The Springboks are discovering that when it rains in New South Wales it downright pours.

The Springboks are discovering that when it rains in New South Wales it downright pours. The weather is almost always sunny in winter here but 80mm have fallen over the last few days and this July is already the wettest since 1950 and the second wettest since 1858!

Neither team was allowed to have a captain’s run on the sodden Olympic Stadium pitch yesterday because the Parramatta – Canterbury rugby league match was being played there last night. No guesses as which sport takes priority here and one can only imagine the state of the surface after that match!

The good news is that the rain is predicted to ease off by lunch time today but the pitch will remain waterlogged.

A notable casualty of the wretched weather is the Wallabies’ key playmaker, Quade Cooper, who spent yesterday in bed with the flu and gastro, and all of Oz was holding thumbs he would be alright by kick-off at 8pm local time.

If he cannot play, it is likely that fullback Kurtley Beale will be moved up to flyhalf.

Springbok captain John Smit yesterday said that having to play with a slippery ball was a pity in the short term – his team’s original plan was to run the ball – but a useful exercise in the long run.

“I can’t recall a Super Rugby game played in Australia or South Africa in the rain this year but we are likely to get a lot of it in New Zealand in the World Cup, so playing the conditions today will be insightful because whoever gets their plan right today will probably win.”

Key to the wet weather strategy is flyhalf Morne Steyn, who was a curious inclusion in the tour squad given that most of the front-line Boks were left at home to recover from “injuries”, and Steyn played more Super Rugby minutes than any other South African.

It is clear that Steyn is under pressure from RWC 2007 flyhalf Butch James, who is one of the players at home in cotton wool.

In answering a question as to Steyn’s usefulness in the wet with his educated boot, Smit said: “Morne has kicked some big points for us in recent years to win us vital Test matches, and is brilliant with kicking out-of-hand. We are very fortunate to have him. But I think he will be looking to do more than kick on this tour. He will want to show that he can get our backs going. We have very fast wings and they need to get the ball. We also need Morne to be a good link between forwards and backs.”

And as much as Smit would like to see his youthful backline having a go, he wants to see the lethal Aussie backline operation shut down.

Will Genia, Cooper, Adam Ashley-Cooper, James’ O’Connor, Digby Ioane and Beale are all devastating runners, and Smit has warned his team to starve the Aussie backs of the ball or pay the price.

“The Wallabies are packed with huge threats. There is a lot of X-factor, a lot of magic in that backline of theirs and you can be sure they wanted a sunny day and fast pitch so they could try and run us off our feet.

“How do we contain them? We try not to give then the ball,” Smit said. “The instruction is ‘if we have possession keep it!’ The worst thing to do against the Wallabies is to turn over ball in the wrong places, allowing them to play off the cuff when we have no structure in defence. So a lot of it will be about composure, and that comes with experience, and we don’t have a lot of that, so we have to be very accurate in our first phases and in our organisation on defence.”

Referee: Chris Pollock (NZ)

Springboks: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Lwazi Mvovo, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Danie Rossouw 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 John Smit (capt), 1 Dean Greyling.

Substitutes: Chiliboy Ralepelle, CJ van der Linde, Ryan Kankowski, Jean Deysel, Charl McLeod, Patrick Lambie, Adi Jacobs.

Wallabies: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 James O’Connor, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom (capt), 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Sekope Kepu.

Substitutes: Saia Faingaa, Pekahou Cowan, Nathan Sharpe, Matt Hodgson, Scott Higginbotham, Nick Phipps, Anthony Faingaa

Kick-off: 12 noon

by Mike Greenaway in Sydney

About Martin Myers
Music Supervisor / Artist and Talent Manager / Publicist / Music Exchange Founder / Owner Triple M Entertainment

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