Fri, Sep 04, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Springboks close in on Tri-Nations title


South Africa’s Bryan Habana gets away from Australia’s James O’Connor to score a try during their Tri-Nations match at the Subiaco Oval in Perth, Australia, last Saturday. The Springboks and Wallabies face each other again tomorrow.


The world champion Springboks are looking to seal their first Tri-Nations crown in five years against the under-fire Wallabies tomorrow.

The unbeaten South Africans can settle the title chase with another victory over Australia after their well-drilled 32-25 win in Perth last weekend that forced the Wallabies into mass changes for their final home international of the year.

The Springboks are nine points clear of the All Blacks and just one point from the Brisbane Test is likely to be enough to clinch the Tri-Nations, leaving the Kiwis with just a mathematical chance of the trophy.

But coach Peter de Villiers is leaving little to chance and has made just one enforced change to the starting line-up as he goes in with his strongest available team for repeat victories over the Wallabies in Australia.

Odwa Ndungane has replaced the injured J.P. Pietersen (hamstring) on the wing, while lock Danie Rossouw comes in for Andries Bekker (shoulder) on the reserves bench.

The Springboks looked on top of their game in Perth and registered the first scoring bonus-point victory of this year’s tournament with their four-tries-to-three win over the ragged Australians.

De Villiers says the Springboks can perform even better.

“I know this team can go much, much higher. Now we’re at the point where we can trust each other, we can work on the little things that can make them so much better,” he said.

“It’s frightening to know, [considering] the amount of mistakes [made] last weekend when you have played so well, the amount of mistakes they made and how good they can be [if] clinical in their execution,” De Villiers said. “We know where we can be and we know where we want to be, but we’re not taking anything for granted.”

South Africa’s victory last week was only the second in their past 13 matches in Australia and they have not won in Brisbane since 1971.

The Springboks have lost all their five Tests at Lang Park and have been held try-less in their past three Tests at the venue.

Some of the Springboks will have bitter memories of their last game here in 2006 when they were smashed 49-0, representing Australia’s biggest winning margin in 70 Tests against South Africa.

While South Africa have lost just once in seven internationals this year, the Wallabies have disintegrated after winning their first four domestic Tests.

The Australians, under coach Robbie Deans, have lost their past six Tri-Nations matches, stretching back to last year, which equals their record for most consecutive losses in the tournament.

Deans has been at his wits’ end trying to come up with a winning formula and has made five changes to the starting XV and two more on the reserves bench.

He has brought in rookie scrumhalf Will Genia, promoted winger Drew Mitchell, hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau and flanker David Pocock and welcomed the return of inside-center Berrick Barnes from injury.

Out go winger Peter Hynes, scrumhalf Luke Burgess, center Ryan Cross, hooker Stephen Moore and number eight Richard Brown.

Deans played down the changes, but he and his team have been under intense scrutiny over the past few weeks.

“We tend to approach it from a squad perspective,” Deans said. “This is by no means tokenism nor is it [wielding] a stick.”

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