Fri, Jul 14, 2006 - Page 23 News List

Springboks to rely on their scrum

MONSTER PACK South African coach Jake White will play to his strengths and look for his forwards to dominate Australia in tomorrow's all-important Tri-Nations game

AFP , SYDNEY

Australian flanker George Smith powers over the line to score Australia's first try against England at Melbourne's Docklands Stadium on June 17. Smith's trademark dreadlocks are rumored to be the subject of a bet among the South African team.

PHOTO: AFP

South Africa are determined to prove their scrummaging dominance this weekend against an Australian side desperate to erase the memories of last week's Tri-Nations' drubbing by the All Blacks.

The Springboks' touring party has been weakened by injuries but still boasts a monster pack that coach Jake White said would attempt to assert the same control New Zealand showed when it crushed the Wallabies 32-12.

White said the Springboks in Brisbane tomorrow would target "as much as we can" a Wallaby scrum missing first-choice front rowers Rodney Blake and Tai McIsaac.

"You never move away from what works for you," White said. "If you've got a pack of forwards and that's one way you can dominate and win games, then you stick to it."

White has few other options than to rely on brute strength, given the absence of playmaker Jean de Villiers, flyhalf Andre Pretorius and flanker Schalke Burger, who are all injured, along with lock Bakkies Botha.

The casualty list has encouraged experimentation, with White handing Test debuts to winger Akona Ndungane and forward Pierre Spies as he looks to add depth to his squad ahead of next year's World Cup in France.

But White has acknowledged doubts about his own future after South Africa's scrum was shown up in a 36-26 loss to France last month, saying the axe was a constant threat to any Springbok coach.

"So we've got to make sure we get it right," he said, likening the pressure on his team to that experienced by soccer superpower Brazil before they flopped at the recent World Cup in Germany.

Australia has a formidable record in Brisbane and has not lost at Lang Park since 2003.

Wallaby prop Greg Holmes said his inexperienced front row colleagues would be playing for pride as Australia attempts to regain the momentum brought to a juddering halt by New Zealand.

"We know we didn't perform well ... we're playing for our country and so we really have to muscle up and perform better," Holmes said.

The defeat was coach John Connolly's first in four Tests since he took over the Wallabies and he will be keen to show his side is on the way to displaying the uncompromising forward play that earned him the nickname "Knuckles."

While the pre-match hype has concentrated on the scrum, Australia's backline will also receive a boost with the return of center Matt Giteau from knee surgery.

Wallabies back coach Scott Johnson said South Africa could pay the price if their defense tried to contain Giteau by rushing at him.

"It's hard to hit dancing targets, he shows it's not just a big man's game," Johnson said.

Connolly has given number eight Scott Fava his first start, while former South African Clyde Rathbone, always a favorite target for the Springboks, returns to the bench after a hamstring injury.

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