August 23, 2011 Leave a comment
Qantas Wallabies team to play New Zealand in Castrol Edge Tri Nations Finale named
A second Test starting role for Anthony Fainga’a and starting line-up returns for Radike Samo and Dan Vickerman highlight the Qantas Wallabies run on XV which has been named for Saturday night’s Castrol Edge Tri Nations conclusion at Suncorp Stadium.
The inclusions of Fainga’a and Samo add to what already promises to be a special occasion for local fans, as the Queensland Reds title-winning skipper James Horwill leads his country for the first time in front of a sell out home crowd, becoming Australia’s 77th Test captain.
Horwill will be partnered in the second row by Vickerman, who has been handed a starting role after furthering his match fitness with the Sydney University club in the time since his 28 minutes from the bench in the opening Bledisloe Cup Test of the year, two-and-a-half weeks ago in Auckland.
Behind the pair, Samo starts his first Test since 2004, after coming from the bench for the final 21 minutes of Australia’s gritty 14-9 win over South Africa in Durban 10 days ago.
The big Fijian-born No 8 last started a match at the top level during the Queensland Reds’ 18-13 win over the Crusaders in the Super Rugby final at Suncorp Stadium last month, but has been active in club rugby since.
The Super Rugby finale was also the most recent starting appearance for Anthony Fainga’a, who took the field from the bench at the same time as Samo did in Durban.
Saturday night will be the seventh Test of the Fainga’a career, with both of his starts coming against New Zealand, after he appeared in the midfield during last year’s Test at Christchurch.
His twin brother Saia is again included on the bench, backing up the man of the match from Durban, Stephen Moore.
The promotion of the Queensland pair sees Scott Higginbotham take up a bench role this week. Anthony Fainga’a slots in between inside centre Pat McCabe and the versatile Adam Ashley-Cooper, who moves to the wing in place of the ineligible James O’Connor.
Nathan Sharpe, who has been replaced by Vickerman, instead will this week captain the Australian Barbarians in Friday night’s international against Canada at Skilled Stadium on the Gold Coast.
The final position among the run on reserves has been left vacant, with the 22nd player to be confirmed out of the Barbarians squad once that fixture has been concluded.
While the Bledisloe Cup is beyond Australia following the 14-30 loss in Auckland earlier in the month, a first Tri Nations title since 2001 remains within the Wallabies reach following New Zealand’s 5-18 loss to South Africa in Port Elizabeth last weekend.
That result has set up a winner take all match this weekend, replicating the 2008 tournament decider when the two teams last clashed in Brisbane, which the All Blacks took by four points, 28-24.
To achieve the title, the Wallabies must end a 19-year drought against the All Blacks in Queensland, having last beaten New Zealand in the Sunshine State in 1992, when just two points separated the sides.
Although the prospect of silverware adds further encouragement, Qantas Wallabies coach Robbie Deans says the backing of the capacity crowd, and the opportunity to make amends after a disappointing night in Auckland will ensure his men are fully focused on the job at hand, and not their imminent assignment in New Zealand.
“The group showed a lot of character to bounce back in South Africa but no one in our party is getting ahead of themselves,” Deans said.
“The All Blacks are not the bench mark in world rugby without good reason. They give you nothing and pounce on any opportunities that you give them. To beat them, we will need to be disciplined, accurate, composed but, most of all, deserving.”
Deans said the changes to the starting XV reflected the impact the three newcomers had made coming from the bench in their previous outings, as opposed to being of discredit to those who had previously occupied the positions.
“Dan offered go forward for us in the second half in Auckland, and has come on in his overall fitness since that night, while Anthony and Radike both made their presence felt in a big way in Durban. We felt in each instance that their previous contributions warranted further opportunity this week.”
The selectors have once again opted for a five-forward, two-back split, with Deans saying the versatility among Australia’s starting backline allowed that option.
“The contest in the contact zone will be critical, as it has been in each of the four Tests we’ve already had this year, so we’ve opted for a little more strength and depth in that area.”
Nor does Deans see Saturday night as anything other than a stand-alone contest.
“Obviously there is a lot of rugby coming up in New Zealand, and there will inevitably be expectations around the impact that this weekend might have on that but while a lot is going to happen beyond Saturday, we can’t afford to – and won’t – be looking beyond this game.”
The Test will be refereed by Wayne Barnes of England.
