Rugby World Cup 2011: Quarterfinal Preview: South Africa vs. Australia
Quarterfinal 3: South Africa versus Australia at Wellington. Sunday October 9th, kickoff 6 p.m.
Thanks to Australia's loss to Ireland in pool play, the second- and third-ranked teams in the world will play each other in a quarterfinal.
Defending World Cup champions South Africa were a mixed bag in Pool D but did enough to win all four games and qualify first.
They were involved in two of the tournament’s most exciting games to date with a thrilling opening win over Wales and a hectic final pool game—a narrow win over a desperate Samoa.
In between these games, they had comfortable wins over Fiji and Namibia and look to be a very organised side with a lineup that coach Peter de Villiers is comfortable with.
They are missing a couple of key performers, however. Their standout player in pool play, Francois Steyn, has been ruled out of the tournament with injury, as has their enforcer in the forward pack, Bakkies Botha. But they still have tons of experience in key positions—in particular the halves combination of Fourie du Preez and Morne Steyn.
But as Wales and Samoa showed, they are very beatable.
Meanwhile Australia will have to get through the No. 1 (New Zealand) and No. 2 (South Africa) teams in the world after their loss to Ireland.
No one expected Australia to drop a game in pool play and finish runners-up, but that is the beauty of the World Cup. It has made the playoffs even more intriguing with one side of the draw now all Northern Hemisphere teams and the other, Southern Hemisphere teams.
Australia started promisingly with an opening win over Italy before they slipped up against the Irish.
They recovered well with big wins over the USA and Russia despite coping with a heavy injury toll. However, they are back to near full strength for the quarterfinals.
Standout flanker David Pocock returns, but there is surprisingly no room for inside back Berrick Barnes who has looked the most assured of the Australia backs in his limited game time so far in the tournament.
The Wallabies are a dangerous side with a lot of flair and talent, but question marks were raised in the Ireland match about their ability to adapt and score points in any situation.
South Africa look more organised and structured at the moment, and that is probably all that separates these sides. They have the momentum, whereas Australia's ride has not been so smooth, but this one could go either way.
Prediction: 16-14 to South Africa.
South Africa: 1. Gurthrö Steenkamp, 2. John Smit (c), 3. Jannie du Plessis, 4. Danie Rossouw, 5. Victor Matfield, 6. Heinrich Brüssow, 7. Schalk Burger, 8. Pierre Spies, 9. Fourie du Preez, 10. Morné Steyn, 11. Bryan Habana, 12. Jean de Villiers, 13. Jaque Fourie, 14. JP Pietersen, 15. Pat Lambie. 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.
Australia: 1. Sekope Kepu, 2. Stephen Moore, 3. Ben Alexander, 4. Dan Vickerman, 5. James Horwill (c), 6. Rocky Elsom, 7. David Pocock, 8. Radike Samo, 9. Will Genia, 10. Quade Cooper, 11. Digby Ioane, 12. Pat McCabe, 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14. James O'Connor, 15. Kurtley Beale. Replacements: 16. Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17. James Slipper, 18. Nathan Sharpe, 19. Ben McCalman, 20. Luke Burgess, 21. Berrick Barnes, 22. Anthony Faingaa.
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