The mood surrounding Australian Rugby must seem an awful lot brighter following their thrilling performance in defeat to New Zealand a fortnight ago but there’s still a lot to work on as South Africa make the trip down under.
Michael Cheika’s team gave a superb backlash performance last week, taking a 17-0 lead within 20 minutes to silence many of their doubters before bouncing back to take the lead twice in the second half before the latest of Beauden Barrett tries and his perfect kicking record managed to steal victory back from the jaws of defeat.
It was a fantastic showing, which, if repeated, will make the Wallabies’ tough to beat for anyone but before that there had been many problems for them and it’s important for Australian rugby that last week wasn’t just a one off.
Despite the concession of 35 points in Dundein, the addition of Tevita Kuridrani and Dane Haylett-Petty helped backline defence a lot with Kurtley Beale also having another excellent game. We finally saw the Australian backrow turn up, with Rory Arnold, Ned Hanigan Michael Hooper and Sean McMahon putting in heroic shifts with and without ball in hand and giving a platform for the backline to show their best.
Bernard Foley’s misses proved costly but the flyhalf had his best performance for a while with ball in hand and we saw the Will Genia of old managing to get plenty of ball out and Tevita Kuindrani shorting up the defence and allowing Israel Folau to have another fine game.
We don’t know what sort of Australian side South Africa will be facing, but on the evidence of this year we can expect the Springboks to bring a decent level of performance to the table. Long gone are the memories of last year with a catalogue of errors, uninspired play, and demoralised squad lurching to eight defeats in the space of twelve months after a 3-0 series win against France and then a pair of back to back wins against Argentina that came with ease.
They will be very happy with how they won the physical contest on both occasions and defence coach Brendan Venter hasn’t had much to complain about with three games that have seen the Springboks concede under 20 points.
The confidence of the Lions franchise appears to be running through the squad, especially with Elton Jantjies pulling the string at flyhalf and scoring a try against Argentina, and their two new wings Courtnall Skosan and Raymond Rhule have both been constant threats, with tries to their name already this Championship.
This should be a monster clash with no quarter given but South Africa appear to be a team on the up and they make appeal to just edge it.
2 pts South Africa to win by 1-12 points (2/1 Betfair)