There’s a lot to play for as we head into the latest stage of the Rugby Championship. The last round of the tournament saw high drama as South Africa toppled the All Blacks in New Zealand whilst the Wallabies lost at home to Argentina. It is clear to see where the momentum will be going this week.
Michael Cheika will be desperate for a much-needed win to settle the unease surrounding his future as head coach, while Rassie Erasmus will want to prove to his critics that his country’s win in New Zealand was not just a one-off.
The two sides will meet at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium where South Africa have enjoyed strong success in recent years.
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Here’s our pick of four players that we think could make the difference in today’s clash.
After scoring against New Zealand, Erasmus has rightly seen fit to grant a start for the 24-year-old South Africa winger. Currently playing for Stade Toulousain, the Top 14 star attracted much attention after some dazzling performances for the French outfit at the start of the season. His ability to find holes from the tightest of angles makes him a dangerous threat from anywhere on the pitch. Couple this with his speed and you have a real attacking option for the Springboks.
It is well known of the threat that Israel Folau poses for any attacking team, however the Australia winger could play a more crucial role than ever in today’s clash. Folau stands at an impressive 6ft 4, whilst his opposite opponent Cheslin Kole is far shorter in comparison at only 5ft 6. If Australia decide to use the high ball above Kolbe it could prove to be a long night for the Bok 14 if he can’t compete with Folau.
The Australia winger will be looking to bounce back from the last round of the Championship when he missed a try-scoring opportunity in the final moments of the match against Argentina. Despite this very rare error, we are still certain of the attacking threat that this man will bring to the men in green and gold.
Willie Le Roux
The South Africa full-back has been in scintillating form for club and country over the past month and that does not look like changing anytime soon. After an impressive performance for Wasps last weekend, the Bok 15 will be aiming to use his ability to evade the tackle against the likes of Haylett-Petty and Reece Hodge.
Le Roux’s ability to spot the ball out wide could prove decisive today with the likes of Kolbe and Dyantyi on the wings who can capitalise on this attacking prowess.
Similarly to Folau, Pocock is a well-known game changer for any team that he appears for. However in this case his inclusion in the squad will be more important than ever. Pocock will be playing Number 8 today and he will be coming up against his far more internationally inexperienced opponent in Sikhumbuzo Notshe. If Pocock can target Notshe at the breakdown, then it is very possible that the Boks will be on the back foot for large parts of this match.
South Africa lost Warren Whitely to injury in the last round and Pocock will be fully aware of the havoc that he can cause against a less experienced Number 8.
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