The Springboks take on the Wallabies in Cape Town this weekend in the first of three consecutive games with the Australians.
Fresh from two consecutive victories over the All Blacks, with the No. 1 IRB world ranking under their belt, the Springboks now face a different challenge.
The All Blacks were brainless and played straight into the Springbok game plan. However the Australians have a smarter edge to them, and have had the benefit of watching how the Springboks dismantled the All Blacks, and had time to prepare a game plan to combat the Springbok brutality.
The Springboks continue on their quest for world domination of 2009, and will look to build on the impressive strides they've made in the two weeks. To do that they'll need to fine-tune their game plan against a Wallaby side that has different strengths and weaknesses to those encountered this year.
The Springbok pack will still need to ascertain its dominance, but they may need to start with scrum dominance. On paper, the Springboks should edge the Wallabies in every paper, but so often in the last 10 years we've had the better scrum on paper, but not translated that into on-field performance. The Springbok combination is solid, whereas the Wallabies looked decidedly shaky in their last start. Let's hope the ref allows a fair contest, which gives the advantage to the Boks.
The Springbok pack has been dominant at the breakdown so far in the Tri-nations, honed by their series with their British and Irish Lions. However this Wallaby pack has better balance and with the possibility of two opensiders, the Boks run the risk of a being a step behind the action. Brussow will have to be on top of his game, and require back-up from Superman Pierre Spies and the ever dependable Juan Smith.
Whilst the Springbok lineout is the best in the world, and Victor Matfield should once again reign supreme, this is one facet that will be evenly contested. It will at lest ensure the Wallabies get more ball to play with than the All Blacks did. Consequently the Springboks may have to defend more, and may not enjoy such dominant field position.
Matt Giteau will be a danger at flyhalf if he gets quality possession, and the Wallabies will then look to use Stirling Mortlock to crash the ball up. Jacque Fourie has been a tower of strength in the Springbok midfield and he will be able to cover Mortlock fairly easily. Out wide the Wallabies look fairly innocuous, without the speed or skill to seriously threaten the Springbok defence. Compared to the All Blacks they won't be as stereotyped, and will probably kick the ball more. As long as the Boks are prepared for this it shouldn't pose too much of a problem.
What excites me most however, is if the Springboks finally click in all areas, and the backline can start to regain it's magic, this side will make the opposition pay dearly. In fact the last time we played Australia that is exactly what happened. I wouldn't bet against it happening again, however I think it'd be safer to predict a winning margin of 10-12 for the Springboks, and allow us to put one hand on the Tri-nations for 2009.
You can also check out my short video preview of the game.