Up-and-coming Wallabies prop James Slipper is not shying away from the physical firestorm coming his way, promising to ”set a match” under Springboks enforcers Bismarck du Plessis and Coenie Oosthuizen on Saturday night.
The Springboks will be boosted by the return of 50-Test cap hooker du Plessis to the starting line-up this weekend but are not short of abrasive young characters in the pipeline, with 24-year-old prop Oosthuizen the latest formidable forward to walk off the highveld and into a green jersey.
Slipper, who has usurped veteran Benn Robinson at loose-head for the Rugby Championship, said he would relish the encounter with the notoriously fiery du Plessis.
”I’ll be trying to set a match under them, I enjoy that part of the game. Don’t get me wrong, they’re pretty good at what they do so you’ve got to be prepared to cop a few and I guess wear what you throw,” he said.
”He’s a very aggressive player and he’s always been very uncompromising, up in your face. A lot of Africans are, so some people shy away from it but as a forward pack you can’t. I think you’ve got to get in there and get in their face a bit. You’re not going out there doing anything illegal, it’s just not stepping back.”
The Wallabies pack has come under fire after a patchy start to the Test season this year.
After a disastrous finish to the British and Irish Lions series and a tough adjustment to new scrum engagement laws, Slipper is keen to restore the side’s reputation. ”Our squad is capable of being very physical. It’s not only about being physical in a way that the crowd can see, it’s about making your one-on-one tackles and not putting up with anything,” he said.
”Putting your head where you don’t want to put it, especially in the mauls. They’re a very formidable side with mauling and at the end of the day you’ve got to put your head on the inside, not the outside – that’s the easy option. That’s where you might cop a few things but that’s what has to be done.”
The Wallabies are preparing for the Springboks’ typical reliance on set-piece play and the driving maul but are also appreciating coach Heyneke Meyer’s emphasis on rounding out pressure with attack.
”They’re a very traditional team with the up-and-unders. They clear their 22 pretty efficiently and they tend to do it all the time,” Slipper said.
”But in saying that, they [put 70 points on] Argentina and there was a bit of running in that … I think it depends on how the game is going. If they have the momentum I’m sure they’ll throw it around, but if they’re under the pump I’m positive they’ll kick it and play that field position.”
Both teams name their starting line-ups on Wednesday, with the Springboks poised to name Zane Kirchner at fullback, moving Willie le Roux to the wing and squeezing out Bjorn Basson.
The Wallabies will name Quade Cooper at five-eighth, replacing Matt Toomua, while a back three shake-up is also expected after fullback Jesse Mogg was given two chances to make his mark against the All Blacks.
James O’Connor and Israel Folau are both possible options at fullback, with Joe Tomane or Nick Cummins probable wing replacements if coach Ewen McKenzie decides to move Mogg aside.
The Wallabies are confident that they are getting closer to the perfect balance of running rugby and playing for field position but will need to clean up their basic skills, which were found wanting in first two fixtures of the Rugby Championship.
”That’s the key to winning games, finding that balance,” O’Connor said. ”You want to play as much running rugby as you can but at certain times, when there’s too much line speed or pressure, you’ve got to be able to read the moment and clear the ball.
”I think we’re finding the balance better … but there’s definitely room for improvement.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.