The Springboks will be looking to end a record five-match losing streak against the Wallabies, which captain Jean de Villiers admitted rankled him, while Australia will be aiming to win at Loftus for the first time in six attempts.
“We’ve only won one out of our last eight matches against Australia which is simply not good enough. That can never be acceptable and this team has now inherited that record so it’s our job to rectify that,” De Villiers told a news conference in Johannesburg on Friday.
The Wallabies, having won their last two matches in South Africa, including a 41-39 triumph in Bloemfontein on the highveld in 2010, have set their sights firmly on winning again at altitude at Loftus Versfeld.
“Every Rugby Championship match is a big weekend but the context of this game is that it’s a great opportunity to change history. We’ve waited a long time to win in Pretoria and that’s something we look forward to,” Australia captain Nathan Sharpe said.
Both teams have endured a troubled year, with new Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer boasting two wins over England but just a solitary Rugby Championship victory, against debutants Argentina in Cape Town.
Wallaby coach Robbie Deans, at the helm of the team for a fifth year, has two Rugby Championship wins over Argentina and South Africa at home to his credit, but his continued failure to engineer victory over his home nation New Zealand has seen him come under fire in Australia.
De Villiers said the Springboks were desperate to go out and win the Test for Meyer.
“We really believe we’ve improved over the last two matches, we just haven’t been able to get the result we wanted. We really believe we’re on the right track and we want to win more than anything for the coach, to take pressure off him and the rest of the management,” the centre said.
Both under-performing teams have boldly chosen flyhalves who will start for the first time in the number 10 jersey at Test level.
Deans is hoping former fullback Kurtley Beale will spark the Wallabies on attack in the absence of the injured Quade Cooper, whose social media attacks on the coach have provided an unnecessary distraction that Australian players have privately admitted they have had enough of hearing about.
“Kurtley is one of the better kickers in our side and I have no concerns over his capacity to do what we want him to do. He’s played a lot of flyhalf alongside scrumhalf Nick Phipps at the Melbourne Rebels, so it’s an established combination.
“If you look at both backlines, the match should clearly be a good spectacle, I expect both sides to be positive and because of the conditions, it’s likely to be pretty expansive,” Deans said.
Meyer has chosen 20-year-old Johan Goosen, who has shown a willingness to attack with ball-in-hand during his two appearances off the bench, in place of the experienced Morne Steyn, who has suffered a dramatic loss of form with the boot.
Francois Steyn has been withdrawn from the Springbok team after rolling his ankle earlier in the week and De Villiers will replace him at inside centre, with debutant Jaco Taute wearing the number 13 jersey.
Both teams look likely to make late changes to their bench. Wallaby loose forward Scott Higginbotham has tweaked his back and, if there is not a dramatic improvement in his condition on Saturday, will be replaced by flyhalf Mike Harris as the visitors revert back to a 4-3 split amongst the reserves.
Springbok prop Coenie Oosthuizen, who has played just 35 minutes of rugby since injuring his neck on his test debut against England on June 9, has been withdrawn due to stiffness in his upper body. Pat Cilliers, who has just 3 caps, is the replacement.
South Africa – 15-Zane Kirchner, 14-Bryan Habana, 13-Jaco Taute, 12-Jean de Villiers, 11-Francois Hougaard, 10-Johan Goosen, 9-Ruan Pienaar, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Willem Alberts, 6-Francois Louw, 5-Andries Bekker, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: 16-Tiaan Liebenberg, 17-Pat Cilliers, 18-Flip van der Merwe, 19-Marcell Coetzee, 20-Elton Jantjies, 21-Juan de Jongh, 22-Pat Lambie.
Australia – 15-Berrick Barnes, 14-Dominic Shipperley, 13-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12-Pat McCabe, 11-Digby Ioane, 10-Kurtley Beale, 9-Nick Phipps, 8-Radike Samo, 7-Michael Hooper, 6-Dave Dennis, 5-Nathan Sharpe, 4-Kane Douglas, 3-Ben Alexander, 2-Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1-Benn Robinson. Reserves: 16-Saia Fainga’a, 17-James Slipper, 18-Rob Simmons, 19-Scott Higginbotham/Mike Harris, 20-Liam Gill, 21-Brett Sheehan, 22-Anthony Fainga’a.