Kurtley Beale in for Wallabies as Bernard Foley is dropped and Bongi Mbonambi starts for South Africa
The term ‘must-win’ clash is a too often used cliché in sport these days but this game actually deserves the descriptor.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is under mounting pressure after another disastrous Bledisloe Cup campaign and a record of just one win in Australia’s last seven Tests.
And Australia had two major blows to their chances with first David Pocock ruled out on Friday and then Israel Folau on the day of the game. It really is back to the wall time for the Wallabies.
Springboks boss Rassie Erasmus is also feeling the heat after South Africa’s surprise reversal a the hands of the Pumas in Mendoza last time out.
Here are our talking points ahead of the match:
Kurtley Beale in at No10
Desperate times call for desperate measures and Cheika has pulled the trigger on the “Ice man” Bernard Foley, dropping him to the bench in favour of shifting-in Kurtley Beale.
It’s a curious decision as Foley has been among the Wallabies best in recent seasons and Beale last played fly-half for the Wallabies over four years ago. Matt Toomua slots in at No12, where he played for Leicester Tigers last weekend in the 40-6 loss to Exeter.
Cheika obviously wants more involvement from his No10 as Beale was far more involved in the Wallabies loss to the All Blacks in Auckland with six kicks, 25 passes and 10 runs for 59 metres compared to Foley’s sparse 4 kicks, 19 passes and six runs for 43.
Although one of those runs was to set up Reece Hodge’s second half try – one of only two tries Australia scored on the night.
It’s certainly not going to help the Wallabies defensively as Beale missed six and made seven tackles in Auckland to Foley’s four tackles with just two misses.
David Pocock a late scratching
This is deeply concerning not just for the Wallabies but World Rugby.
Pocock was ruled out of the test on Friday after failing to recover from neck problems caused by the All Blacks consistent use of illegal neck rolls to remove the Wallabies flanker from the ruck during the Bledisloe Cup series.
World Rugby is doing so much at present to try to protect players in the tackle zone but this just as dangerous practice is being neglected.
Perhaps its because the All Blacks are the major culprits.
Two great former Wallabies hit out on Instagram after news broke of Pocock’s late withdrawal, with David Campese leading the charge.
“Why do we have laws in rugby that are not enforced?” wrote Campese.
“The neck roll is illegal and very dangerous. As a parent with kids that play the game and a coach of grassroots rugby, I am appalled at an oversight of this nature. Where is the accountability from the referee or the IRB [World Rugby].”
David Wilson, the Wallabies’ No7 in the Rugby World Cup triumph of 1999, added: “It’s not just David, it’s any player in a ruck situation over the ball.
“If this is the way teams are going to move players off the ball, it’s a worry. It’s something that has to be closely looked at because yes, you protect the head. But you’ve got to protect the neck as well.”
Before Pocock’s late withdrawal the odds were tilting towards a Wallabies victory but with the turnover king now ruled out a Springbok win seems more probable.
Malcolm Marx benched
The spectre of a quota, where the Springboks have to pick a certain number of non-white players, is a constant sub-text in South African rugby as SARU work towards the stated goal of a 50-50 team at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
To this end Rassie Erasmus has embraced the transformation agenda enthusiastically playing no less than six non-white players in each of his first five Tests, going as high as seven for the Wales Test in Washington DC and the third match against England.
He has wound this back to five for the Rugby Championship, which could be minimum number as the benching of Malcolm Marx makes no sense at all.
The rampaging Lions hooker is without doubt the best No2 in the world and although his replacement Bongi Mbonambi is a very fine player himself, there seems no other explanation for Marx’s demotion.
Then Erasmus made some very odd remarks after the loss in Argentina about no longer being able to rest players against Australia so perhaps this is more of a rotation policy, but this would make even less sense.
The Springboks need to go all out to win this one as they certainly won’t beat the All Blacks next week in Wellington.