Australia has just twice previously won the Tri Nations in the competition’s 16-year history, going back-to-back in 2000 and 2001.
The Qantas Wallabies team to play New Zealand in the Castrol Edge Tri Nations Rugby Test at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday night is:
15. Kurtley Beale (NSW Waratahs)
14. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies)
13. Anthony Fainga’a (Queensland Reds)
12. Pat McCabe (Brumbies)
11. Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds)
10. Quade Cooper (Queensland Reds)
9. Will Genia (Queensland Reds)
8. Radike Samo (Queensland Reds)
7. David Pocock (Western Force)
6. Rocky Elsom (Brumbies)
5. James Horwill (Queensland Reds, captain)
4. Dan Vickerman (NSW Waratahs)
3. Ben Alexander (Brumbies)
2. Stephen Moore (Brumbies)
1. Sekope Kepu (NSW Waratahs)
Run on Reserves:
16. Saia Fainga’a (Queensland Reds)
17. Salesi Ma’afu (Brumbies)
18. Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds)
19. Ben McCalman (Western Force)
20. Scott Higginbotham (Queensland Reds)
21. Luke Burgess (NSW Waratahs)
22. To be advised
Australia v New Zealand @ Brisbane – Historical Notes
- This is the 166th match of a trans-Tasman rivalry that dates back to 1903 when New Zealand won the inaugural meeting 22-3 in Sydney.
- This tally includes the 24 matches played between 1920 and 1928 when NSW represented Australia.
- Of the 165 games played between the two nations, New Zealand has won 114 and Australia 46, with five draws – the most recent of which occurred in Brisbane 23 years ago, when the two teams finished at 19-19 in the second match of the 1988 series. There have been 57 matches between the teams since the last drawn game.
- The Bledisloe Cup was donated by the then Governor General of New Zealand, Lord Bledisloe, for competition between the two countries in 1931.
- Australia won the trophy for the first time in 1934, beating New Zealand 25-11 in Sydney.
- Suncorp Stadium is one of four Test venues that have been used in Brisbane. The others are Ballymore, the Brisbane Exhibition Ground and the Woollongabba Ground, which is better known as the city’s venue for cricket.
- Ballymore, which has traditionally been the home of rugby in Queensland, last hosted a Test in 2000 when Australia beat Argentina 53-6.
- Lang Park, as it was formerly known, was the scene of Australia’s record-breaking 76-0 demolition of England in 1998.
- The ground is also the home venue for the Brisbane Bronco’s club in the National Rugby League and the Queensland Roar in football’s A-League competition.
- The site of the ground was originally a cemetery, and then later a rubbish dump before being re-zoned as a sporting precinct. Lang Park became the headquarters for Queensland rugby league in 1957. It was named for the late Reverend John Dunmore Lang who had established the original cemetery on the site in 1840.
- Lang Park hosted its first rugby league match in 1958.
- Its first rugby union international came seven years later in 1965, when Australia beat South Africa 12-8, although it did not become a regular union venue until 31 years later when Tri-Nations matches were held at the ground due to its greater capacity than Ballymore.
- Saturday night represents the 19th Test played by Australia at the ground. The Wallabies have won 15 of the previous matches played and lost three, with all three defeats being sustained against the All Blacks.
- New Zealand has won the previous trans-Tasman Tests at Lang Park/Suncorp Stadium by margins of seven, four and four points respectively.
- Australia did lose the first Test of the 2001 British & Irish Lions series in Brisbane, but the 13-29 defeat was sustained at the ‘Gabba.
- There have been 18 previous trans-Tasman Test matches in Queensland, the most recent being three years ago when the All Blacks shaded the Wallabies 28-24 in what was effectively the 2008 Tri Nations final at Suncorp Stadium.
- Overall, New Zealand has won 14 of the previous 18 matches in Queensland and Australia two, while two further matches (1974 & 1988) were drawn.
- Australia’s wins were achieved in 1929 (17-9) and 1992 (19-17).
Springbok utility back Patrick Lambie has been passed fit to take his place in the World Cup squad that will be announced in Johannesburg tonight after having injured his collar bone early in the Tri-Nations match against the All Blacks in Port Elizabeth.
Fullback Francois Steyn, who suffered a hamstring injury against the Wallabies in Durban the week before, has also been given the green light for the team’s departure on September 1.
The Boks gather in Johannesburg today ahead of tonight’s big televised announcement (7.30pm) and will be in camp for just over a week before leaving for Wellington next Thursday.
