When Australia hosts the Springboks on Saturday, both sides will have something to prove after their previous performances.
The Aussies may be smarting after the drubbing at the hands (and feet) of the All Blacks, but the performance by the men in black on that day was simply sublime. I cannot recall seeing a more inspired performance in recent history. The Wallabies should rather take heart from the drawn match a week before, although that was possibly the single biggest reason why the All Blacks blew them off the park two weeks ago.
The inclusion of Foley at flyhalf should be cause for concern for the Springboks. Beale seldom rises to the same heights in test rugby as those he displays in Super rugby matches. Expect Israel Folau to play a significantly more prominent role on Saturday than he did in the previous two matches with Foley in the number 10 jersey.
It is difficult to understand all the noise being made about the Bok scrum. One bad match does not make them poor forever. My own view is that the right combination was not picked for the Salta match, which led to the underperformance at scrum time.
On the positive side, some key players are now fighting fit for the most challenging part of the series. In case some of the critics forgot – we are the current log leaders. The draw between the two Australasian sides was a huge boost for us in this regard.
With rain expected in Perth on Saturday, the selection of more experienced players was a wise move by Heyneke Meyer. Morné Steyn, in particular, is well suited to these conditions, and we should also remember how well Ruan Pienaar used his “Irish” skills in the first match against Argentina.
The most exciting change for me is the inclusion of Adriaan Strauss in place of the exhausted Bismarck. It is a pity that the latter’s brother could not also be afforded a breather, but to rectify the problems experienced in Argentina, the best side has to run on.
The impact players, as replacements are referred to these days, are equally exciting, and cover a number of positions. Pat Lambie, whether at flyhalf or fullback, must be relishing the prospect of running on, as will new kids on the block, Marcel van der Merwe and Warren Whitely.
Bryan Habana’s 100th match is the single biggest reason why I am rooting for a Springbok victory. His example through the years, where there were many ups and a few downs, is an inspiration for many. Winning on Saturday will be the best present the side can give this living legend. No doubt, he will do more than his level best to achieve this.
How will Argentina fare against the mighty All Blacks?
The truth about the resurgence, or not, of the South Americans will become evident early on Saturday morning. The set pieces will be of particular interest after their demolition job on the Springboks. If they repeat this against the All Blacks, most of us will breathe a little easier. While the Springboks possibly got lulled into a false sense of security as a result of all the talk about Argentina adopting a more expansive style of play, the Kiwis know what to expect.
It may be that the home side will find it difficult to be as motivated as they were against Australia, and this will open the door slightly for the visitors, but beat the All Blacks in New Zealand? Not likely.
Or, as my Weskus friend puts it in his Sunday English:
“Not today or tomorrow – maybe oor-morrow.”