Preview: Tri-Nations 2011 decider, Australia vs New Zealand

Written by leon. Posted in Opinion, Rugby

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Published on August 26, 2011 with No Comments

Here in South Africa we seem to have already forgotten about the Tri-Nations and are solidly focussing on the World Cup. We can probably be forgiven because the smouldering hope we had of winning the tournament was doused with the loss to the Ausies in Durban two weeks ago. The Springboks’ win against the All Blacks has only served to wipe our memories of a very forgettable Tri-Nations campaign and give us hope that the Boks can do it again at the World Cup.

But first, this weekend will deliver all rugby fans a cracker which even the most patriotic Bok Supporter (myself included) has to admit is most likely to also be the World Cup Final in two months time.

In their first Tri-Nations encounter the All Blacks outplayed the Aussies in the front divisions. This put the Aussie backs on the back foot and the likes of Cooper, Genia and Beale suddenly look out of their depth. The All Blacks also used their strong midfield and loose forward runners to get over the advantage line.

It looks like Graham Henry wants to play the same game plan this week, sticking with Ma’a Nonu at 12 ahead of the much hyped Sonny Bill Williams who doesn’t even make the match day 22. The All Blacks also made a whopping 12 changes and 1 positional swop to the side that was beaten (but played most of the rugby) by a full strength Bok side. Only Jerome Kaino is rested in what Henry calls his best side, with Adam Thompson getting another run. With McCaw back in the team, Thompson will hopefully be keeping his hands far from anything resembling a ruck to stop his bleeding of penalties from Port Elizabeth last week.

Personally I think the Aussies are going to struggle to beat this All Black side even in the Reds stronghold of Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. This week, a late night brawl between players that happened on tour in France at the end of last year got reported in the media. Their best goal kicker, James O’Connor had to be suspended for nursing a hangover instead of pitching up for the World Cup Squad announcement and lastly they are playing with a new captain. Last week I admired Robbie Deans’ brave decision to change his captain so close to the World Cup but you have to ask whether this will have an impact on the team. Rocky Elsom is still in the run-on side and surely he can’t be too thrilled to have been sacked. The Aussies however, will hope the removal of the captaincy burden will bring out the best in Elsom if they want to match the All Blacks in physicality up front.

The weather reports are predicting rain at game time that will definitely favour the All Blacks’ more physical approach and all those Crusaders will want to take revenge for losing the Super 14 final against the Reds on the same ground a few months ago. Bonus points are out of the window and the team that wins tomorrow will walk away Tri-Nations champions and on a high going into the World Cup. If we see the wet weather, I think both teams might play a tighter game that will eventually sink the more flamboyant Australians.

I predict an 8 point margin to the All Blacks extending the Australian losing streak in the Tri-Nations to 10 years.

Oh, and lastly, remember that this is the very last Tri-Nations game ever. Argentina will be joining the competition next year making it a four team competition. No new name has officially been announced or the exact format been finalised. But next year will see the Pumas also playing in the premier Southern Hemisphere competition.

The teams:

Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Anthony Fainga’a, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Radike Samo, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Dan Vickerman, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Sekope Kepu
Substitutes: 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 Salesi Ma’afu, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Ben McCalman, 20 Scott Higginbotham, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 TBC

New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brad Thorn 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock
Substitutes: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 John Afoa, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Colin Slade, 22 Isaia Toeava

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