The multi-talented Lambie strained ligaments in his AC (acromio clavicular) joint in the first minutes of the match against the All Blacks when he broke through a half-gap out wide but was nailed by two defenders. He attempted to play on through the injury but there was a poignant moment in the 19th minute when he fielded an up-and-under and, after passing the ball, he winced in obvious discomfort and seconds later was substituted.
This kind of injury is common place in rugby and the recovery period is two to three weeks because the treatment has become so good. This would mean Lambie will travel to New Zealand with the squad and be fit for selection for the big opener against Wales in Wellington (three weeks from the PE match against the All Blacks).
The final call, though, will be made by Peter de Villiers, and if he feels that departing with a potentially injured player is a liability, the youngster would certainly be top of the “cover” list that will remain in South Africa. There is an IRB regulation that states that players not passed 100 percent fit before departure cannot be replaced if they break down with the same injury. It is a laughable law because it is unpolicable. How would an IRB official know whether Steyn’s hamstring, Lambie’s shoulder or any other player in the tournament ‘s niggle was not 100 percent right?
The other obvious casualty from the weekend was Heinrich Brussow, who suffered facial injuries, but these are more cosmetic at this stage than World Cup-threatening, but speculation did surface in the media yesterday that Stormers openside flank Francois Louw could be the bolter in a squad that otherwise picks itself.
There is little cover for openside flank in the greater squad now that loose forward resources have been depleted by the withdrawal of Juan Smith.
Otherwise the majority of the squad has been known for months, and there was a revealing comment from Victor Matfield last week when he was asked if he was concerned that fringe players might play individualistically because World Cup places were up for grabs.
“No, that is not going to happen,” he said on the eve of the Test against the All Blacks. “You would be safe in assuming that all 22 on duty against the All Blacks will be on the plane to New Zealand.”
Which leaves eight positions to be filled in the 30-man squad, and they will probably come from backs Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh, Lwazi Mvovo and Francois Steyn, and forwards Johann Muller, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Flip van der Merwe and possibly Louw.
by Mike Greenaway
August 22, 2011 Leave a comment
Bloodied but unbowed, the battered face of Heinrich Brussow will be the lasting impression of the Boks’ 18-5 victory over the All Blacks in Port Elizabeth at the weekend and while he was too groggy to do his Man of the Match appearance at the post-match press conference (following a serious stitch-up after the game), the openside flanker is expected to be make a full recovery from an alleged punch by an All Blacks forward following a set-to between Bakkies Botha and the Kiwis.
More worrying is the shoulder injury sustained early in the match by fullback Patrick Lambie. A full set of X-Rays and scans today will reveal the extent of the damage to his left shoulder joint and indeed whether he will be okay to take his place in the World Cup squad to be named tomorrow night.
Regarding Brussow, All Blacks coach Graham Henry said that the Free Stater had once again been a nuisance to his team.
“He was a problem for us in 2009, the last time he played us, and two years later he has come back (from injury) and nothing has changed. He is a class player,” Henry said. “I reckon it has something to do with his low centre of gravity, whatever it is he is very good on the ball!”
The silver lining to the cloud of losing Juan Smith is that the Boks now have the Brussow factor.
But the gracious Henry was quick to point out that it was a passionate team performance that had undone his team.
“We learned a lot about some of our players but first of all a big congratulations to South Africa, they took their opportunities well, played with great physicality and spirit and out-played us on the day ,” Henry said. “They scrambled really well on defence. We created six clear opportunities and converted just one of them. Some of that was down to lack of maturity to build patiently and then convert, but just as much to Springbok tenacity.
“The first thing we have to say is well done to the Springboks for kicking their goals and defending their line for all their worth,” Henry concluded. “The bottom line is that we believed we had a team that would win and we prepared very well, but it was the Boks that did the business.”
by Mike Greenaway .www.iol.co.za
August 18, 2011 Leave a comment
Great comment piece by one of the top writers in SA on Rugby Mike Greenaway .
The rapturous welcome the All Blacks received at Port Elizabeth airport has reopened the controversy that surrounded the similar support enjoyed by the Crusaders when the Christchurch-based team twice visited Cape Town earlier this year.(see pics below)
The pictures of Port Elizabethans figuratively slitting their throats haka-style in exhibitions of raw passion as their overwhelmed heroes struggled through the arrivals hall to their team bus have prompted questions, mainly from white South Africans, as to why their coloured compatriots two decades into democracy still do not support the Springboks.
