Captain James Slipper said Friday it was crucial for the Wallabies to put South Africa under “early heat” if they want to maintain their nine-year unbeaten streak against the world champions on home soil.
Getting off to a storming start has not been Australia’s strong suit this season against England then Argentina, where they have been constantly chasing the game.
It is an issue 119-Test veteran Slipper wants fixed at the Adelaide Oval on Saturday where the Wallabies are defending an unbeaten home record against the Springboks spanning seven Tests dating back to 2013.
“Preparation is everything in a Test match and I think out of all five Tests we’ve played so far this year we’ve lost the first 25 minutes in each game,” said the prop, who is again standing in for regular captain Michael Hooper as he takes mental health leave.
“So (the start of the game) has definitely been spoken about. Hopefully we can put the Springboks under a bit of heat early. It comes down to creating opportunities and taking them.
“We’ve created a lot but probably haven’t had the polish to take them or haven’t taken the points on offer, so for us at training there’s been a big emphasis on taking those opportunities,” he added.
Australia are looking to bounce back from a 48-17 Rugby Championship thumping by Argentina a fortnight ago, a week after beating them 41-26.
Those games were marred by not only Hooper pulling out on the eve of the first Test, but several top players missing with injuries or for personal reasons.
The likes of experienced prop Allan Alaalatoa and hooker Folau Fainga’a return to start against South Africa, while dangerous winger Andrew Kellaway is back on the bench.
Slipper said the Argentina tour was “one of the toughest I’ve been on”, but the squad was confident of getting back to winning ways.
“We had plenty of blokes drop out of the team after it was named (for Argentina) … so there was a fair bit of adversity there but from adversity, you grow stronger and that’s where I’ve pushed the team,” he told reporters.
“In terms of this preparation, it’s been great. We’ve worked hard and we go into the game with confidence, that’s all I can ask from the boys to make sure we do the jersey proud.”
The last time the Springboks won against the Wallabies in Australia was a 38-12 victory in Brisbane nine years ago.
Four players on tour featured in that game — Eben Etzebeth, skipper Siya Kolisi, Duane Vermeulen and Willie le Roux. All but Le Roux will start on Saturday.
Versatile back Frans Steyn, a 74-Test veteran who is on the bench, said he could not pin down why South Africa had struggled so much in Australia.
“Personally, I thought we struggled a bit more over here than we did in New Zealand back in the Super Rugby days as well, but I am not sure what the reason was for that,” he said.
“Luckily, we have an opportunity to do something special here this weekend, and hopefully we can achieve that. It certainly would be a big achievement for the team, especially since it hasn’t happened often.”