With just one win between them after two rounds of the Rugby Championship, this is a must win game for both Australia and South Africa. Australia will be favourites to win the 89th meeting between the two southern hemisphere rivals, but an unpredictable and improving South Africa pose a significant threat in coach Rassie Erasmus’s first game on Australian soil.
Australia v South Africa Preview and Prediction
Head to Head Record
Australia and South Africa have a long rivalry, dating back to their first ever meeting in 1921, when a touring South African XV beat Australia in three Tests. In fact, South Africa has had the better of the fixture over the years, winning 49 to Australia’s 36 with 3 draws.
Home advantage has played a part in this fixture over the years, but Australia’s home edge is much smaller than South Africa’s. The Wallabies have only won 10 of the 46 matches played in South Africa, compared to 24 of the 42 encounters on Australian soil, but it’s worth noting that they’ve only lost once to South Africa in Australia since 2005.
Last year’s Rugby Championship rivalry between these sides threw up two close games. The first fixture, in Perth, saw South Africa recover from a 13-10 half-time deficit to lead 23-20 with 13 minutes to go before a Bernard Foley penalty goal for Australia salvaged a draw. Three weeks later, they met again in Bloemfontein, and once again the Wallabies led 13-10 at the break, but South Africa fought back in a thrilling second half and the game ended 27-27.
Last Ten Meetings
September 2017: Match drawn 27-27 in Bloemfontein
September 2017: Match drawn 23-23 in Perth
October 2016: South Africa won 18-10 in Pretoria
September 2016: Australia won 23-17 in Brisbane
July 2015: Australia won 24-20 in Brisbane
September 2014: South Africa won 28-10 in Cape Town
September 2014: Australia won 24-23 in Perth
September 2013: South Africa won 28-8 in Cape Town
September 2013: South Africa won 38-12 in Brisbane
September 2012: South Africa won 31-8 in Pretoria
Australia go into this crucial Rugby Championship game having picked up just one win in their last seven, a run of poor form that goes back to their 30-6 defeat at Twickenham last autumn. That was followed by a stunning 53-24 loss to Scotland to end 2017, and their poor form has continued this summer, with a 2-1 home series loss to Ireland and back to back thrashings by New Zealand to kick off their Rugby Championship campaign.
Rassie Erasmus has had a mixed start in his new role as South African coach. An experimental South African XV lost to Wales in the United States in his first game in charge, but they won the first two games of the subsequent series against England before losing the Third Test. His fifth game in charge saw the Springboks beat Argentina 34-21 but they were well beaten 32-19 in the return game in Mendoza.
Australia’s biggest injury worry concerns star full back Israel Folau, who missed the last game at Eden Park and is struggling to return to fitness after an ankle problem, and prop Taniela Tupou is also a doubt after suffering a hamstring injury. Brumbies lock Rory Arnold has been rewarded for his strong start to the National Rugby Championship with an international call-up, and he joins Brandon Paenga-Amosa and Caleb Timu as the new additions to the squad.
South Africa have freshened up their squad by recalling hooker Schalk Brits and the uncapped outside back Cheslin Kolbe of Toulouse has also been added. There has been some debate over possible changes to the South African pack after their underwhelming performance in Argentina, but the most likely change would be the recall of Pieter-Steph du Toit to the number 7 in order to help combat the threat of Michael Hooper and David Pocock, with Springboks skipper Siya Kolisi shifting to open-side flanker.
Before last weekend’s surprise defeat in Argentina South Africa would have fancied their chances of beating the struggling Wallabies, but that game underlined how much work Rassie Erasmus still has to do to mould a Rugby Championship-winning side.
Still, they are closer to being the finished article than the current Australian side. A run of six defeats in seven games tells its own story, and there were no signs of any improvement in the two Bledisloe Cup games. Hooper and Pocock remain match winners at the break down but South Africa have one of the world’s best forwards in Malcolm Marx to counter them.
History and their recent respective performances suggest that there won’t be too much between these sides, and I wouldn’t be confident about Australia covering even a small handicap, so the visitors look the better option.
- Back South Africa -5 at 10/11
- Back South Africa by 1-5 at 11/2
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