Big focus on Beale's kicking
Loftus Versfeld may be building up to the battle of the flyhalves with the Boks ready to unleash their untested and untried prodigy Johan Goosen into the depths of international rugby, but much of the focus will also be on Australia’s Kurtley Beale.
There is no doubt Beale has all the attributes to play an open, expansive game and Wallabies coach Robbie Deans virtually showed his hand when he selected him as the replacement for Quade Cooper after the latter’s fall from grace.
But Beale, as much as he is a fine player, is also one that is untested at international level in this position, and will play his first game at No 10 for the Wallabies. While the Australians have interchanged their backline before to bring him into attacking play, there is still a question mark to how he will front up in defence and what qualities he will bring to the Wallabies under pressure.
The Boks are chomping at the bit to stop the five-game losing streak to the Wallabies, a run they literally want to kick themselves for because several of those games -- not to mention Perth or the World Cup quarterfinal -- they feel they should have won.
And they know to fight fire with fire, and adopt a more measured approach with variety in attack, is the way to go on a hard field in good weather against an Australian team, who although they will look to move it around the park, will also offer a number of opportunities for counter-attack.
Wallaby coach Robbie Deans didn’t really have too many choices when deciding on Beale, the obvious choice to partner Nick Phipps at halfback as they did with a measured degree of success in Melbourne during Vodacom Super Rugby.
But this isn’t Super Rugby, this is the Castle Rugby Championship and Beale’s credentials will be tested to the hilt at altitude, especially his kicking game, and in front of a full house of the Loftus faithful, he may find it a tough go with the Bok pack seething for victory.
Deans isn’t worried though, or if he is, he isn’t giving it away.
“He’s played a lot of 10 alongside Nick Phipps at the Rebels. So they’re an established combination. I guess it’s a direct swop in terms of the existing combinations. I hope it works for us,” Deans said.
“Kurtley has been part of our programme for a while now so he is well-versed. The boys have a lot of belief in him.”
TWEAKS IN BOK APPROACH EXPECTED
Deans did admit he was looking forward to a “spectacle”, saying both sides had made their intentions clear with their team selections.
“If you look at both sides, both selections and both combinations, it’s clearly going to be a good game, a good spectacle. I suspect both sides will play positively and both sides are keen for a result. Conditions are pretty good and the public can expect a good outing,” Deans said.
Still, while there may be some doubt whether Beale, a known running half, can control the game with his boot, Deans dispelled those thoughts.
“Kurtley has a good boot, he’s one of our better kickers. That’s what a test match is, it’s played out on the day and both sides will bring a strategy which they think they will profit from. Both sides have new five-eighths, so that will be a source of intrigue to be sure. We have no concerns about Kurtley, he has a job to do and he knows it.”
And with Johan Goosen waiting on the other side -- a player Deans rates highly saying “there was no doubt the Cheetahs campaign was flying until he got injured”, the Wallabies are looking to a more varied approach from the Boks and not their normal kicking game.
“There is no doubt South Africa will bring some tweaks to their game. They wouldn’t make a strategic change like that without seeking to play the strengths of the people involved. We expect some tweaks to their approach. A lot of defence though is very much principle based, responding to what is there at the time.”
Either way the spotlight will fall on the two flyhalves, one on his debut and the other making his first international run in the position. Whichever pack gets on top, there is likely to be some magic.
No wonder the likes of Deans and Heyneke Meyer are excited at the prospect.