Rennie leads from front in asking for Wallabies’ consistency
SYDNEY (AP) — Australia coach Dave Rennie is asking for some consistency from his Wallabies, and he’s leading by example after naming the same starting 15 players for Saturday’s Rugby Championship test against South Africa.
It’s the first time that Rennie has named the same starting side for a test match since he took over as Wallabies coach in November 2019 — 26 matches ago.
He’s hoping it will enable Australia to win consecutive matches for the first time this year. After beating England to open their season, the Wallabies lost twice to England to lose the series, then split a pair of matches in Argentina before beating the World Cup-champion Springboks 25-17 last weekend in Adelaide.
“When you win people think it’s relief, and really my thoughts five minutes after the game are how do we win next week?” Rennie said. “All the preparation and thinking is going into what our weaknesses look like, how do we make sure that we create an edge after a win rather than being satisfied?
“We know we’re going to need to be better because we gave away a lot of penalties last week and the Springboks weren’t able to hurt us.”
The Wallabies have had only one multiple-win streak in Rennie’s tenure — a five-match streak in September and October last year when they beat South Africa and Argentina twice each and Japan. But they finished the year with a three-match losing streak — dropping games to Scotland, England and Wales on their northern hemisphere tour.
On Saturday before an expected sellout crowd of 42,500 at the newly refurbished Sydney Football Stadium, the only change to the Australian 23-man squad sees scrumhalf Jake Gordon take a spot on the bench in place of Tate McDermott.
James Slipper will captain the side at loosehead prop, playing his 121st test which equals that of Michael Hooper and former teammate Adam Ashley-Cooper. He’s joined in the front row by long-time ACT Brumbies teammates Folau Fainga’a and Allan Alaalatoa.
Slipper said Friday a much-improved effort was needed.
“It’s been a challenge for us this year, we haven’t been able to back up a good performance with another one and it’s been spoken about this week,” Slipper said. “There’s plenty to fix from last weekend’s win, particularly a poor lineout showing and a scrum that was under plenty of pressure at times.”
South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber has taken the opposite approach, making nine changes to his injury-hit team.
Prop Ox Nche, hooker Joseph Dweba, No. 8 Duane Vermeulen, scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and wing Warrick Gelant lost their places. Flyhalf Handré Pollard, center Lukhanyo Am and flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit were all ruled out with knee injuries and backup flyhalf Elton Jantjies has a hand injury.
Under pressure for the first time since taking over as coach, Jacques Nienaber moved Damian Willemse from fullback to start at flyhalf and brought 19-year-old speedster Canan Moodie in on the right wing for his test debut.
Willie le Roux returned at fullback, Jesse Kriel replaced Am at outside center, and Jaden Hendrikse was in for de Klerk at scrumhalf.
“It is unfortunate for the two guys that got injured, but it is fortunate for Damian (Willemse),” Nienaber said. “We are looking forward to seeing him in that position again, and the combination between him and Willie (le Roux).”
The Springboks have lost eight matches in a row in Australia and back-to-back games against New Zealand and Australia. They were 25-3 down against the Wallabies in Adelaide before two late tries from replacement Kwagga Smith.
Australia: Reece Hodge, Tom Wright, Len Ikitau, Hunter Paisami, Marika Koroibete, Noah Lolesio, Nic White, Rob Valetini, Fraser McReight, Jed Holloway, Matt Philip, Rory Arnold, Allan Alaalatoa, Folau Fainga’a, James Slipper (captain). Reserves: Dave Porecki, Scott Sio, Taniela Tupou, Darcy Swain, Rob Leota, Pete Samu, Jake Gordon, Andrew Kellaway.
South Africa: Willie le Roux, Canan Moodie, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Damian Willemse, Jaden Hendrikse; Jasper Wiese, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (captain), Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff. Reserves: Deon Fourie, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane, Kwagga Smith, Duane Vermeulen, Cobus Reinach, Frans Steyn, Warrick Gelant.
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