Breaking bad: Israel Folau will capitalise on any loose kicking by the Boks. Picture: REUTERS
Breaking bad: Israel Folau will capitalise on any loose kicking by the Boks. Picture: REUTERS

The Springboks have spent the week, in public at least, trying to exorcise the ghosts of Albany, but behind the scenes, their attention has turned to the challenge the Wallabies pose in their Rugby Championship clash this weekend.

Both the Boks and Wallabies have been humbled by the All Blacks this season and so the two sides have to be content with playing for second place.

SA has a mathematical chance of winning the title, but coach Allister Coetzee rather oddly conceded that the title was out of reach. Australia, by contrast, has no hope of winning the championship, but a Bok scalp would do nicely.

The Boks are also desperate to show that the 57-0 hammering in Albany – the worst defeat in the 126-year history of Springbok rugby – was a once-off abject performance. Except that there have been several of those in the past 15 months, notably against the All Blacks, but also against Italy and Wales.

The only way the Boks can answer their critics is on the field, with a strong performance against Australia. But even though they have to focus on the task this weekend, there is a feeling that regardless of the outcome against the Wallabies, nothing will change the Boks’ standing until they have proven that they can at least live with New Zealand on a rugby field.

The squad, though, does not have the luxury of dwelling on what lies ahead at Newlands next week. They have to focus on the challenge that the
Wallabies pose.

Australian victories in SA are rare, with only 10 wins in 44 matches. But two of those wins have come in four outings in Bloemfontein, which included their last visit here in 2010. That day Kurtley Beale kicked a late penalty to give the Wallabies a 41-39 victory and Beale will again be a threat to the Boks.

He is not quite the slippery character of seven years ago, but he has matured into a high-quality play maker around whom the Wallabies base most of their attacking game.

"Kurtley Beale is a creative player and more of threat by the way he puts people around him in space," Bok backline coach Franco Smith said.

"We managed that aspect quite well in Perth and we will have to do it again."

Fullback Israel Folau is another who poses a huge threat, especially if wayward kicking allows him space and time on the ball.

"Israel Folau is extremely potent in the air and he has good feet, so it’s important to limit his space by keeping the ball away from him," Smith said.

Altitude could be a factor for the Wallabies, who have been preparing in Johannesburg, but it is no longer a big issue after years of Super Rugby intelligence on how to deal with a match so high above sea level.

"You can’t hide from the fact that altitude’s a different atmosphere, but the players get used to it pretty quickly and adapt to it pretty quickly," Wallaby skills coach Mick Byrne told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"The big one is [that] it’s not at the front of your mind. You set your protocols before you come here, you know what you’re doing and then when you get here, you just get on with it."

Smith felt that altitude is unlikely to be a defining factor, although it could give the Boks a slight edge.

"The altitude might be a factor but we will control what we can control," Smith said.

"They will have learnt over the years to manage the altitude," he said.

"Knowing the Aussies, they will try and score early and ask us to catch up. They have learnt their lessons in the past, but we won’t dwell on history or altitude to help us win the game."

Please sign in or register to comment.