James Slipper. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
Captain James Slipper warned on Friday that Australia must improve their lineouts and scrums if they want to ride the momentum of beating South Africa with another win over the world champions this weekend.
The Wallabies are chasing back-to-back victories for the first time this season and with the Rugby Championship wide open it would leave them in a strong position with two games to play against a misfiring All Blacks.
They currently sit level on nine points with Argentina after two wins from three, four points clear of New Zealand and five ahead of South Africa at the tournament’s midway point.
“Argentina are proving they’re a pretty tough team to beat… it goes to show you how tight this competition is,” Slipper told reporters in Sydney ahead of Saturday’s sold-out clash with the Springboks.
“We’ve got four of the best teams in the world going head-to-head week in, week out… we’re obviously coming off a good result, but I guess because it’s such a short competition, each win and each back-up win is crucial.
“Momentum is a big thing in sport and hopefully we gain a bit of momentum going into that clash (in Melbourne this month) with the All Blacks.”
While Australia hung on to beat South Africa 25-17 in Adelaide last week, it took a huge defensive effort to do so.
It was one of their best performances this year, but they conceded 16 penalties and lost six lineouts on their own throw, which allowed the Springboks to build constant pressure.
“(Assistant coach) Dan (McKellar) had us training pretty hard on the lineout, it was a big part of our game that struggled last weekend,” said Slipper, who will play his 121st Test, equalling Michael Hooper, who is on mental health leave, and former teammate Adam Ashley-Cooper.
“You’ve got to be honest there and you’ve got to get better because you know the Springboks are a good team. Not only the lineout, the scrum was under pressure at times, the set-piece is just so important at Test match rugby.
“We’re expecting a big focus on that tomorrow.”
Coach Dave Rennie has kept faith with his winning side, making no changes to the starting team for the first time since he took the job in late 2019.
Slipper stressed it was important for them to start showing consistency after failing to win successive matches so far this season.
“It’s been a challenge for us this year, we haven’t been able to back up a good performance with another one and it’s been spoken about this week,” he said.
Saturday’s Test kicks off at 11:35 (SA time).
15 Reece Hodge, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Jed Holloway; 5 Matt Philip, 4 Rory Arnold; 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper (captain)
Substitutes: 16 David Porecki, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Darcy Swain, 20 Rob Leota, 21 Pete Samu, 22 Jake Gordon, 23 Andrew Kellaway
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Kwagga Smith, 20 Duane Vermeulen, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Warrick Gelant