Hello everybody and welcome to live coverage of the Springboks v the Wallabies from Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast. We’re into round three of this year’s Rugby Championship with kick-off at 8.05pm AEST.
A narrow victory in a three-Test series against a second-string France, followed by a hat-trick of comprehensive Beldisloe Cup defeats have meant Australia’s plans for 2021 have not got off to the best of starts. From a season that began with a bullish Dave Rennie backing in youthful combinations, he is now looking to the past to salvage results.
With a reinterpretation of the Giteau Law to boost Rennie’s options, Samu Kerevi returned to the fold against New Zealand. Now it’s Quade Cooper’s turn to don the green and gold after a long hiatus with Rennie running out of patience with 21-year-old five-eighth Noah Lolesio. Not for the first time in recent years it raises questions about the direction in which Australia are travelling, and how much catching-up they have to do to return to the top table of Test rugby.
One man who has risen above the mediocrity around him is captain Michael Hooper, and the relentless warrior tonight equals George Gregan’s record for the most Tests as Wallabies captain when he leads his side out for a 59th time.
Hooper will be delighted not to have to stare down another haka this week, but for his sins he is instead faced with the prospect of the dominant force in world rugby at the moment. This is a Springboks side with awesome power up front, a commitment to winning that is the rival of any side in international sport, and a ferocious dedication to their own cause. The recent Bledisloe series was largely an entertaining and open affair with the All Blacks demonstrating their superior finishing prowess. Tonight we’re likely to be in for a much more controlled demonstration of force, and a very different spectacle.
I’ll be back with more shortly, but if you would like to join in, you can reach me by email or Twitter (@JPHowcroft).