Fri, Aug 04, 2006 - Page 22 News List

Wallabies hope to get Tri Nations campaign on track

CONFIDENT Australia's coach believes his side can still win the trophy, but is preparing his men for a stiff challenge from South Africa tomorrow

AP , SYDNEY

Australia still harbors hopes of winning the Tri Nations rugby title and wants to get its campaign back on track with another win over South Africa.

The Wallabies had a 49-0 win over the Springboks in Brisbane last month, but bookended that with home and away losses to New Zealand and surrendered the Bledisloe Cup -- the symbol of trans-Tasman rugby supremacy -- for a fourth straight season.

New Zealand leads the expanded Tri Nations -- this season it includes three rounds instead of two -- with a perfect three wins, including last weekend's 13-9 defeat of Australia.

The Wallabies have one win and two bonus points and the South Africans are yet to register a competition point after two comprehensive losses.

But the South Africans are desperate to avenge the heavy July 14 defeat -- its worst to Australia -- on Saturday in Sydney and take confidence into its home section of the series.

And Australia coach John Connolly expects the Springboks to be more potent.

"I definitely don't expect what we walked into in Brisbane. They'll be a lot more confrontational, a lot more physical," Connolly said yesterday.

A win would increase Australia's prospects of challenging New Zealand for the Tri Nations title, despite having to travel for their last two matches.

"If we get away with maximum points here, there's a belief that we can run New Zealand very close [at Auckland on Aug. 19] and New Zealand have got to play South Africa twice at altitude," Connolly said. "History shows they've found that difficult over the years, so it's still all to play for."

Connolly made two changes to his lineup, giving loose forward Wycliff Palu and hooker Tai McIsaac starting roles at the expense of No. 8 Scott Fava and Jeremy Paul.

Springbok coach Jake White also made two changes to his first XV following the last-start 35-17 loss to New Zealand, with winger Akona Ndungane returning from injury for Breyton Paulse and Johann Muller earning a second-row spot at Albert van den Berg's expense.

South Africa was heavy penalized for its rushing defense in its last match against Australia.

This time, recalled flyhalf Butch James has been tasked with closing down Australian playmaker Steve Larkham.

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