By: Scott McGlynn
Australia and South Africa go head-to-head at Suncorp Stadium in Sydney on Sunday in the Rugby Championship. Both sides have one eye on September’s Rugby World Cup and will be looking at this years Rugby Championship as chance to blood new players and try out different combinations in competitive games.
Australia have recalled a number of experienced players for Sunday’s game with Will Genia, Quade Cooper and Matt Giteau returning to the fold as coach Michael Cheika looks to explore all available options before the World Cup. Cooper has missed the majority of this year’s Super 15 Rugby season with ongoing shoulder injuries and the partnership of him at fly-half and Will Genia at scrum-half will need to perform well on Sunday if Australia are to get their Rugby Championship off to a winning start. The return of Matt Giteau to the team is the main talking point. Currently playing in France for Toulon, Giteau, and Drew Mitchell who has been named on the bench, are the first players to benefit from a recent policy change by the Australia Rugby Union. The new policy allows overseas players who have played 60 caps for Australia to be selected. Before the policy change, only players playing in Australia were considered for selection but with a number of players looking to play abroad during their career, the policy was amended. Giteau has not featured for the Wallabies since 2011 but has been in fine form for Toulon culminating in them retaining this season’s Champions Cup, Europe’s premier club competition. The Wallabies come into Sunday’s game on the back of three straight defeats but with an attacking minded team named, Wallaby fans will be hoping for victory.
South Africa have named an experienced starting 15 but an inexperienced bench for Sunday’s game as coach Heyneke Meyer looks to rotate his squad before the World Cup. Schalke Burger is named at No 8, rather than his normal position of flanker, as Meyer expects a massive contest for the ball on the ground. Burger, along with his back-row colleagues Francois Louw and Marcell Coetzee, are excellent at the breakdown and they will require all three to perform well if they are to take anything from the game. With two home games to come after Sunday’s game, South Africa will be looking for a solid performance on Sunday to take into these home games before focusing fully on their World Cup preparations. South Africa’s recent record in Australia is poor and they have only beaten the Wallabies once at Suncorp Stadium but they will be hopeful that they can change this come Sunday.
Australia are favourites for Sunday’s game at 1.67(4/6) with South Africa a best price of 2.5 (6/4). The draw is available at 23 (22/1)