The hosts get their 2019 Rugby Championship campaign underway by welcoming Australia to the Ellis Park in Johannesburg. South Africa will be looking to lift the trophy for the very first time but will also be cognisant of the fact that the Rugby WC is just around the corner. The Wallabies who won the trophy in 2015 will also be eager to out-muscle the trophy off the Kiwis who have won it three times in a row. Each of these teams however will be looking to steady their ships with this year’s tournament providing them a very good WC warm-up session. Also, on the line will be the Mandela Challenge Plate, currently held by the Wallabies, that is played in commemoration of the first South African post-apartheid president, Nelson Mandela.
This will be the only home game played by the Boks with the other two fixtures coming on the road against New Zealand and Argentina. Australia, on the other hand, will play its remaining two fixtures at home against the All Blacks and Los Pumas after this away visit in South Africa.
In their most recent match, the Springboks lost 20-11 to Wales in an Autumn Internationals game. The Boks were forced to play in their own half for most periods of the game and were unable to respond effectively to an electrifying Welsh start. Francis scored the first converted try for Wales in the 11th minute and Williams added another in the 16th minute which was duly converted by Anscombe. Kriel pulled one back for the Boks but it couldn’t inspire them to stage a successful comeback.
The Wallabies also lost their most recent match to a Northern Hemisphere side, England, by 37-18. England were on the scoresheet first but Israel Folau inspired the Wallabies to stage a 1st half comeback from 13-3 down to level things up at the break. However, England put on a very inspired performance in the second period and scored three tries to put the game to bed. Australia scored a late try via Israel Folau but it wasn’t enough and could only serve as a consolation.
The Springboks have played four games in the most recent series since the 2018 Southern Hemisphere showdown. Of the 4, the Boks won twice and lost twice in the November Autumn Internationals. They lost 12-11 against England before winning two consecutive matches 29-26 against France and 26-20 against Scotland. These two results flattered to deceive as the Boks were put to the sword by Wales and lost by 20-11.
Similarly, Australia played four test matches but lost three times, winning only once against Italy by 26-7. The three losses came against Wales, England, and the reigning World Champions New Zealand. The Aussie will be looking to cause a U-turn in their fortunes if they are going to enjoy a successful Rugby Championship.
HEAD TO HEAD
South Africa have played 87 official matches against Australia since these sides first met in 1933 where both sides have shown the tendency of capitalising on Home Advantage. South Africa has won 47 of the 87 with 35 of those wins coming at home. Australia on the other hand has also won 37 out of 87 with 25 of those wins coming at home. The remaining 3 matches have all ended in a draw.
Additionally, since inception in 2000, the Boks and the Wallabies have played 33 games while competing for the Mandela Challenge Plate with Australia winning 17 times as compared to the Boks’ 14.
The spotlight will be on the Boks captain Siya Kolisi to lead from the front and also help the team to stick together if they are going to win this game. However, other players will also need to be at their brilliant best to enhance South Africa’s chances. They include the outstanding Aphiwe Dyantyi who has already proved his worth in less than a year since being drafted, Willie le Roux, and the ever powerful Malcolm Marx.
Australia will be buoyed by the fact that David Pocock is braced to make an early return. Pocock and Hooper combined form a very good line of defense and as such all eyes will be fixed on Pocock and how fast he adapts – if he makes that comeback ahead of schedule. Also, other players that can change the game in a flash include Will Genia and Bernard Foley.
South Africa will have a huge home advantage that has been exhibited in these kind of games. However, Australia always picks form whenever a WC edges closer and it will be interesting if they actually do and put their poor run of form to bed.
Back the Boks to win this one at home. South Africa 26-15 Australia