Robinson on bench for six-change Aus
Well-travelled prop Benn Robinson will join fellow veteran Will Genia in boosting the Wallaby chances of putting in a late surge for victory in Saturday’s Castle Lager Rugby Championship match against the Springboks at Newlands.
Robinson has been the subject of some speculation among a Springbok group who rate him highly in the build-up to a match they have to win well to keep the pressure on the All Blacks and set up the final match in the series in Johannesburg the following week as a decider.
However, instead of starting with the man who gave John Smit so many problems in 2009, Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie has opted to introduce the powerful scrummager later in the piece.
“We do have experience on the bench, with Genia and Robinson coming on in the second half, and we feel that could be important as when Wallaby teams have won in South Africa they have tended to do so at the death, usually in about the 78th minute,” said McKenzie.
“Last time we played them in Brisbane we were down 19-12 with 20 minutes to go and dropped a crucial ball on attack. Had we drawn level then, who knows what might have happened, but the Boks ended up finishing strongly. We need to be stronger in the closing stages of the game, and the need for a powerful finish has been recognised.
“The game is about how you start and finish and we need to make sure we finish better than we have.”
Skipper James Horwill is back as one of six changes to the starting team that snuck to a close win against the Pumas in Perth two weeks ago. Nic White continues at scrumhalf ahead of Genia after playing solidly in a game dominated by kicking against Argentina.
“Will (Genia) is a great and talented player, but then so is Nic. It is hard for me to say how we are going at the moment as I have only played with Nic once, while I have played most of my rugby with Will as my halfback partner. The conditions in Perth were difficult so hopefully we get a dry day on Saturday so we can show what we can do as a combination,” said Wallaby flyhalf Quade Cooper.
There are three changes to the Wallaby backline and three to the forwards, with the visitors lining up with one of their most inexperienced backlines in recent history as a result of the decision to shift Adam Ashley-Cooper to the wing.
Brumbies centre Tevita Kuridrani gets his first international run-on opportunity as Ashley-Cooper’s replacement in the No 13 jersey.
It is Ashley-Cooper’s first start on the wing since the Wallabies played France in Paris last year. Joe Tomane, who played wing in two of the tests against the British and Irish Lions, is back from injury to take his place on the other wing.
“We have a fairly big and physical backline and that did play a factor in our selection for this match against the Springboks,” said McKenzie.
But it is at forward that the Wallabies are under most pressure, and the return of Horwill will be a particular focus as he adds both experience and lineout proficiency, not to mention astute leadership.
McKenzie appears to have been stung a bit by the pre-occupation in the South African media with the need for the Boks to win well and grab the four-try bonus point, and by the sounds of things that is sure to be used as a motivational factor on Saturday.
“All we have heard and read all week is how much the Boks are going to win by so we are looking forward to the opportunity to challenge that,” said the coach.
AUSTRALIA TEAM: Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Joe Tomane, Quade Cooper, Nic White, Ben Mowen, Michael Hooper, Scott Fardy, James Horwill (capt), Rob Simmons, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, James Slipper.
Replacements: Saia Fainga’a, Benn Robinson, Sekope Kepu, Sitaleki Timani, Ben McCalman, Will Genia, Matt Toomua, Chris Feauai-Sautia.