also that he is the best South Africa have got.
Quade Cooper has had a mixed World Cup so far, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous…typical Cooper then. At fly-half he needs to be the catalyst for the Wallabies’ backs and to do so with Burger, Brüssow and Spies running at you every time you get the ball in your hands is a hard ask. His defence will also be tested so he will need to tackle well, as South Africa can cause so much trouble when they get over the gain line.
Head to Head: Heinrich Brüssow v David Pocock
With one of the key areas in this match being the breakdown, it will be down to Brüssow and Pocock to secure and steal ball for their teams. Both men will need to tread carefully on the tightrope between legal and illegal and work out quickly how referee Bryce Lawrence will monitor the rucks before using that to their advantage. With Brüssow fitter and with more game time behind him after the last time these two faced each other it will be more of an even challenge, with both opensides picking and choosing which rucks to go for. Whichever way it turns out, the fans will have been treated to two of the world’s best openside flankers at their best.
Last Result: South Africa 9-14 Australia, 13th August 2011, Durban
12° and set to be a dry one in Wellington
It’s a really hard one to call. South Africa have the momentum of having been unbeaten throughout the tournament so far but Australia will have learned from the defeat to Ireland, plus they beat the Springboks en route to Tri-Nations glory. It’s South African experience of knockout rugby vs Australian youth and creativity. I think that the experience and forward power should win, but it will be very close and exciting for the neutrals. South Africa by 3.