The Wallabies have kept the same backline that played in the loss to Argentina two weeks ago but have significantly beefed up their tight forwards in the first step on their road to redemption. Headlining the changes is Taniela Tupou (christened “Tongan Thor” for his power) making his first start in the gold jersey.
With Adam Coleman and Izack Rodda starting in the second row the Wallabies will have plenty of big ball runners in tight, and the bench selections suggest that they will use them. There is an entire tight five on the bench for the men in gold, so Michael Cheika seems to think that the match will be a hugely physical battle in tight.
Cheika has also gone for three workhorse players in the back row. With Michael Hooper fit again he will reclaim the captaincy and the open side flanker role, sending David Pocock to the back of the scrum. Ned Hanigan, who was much maligned last year but has bulked up considerably since then, will play blind side.
With the same backline that struggled on the Gold Coast, Hooper’s usual role as an extra ball-runner in the midfield will be invaluable. He will also probably act as Kurtley Beale’s bodyguard off set piece play, freeing the mercurial playmaker to focus on strategy and counter-attack.
The backline will be unchanged, with Israel Folau remaining on the wing (hopefully after a lot of practice passing from left to right) and Dane Haylett-Petty at fullback. If the attack again misfires expect to see Bernard Foley injected early, possibly with a shift to fullback for Beale. Matt Toomua will be looking to cement his inside centre role.
The midfield combination of Beale, Toomua and Reece Hodge at outside centre has had an extra two weeks to practice their moves, and with all three able to act as a playmaker and kick if called on the Wallabies certainly have options in offence. Toomua and Hodge have also been solid in defence in the games they have played next to each other.
Hopefully the loss to Argentina was rock-bottom for the Wallabies, as they will need a greatly improved performance against a Springbok side that will be full of confidence after beating the All Blacks in Wellington. If not, long suffering fans will only have more agony ahead.