The Wallabies face the tallest order in world rugby when record-setting Springboks locks Victor Matfied and Bakkies Botha team up for their 61st Test together on Saturday (0100 Sunday AEST).
As ever, South Africa’s twin towers – each more than two metres tall – will look to starve Australia possession in Durban come lineout time, prompting Wallabies coach Robbie Deans to recall veteran second-rower Nathan Sharpe for his 96th Test.
Sharpe was back in Brisbane playing his first club game in “about 10 years” last week when the All Blacks put the Wallabies to the sword in Auckland.
His World Cup prospects looked grim but the 33-year-old has a prime opportunity to secure a ticket to New Zealand next month after replacing injured youngster Rob Simmons for Australia’s vital Tri Nations match at Kings Park.
“He’s the ideal bloke for this Test,” Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said.
“The lineout is clearly going to be a priority and I’ve got no doubt Sharpey will be pretty excited the opportunity as well.”
Indeed he is.
“Playing the Springboks, it’s always a game where preparation’s essential and Victor’s been there a long time as well, so we know each other pretty well,” he said.
“Every team presents different challenges in their own way.
“Certainly South Africa, when you play them, they’re one of the top three best lineouts in the world consistently.
“In terms of getting a result for the team, it’s about everyone doing their job.
“And when it comes to games like these, it’s crucial that everyone knows exactly what their role is and the preparation has been really good to that end.”
Botha, one of 11 survivors from South Africa’s 2007 World Cup-winning team in the Boks squad this weekend, said the hosts were hungry to atone for the second-string touring side’s opening two Tri Nations losses to Australia and New Zealand.
“We had a very young side that went overseas and it was a bit of a hammering overseas, but we’re not looking back,” Botha said.
“We as a squad here in Durban are back home and we just want to do our best.
“All the guys are focused, our energy is high and we’re hungry and want to go out and enjoy ourselves and put our set phases together and have a good day at the office.”
Botha, like Matfield, hoping to “put the cherry on the cake” with a successful World Cup defence this year before hanging up the puts, said it wasn’t rocket science predicting where the Boks would be looking for an edge this weekend.
“The lineouts are definitely going to be interesting,” Botha said.
“Sharpe is a good player and especially lineout time. They’ve brought him in to counter Victor.
“We know Victor’s a formidable lineout guy and that’s the main reason they’ve brought in Nathan.
“The team that’s going to produce at the set pieces and use their ball from the set pieces is definitely the team that’s going to pull it through and win the Test.”