Bledisloe Cup Not Part of Deans’ Agenda for 2011
Despite his New Zealand heritage, the Wallabies coach, Robbie Deans, has his sights set firmly on winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup on October 23. When his nemesis, Graham Henry decided on fielding his strongest and most experienced team out on Eden Park last weekend, the quietly spoken Deans continued to experiment with one of the youngest teams Australia has lead into battle for the annual Holy Grail trophy between these Tasman cousins.
For New Zealand, having a solitary Webb-Ellis win from the amateur era circa 1987, the Bledisloe Cup has been something they have coveted (some in the ‘Shaky Isles’ say it is more important than the World Cup!)
This Saturday’s match (11pm Shenzhen time) against the current World Champion Springbok side allows Deans to utilize some more experienced forwards in Nathan Sharp and Radike Samo (off the bench), along with in-form Reds loose forward Scott Higginbotham starting at number 8. Tight-head prop Salesi Ma’afu, back to fitness, joins the 5/2 bench. Last weekend the forwards held their own at scrum time and showed good aggression in the line-outs (a little bit sloppy at the end though), however that’s where Deans has made the changes, retaining the identical backline that struggled to penetrate the All Blacks defense (except, of course Will Genia & Kurley Beale combining on the blindside to put Digby Ioane into a gap for a 5-pointer).
Would be nice to start with Anthony Faingaa at inside centre, as I thought Pat McCabe looked a little shell-shocked last weekend, but definitely more game time. As for the ‘Boks, they have taken a leaf out of the Graham Henry handbook and are running out with their most experienced side ever,totaling 810 caps. Once again the Sharks reserve hooker, John Smidt, will lead his side out, whilst world number one rake, Bismarck du Plessis, warms the bench.
De Villiers has also selected experienced lock partners Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha with Pierre Spiers, Dannie Rossouw & Heinrich Brüssow as his loose forwards. World class halfback, Fourie du Preez, to partner Butch James in the halves, alongside world cup wingers Bryan Habana & J.P. Pietersen with Françoise Steyn, back from his French odyssey, at fullback.
This South African side will once again test this emerging Wallaby outfit and a loss at Kings Park, Durban will certainly look messy on Robbie Deans’ CV. Whilst in the forwards it will be every bit as aggressive, if not more so, than the All Blacks, I feel the days of Bryan Habana are numbered and J.P. Pietersen is also getting long in the tooth. Fourie du Preez and Will Genia will be a great battle as opposing half-backs, as both play a similar game, whilst Butch James aggressive attack and defense will be a solid test for Quade Cooper. If the Wallaby back three play as well as last weekend I think the tries will come and a great Wallaby win can be achieved.