Old habits die hard is the reflex refrain, but having chatted to locals here and informed colleagues in Cape Town, the answer is more complex and in some ways not as sinister or controversial as many people think, and it includes the community feeling let down by the present day South African Rugby Union as well as the bare fact that the All Blacks play great rugby.
Of course there is the political aspect to it dating back to the horrors initiated by Hendrik Verwoerd in the ‘60s. Naturally the disenfranchised would support anyone but the sporting standard-bearers of Apartheid, the Springboks, who better than anything reflected the white “elite”.
And blacks would certainly support the one team that gave the then world-beating Boks a hard time on the field, the All Blacks, Nobody else could come near to rivalling the Boks in the amateur era (pre 1995).
And the young South Africans who hated the Boks in those days are now grandfathers and the passion they had for the Kiwis has been passed on through generations and, if anything, has grown stronger.
Cory Jane, the All Blacks winger described the airport reception thus: “It was crazy but very cool. The channel that we were walking through got tighter and tighter as we got closer to the bus and people were trying to reach out and touch you. It was very special. It was very humbling to see what the black jersey means to them and the way they were chanting “All Blacks, All Blacks” was goose-bump stuff.”
But the political history is only part of it. The Chairman of the Eastern Cape All Blacks supporters club, which has 3000 registered members and plenty more unofficial members, is one Danville Felkers, and he sheds some interesting light.
“I was born into supporting the All Blacks. My father, grandfather and uncles are very passionate supporters, and it is very easy for new generations to continue this tradition because the All Blacks are a brilliant rugby team. They are the Manchester United of rugby. They win consistently and they win in style. People love winners.”
And older members of the Port Elizabeth community are in no hurry to convert their children to the green and gold because they feel that that they have been left stranded by empty promises from the game’s governing body.
“Rugby has died in the schools of the (poor) northern suburbs,” Felkers says. “And we have played rugby in this region forever. But we have no facilities. There has been no investment for Saru, no upliftment and we feel let down.”
Once more, in a brand new era, resentment to Saru has been channelled into supporting the Springboks’ opposition.
“We have kids who want to play rugby but their parents cannot afford to send them to (white) schools such as Grey High. Those who stick it out have to come to our clubs,” he says. “In our suburbs we are crying out for sport to give our teenagers something to do to keep them away from drugs and crime. Rugby can do that, but it hasn’t because the system has let us down.”
Saru’s flagship investment in the Eastern Cape is, of course, the Southern Kings, and bully to them for resurrecting top flight rugby in the region, but for the less affluent rugby man on the ground this means diddly squat.
It is a (potential) success story at the pinnacle of the rugby pyramid but what about at the broad base?
“Nothing has changed at grass roots,” says Felkers. “We don’t feel that Saru is engaging us. We don’t feel any affinity to Saru. We remain forgotten.”
And all the while the All Blacks play exciting, invigorating rugby, and their fan base in South African grows by the day.
An emotional Juan Smith yesterday bowed to the inevitable and withdrew himself from the Springbok Rugby World Cup squad
August 18, 2011 Leave a comment
An emotional Juan Smith yesterday bowed to the inevitable and withdrew himself from the Springbok Rugby World Cup squad because of ongoing compications with his achilles tendon injury.
The 30-year-old flanker has for sometime been behind schedule in his recovery from the injury sustained in Super Rugby in March, and he has been training with the Boks “in some pain”, he said, before yesterday admitting that he was “lying” to himself about making the World Cup.
Smith had been given the deadline of playing 20 minutes off the bench against the Wallabies last week, then it was pushed back to this week’s match agaisnt the All Blacks, only for him to be sent home to the Cheetahs to see if he could play against the Pumas on Friday in the Currie Cup, but Smith has realised that he is not fit and is fooling himself.
“I won’t be able to give everything and realise I should put my team, team-mates and the Bok fans first. I must stop lying to myself – which is what I’ve been doing these last three weeks I have been back with the Boks – and accept that I’m not ready,” said Smith.
“I really cannot describe how immensely disappointed I am,” he said.
The silver lining to Smith’s removal from the equation is that it opens the door for ball-stealing dynamo Heinrich Brussow to give the Boks a new dimension on the openside flank, with Schalk Burger moving to blindside flank and Pierre Spies making up the loose trip at No 8.