Archive for August, 2010|Monthly archive page

Wallabies and Boks playing for more than pride

New Zealand may have this year’s Tri-Nations all wrapped up but with us only half way through the tournament there are still many games to be played, and for Robbie Deans and Peter de Villiers, two coaches both under a significant amount of pressure, it’s the chance to answer some critics.

Super Cooper returns for the Wallabies

Starting with Australia, the return of Quade Cooper shifts Matt Giteau to inside centre, leaving Anthony Faingaa on the bench. The Aussie backline as a result looks a lot more solid, the experience of Giteau and Ashley-Cooper in the centres gives them a good chance of putting players through the gaps, with Giteau’s dexterity and Ashley-Cooper’s x-factor. Have the Aussies got enough to go up to the Highveld and pull off a victory? They are certainly underdogs.

South Africa’s team for this weekend is excellent. Out go the unlucky Juan de Jongh and Gio Aplon, and they really are unlucky after their performances against the All Blacks. In comes mystery man Frans Steyn, who depending on whether you listen to his club Racing Metro or the Springboks is either unable to walk or fully fit, and Jaque Fourie returns from a four week ban to come in at outside centre. With Juan Smith coming back last week, the team has a real 2007 vintage about it, minus a few names, and what that means is that this is a side full of international experience, and one that really knows how to grind out a victory anywhere in the world.

Matfield reaches 100 caps on Saturday.

Also important to note is that Saturday will be the 100th cap for a South African legend, Victor Matfield. His consistency and excellence over the years has been unwavering, and whenever he retires he will join the likes of Eales and Johnson as one of the great second rows and captains of all time.

Two teams under pressure, but home advantage will be telling. South Africa to win by 10.

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Why the All Blacks hold the best position ahead of the World Cup

New Zealand’s comeback win over South Africa was not only an indication of the quality of the side, but also leaves Graham Henry’s team in an enviable position. With a few games left in this year’s Tri-Nations and an Autumn tour to the Northern Hemisphere in a couple of months, Henry has stated that he plans to use these games to blood some other players so that “we’ve got players in every position who can play at international level going into the World Cup.” The reality is that a second string All Blacks side would probably give any other team a run for their money anyway; just look at the New Zealand Maori’s performances against England and Ireland for an indication of just how good the strength in depth is.

Aaron Cruden could step up from his apprenticeship role.

With Dan Carter now set to be out for 8 weeks after an ankle operation, 21 year old Aaron Cruden should be the man to come in, in what is a fantastic opportunity to test himself out at international level against the Boks and the Wallabies. Other players who could be rested include the slightly elder statesmen of the team such as Brad Thorn, Tony Woodcock and Kevin Mealamu in the forwards, whilst in the backs New Zealand have so many top young fliers that the likes of Muliaina, Rokocoko and Conrad Smith can easily be replaced. Bearing this in mind, here’s a stab at what an All Black second string may look like:

Ben Franks, Corey Flynn, Neemia Tialata, Sam Whitelock, Anthony Boric, Victor Vito, Liam Messam, Adam Thomson, Alby Mathewson, Aaron Cruden, Rene Ranger, Benson Stanley, Richard Kahui, Zac Guildford, Israel Dagg.

Apart from a doubt at 7, it doesn’t look bad at all. Great for the All Blacks, ominous for everyone else.

Boks mix it up for Johannesburg test.

Francois Hougaard comes in at 9.

Many changes to the line-up see Gio Aplon, JP Pietersen, Frans Hougaard, Juan Smith and Jannie du Plessis all come back in. Gio Aplon has his first start at full back for South Africa, such an important position in defence, especially so against New Zealand. The centre partnership of Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh is to me the best the Boks can put out. Whilst up front, Flip Van Der Merwe gets a first start at lock and will relish going up against Brad Thorn. Ricky Januarie in my eyes has done little wrong but Hougaard may give the back line a similar spark. Whether the changes will make SA stop the All Blacks though is open to debate, such has been there impressive form so far.

South Africa: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Victor Matfield, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Danie Rossouw, 19 Francois Louw, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Butch James, 22 Wynand Olivier.

Date: Saturday, August 21
Kick-off: 17:00 (15:00 GMT)
Venue: FNB Stadium, Johannesburg
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Alain Rolland (Ireland), Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

Bledisloe 2- All Blacks a game away from the title

Tomorrow morning New Zealand could take this year’s Tri-nations title with 4 games still left to play. Their performances over the last few months have been excellent, they are unbeaten, and having adapted to the new set of laws with what is being labelled as an “all-action” style of rugby, they have simply brushed everyone else aside.

Anthony Faingaa makes a first start at 12

For Australia last week’s defeat stemmed from a combination of being starved of possession and silly errors. The red card given to Drew Mitchell following examination from the judiciary panel has been deemed a bit unlucky, but would Australia have stopped with New Zealand with 15? It’s hard to say. Robbie Deans has obviously felt changes were needed so in come the Faingaa twins, Saia and Anthony of the Queensland Reds. As for Anthony, good luck to him, because he’ll be facing the wrecking ball that is Ma’a Nonu.

To have your first start at inside centre against the All Blacks in Christchurch is like being put right at the bottom of the deep end, but anyone who saw him play at 12 for the Reds knows what he brings to the game; pace, flat on the game-line, and good off-loading skills. His combination in the centres with Adam Ashley-Cooper looks a little lightweight, but in truth AAC is their best player. His flexibility in the backline, he can play 11-15, is testament to his high level of quality. At full back, Kurtley Beale faces his biggest test yet at international level and Carter and Weepu’s smart kicking game will be used to test him early on. They will have to fight for every chance and if they can keep the ball away from the All Blacks and play the phases, the opportunities to score will come.

Weepu comes in at 9 for the injured Jimmy Cowan

Weepu is the only change to an excellent All Blacks side. Graham Henry will look for his players to produce the same error free performance as last week but to try and not concede as many points as Australia put on the board last time out. A home win, and the Tri-Nations title, seems likely.

Live on Sky Sports 2 from 8:30am

New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Jo Rokocoko, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Sam Whitelock, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Alby Mathewson, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Benson Stanley

Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 James O’Connor, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Will Genia, 8 Richard Brown, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom (capt), 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 James Slipper, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Matt Hodgson, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Berrick Barnes, 22 Cameron Shepherd.

Date: Saturday, August 7
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (SA)