Australian captain Michael Hooper wants full focus on Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash with South Africa in Perth, which promises to be an emotionally charged affair following Western Force’s axing from Super Rugby.
The Wallabies take on the Springboks at nib Stadium aiming to register their first win of the competition having suffered successive defeats to New Zealand.
On Tuesday, the Force lost an appeal against the Australian Rugby Union’s decision to drop them from Super Rugby, which has been reduced from 18 to 15 teams.
Three Force players – Adam Coleman, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Curtis Rona – are in the squad, while wing Dane Haylett-Petty has been sidelined as he faces biceps surgery.
Hooper said of the Force saga: “It hasn’t been swept under the rug by any means. We dealt with it when that stuff happened earlier in the week and we supported the guys who were directly impacted.
“It impacted on all of us but [it] directly impacted some of those players. We offered our support and the best way we can do that is by focusing on the common goal of this Test match.”
The Springboks, who dispensed of Argentina in back-to-back games in this season’s Rugby Championship, have lost three of their last five meetings with the Wallabies, though they did prevail in October last year.
The Springboks have won their last five games in a row having beaten France 3-0 in a series in June and coach Allister Coetzee said: “Even though we travelled to three continents in 10 days, this group has the desire to get better, and learn from previous experiences.
“The performance in Salta [against Argentina] was not perfect, but we are looking forward to the next opportunity to improve as individuals and as a team.”
— Qantas Wallabies (@qantaswallabies) September 8, 2017
HEAD TO HEAD
Wallabies – Israel Folau
Full-back Folau was excellent for the Wallabies in both losses to the All Blacks. He has 22 carries so far in the tournament for 255 metres, making four clean breaks and scoring two tries. Expect Folau to play a pivotal role in the Australia attack.
Springboks – Ross Cronje
Cronje returns to the scrum-half position after ankle ligament damage kept him out of the 41-23 victory in Argentina last time out. He will need to quickly re-establish a rapport with fly-half Elton Jantjies for the Springboks to succeed.
Wallabies: Israel Folau, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Kurtley Beale, Reece Hodge, Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Scott Sio, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu, Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper (captain), Sean McMahon.
Replacements: Jordan Uelese, Tom Robertson, Allan Alaalatoa, Rob Simmons, Jack Dempsey, Nick Phipps, Samu Kerevi, Curtis Rona.
Springboks: Andries Coetzee, Raymond Rhule, Jesse Kriel, Jan Serfontein, Courtnall Skosan, Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronje; Tendai Mtawarira, Malcolm Marx, Coenie Oosthuizen, Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi, Jaco Kriel, Uzair Cassiem.
Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Trevor Nyakane, Lood de Jager, Jean-Luc du Preez, Francois Hougaard, Handre Pollard, Damian de Allende.
Australia coach Michael Cheika on South Africa: “They’ve been physical around their forward pack and their backs as well… their backs are big, strong-running players. But they’ve also been creative as well.”
South Africa coach Allister Coetzee on the Wallabies: “They are a well-coached side, with great deception in attack. Their playmakers and strike runners complement each other very well and we will have to be very sharp on defence.”
– The Wallabies have won seven of their last eight games when hosting the Springboks, including their last three; though, they’ve not scored more than 26 points in such a fixture since 2011.
– Tevita Kuridrani is set to line up for his 50th Test cap for Australia, he scored a try on his last start against the Springboks (2015).