RWC: Match preview: Australia – South Africa

Westpac Stadium, Wellington, Sunday 9th Oct 6pm (NZT)
Head-to-head: Played 70, South Africa 41, Australia 28, Drawn 1
Last meeting: Australia 14 beat South Africa 9 at Kings Park, Durban, 2011
Last meeting at a World Cup: Australia 27 beat South Africa 21 at Twickenham, London, 1999

Team news: Australia welcome back Pat McCabe, Kurtley Beale, Anthony Fainga’a and Digby Ioane. Ioane comes back after breaking his thumb in the Wallabies first game of the tournament. The return of the star backs allows makeshift wing Radike Samo to return to the forwards as one of five changes to the pack which demolished Russia. South Africa on the other-hand have lost two of their best players in lock Bakkis Botha and star playmaker Francois Steyn, both suffered World Cup ending injuries and have returned home. JP Pietersen has been named although he is in doubt as he is struggling with a knee injury.

Form: Australia has been struggling to rediscover the form they showed in the build-up to the tournament, the loss to Ireland in the Pool stage giving Robbie Deans and his team some big headaches. Even with the loss to Ireland, the Wallabies still easily qualified for the knockout stages of the World Cup and when you get to this part of the tournament past form is no guide as France showed on Saturday night against England. South Africa just got over the line in their opener against Wales before crushing wins over Fiji and Namibia, a win over Samoa in one the games of the tournament so far was a great warm-up for the quarters. The defence the South Africans have showed has been extremely impressive, setting the record for the lowest points conceded in the pool stages. The goal kicking has also been outstanding, the loss of Steyn with his long range kicking abilities will definitely hurt the team.

Prediction: The forecast is for fine weather in Wellington which will help the Australians who enjoy throwing the ball around, but playing that style of football can be deadly against a South African outfit that has shown it can soak up anything thrown at them and go down the other end and score points themselves. On form you have to back the South Africans here, they have been outstanding and have not lost a game. But its always easy to back the favourite, the Wallabies are a class outfit and have beaten the South Africans twice this year already. South Africa should edge the Australians in a tight one.
South Africa by 7

Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 James O’Connor, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Radike Semo, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 James Horwill (capt), 4 Dan Vickerman, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Sekope Kepu
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Nathan Sharpe, 19 Ben McCalman, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Berrick Barnes, 22 Anthony Fainga’a

South Africa: 15 Pat Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit (captain), 1 Gurthro Steenkamp
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Willem Alberts, 19 Francois Louw, 20 Francois Hougaard, 21 Butch James, 22 Gio Aplon

By Alex Barlow-Smith