THE Wallabies believe the Springboks will use their two-pronged halfback combination as a prime attacking tool tonight, with Francois Hougaard a weapon off the ruck.
The Springboks have unexpectedly moved Hougaard, their No.1 halfback, from the scrum base to the left wing, bringing in Ruan Pienaar to counter the Wallabies captain, Will Genia, at halfback.
The visitors want to use Hougaard’s outright speed in a different area, and Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has devised tactics to quell this attacking threat.
Deans said yesterday he expected Hougaard to hover near Pienaar for most of the Test.
”I suspect they will want to bring Hougaard into the game down the inside channel and run him off Pienaar’s shoulder,” Deans said.
”It’s a tactic they have used in the past, to good effect. And I’ve got no doubt they’ll be wanting to do that again. So we’re expecting the combination of running forwards, plus Hougaard, through that channel.”
Genia admitted that he originally anticipated having Hougaard next to him at scrum time.
”I was surprised [by the change] because I do rate Hougaard as a halfback,” Genia said. ”He offers them a lot around the breakdown, because he’s got acceleration off the mark and provides a lot of spark in attack.
”But they don’t really lose anything with Ruan coming in. He’s a world-class halfback as well. And the point of having Hougaard on the wing is that he has out-and-out pace. He also has a great work ethic.
”You know what you’re going to get with the South Africans. It’s that physical contest, and their big forwards trying to dominate the game. I don’t think it is going to change with a different halfback.”
Deans stressed that if the Wallabies were to get back on track, five-eighth Quade Cooper would need to be positive and not dormant. Cooper was ineffective against the All Blacks in Auckland and, with James O’Connor and Pat McCabe returning soon from injury, is under pressure to hold his pivotal spot. He cannot hide against the Springboks.
”Quade will be better,” Deans said. ”He can’t help but be better. To get the benefit of Quade’s unique skill set you have got to create some momentum – to bring him into the game … He needs to step forward and be prepared to take the ball to the line.”
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