Australia out to end away-day blues

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The Independent Online

The Australian captain George Gregan is hopeful that the team's extended preparations in Johannesburg will help end their poor away record in the Tri-Nations when they play South Africa today.

Australia have not won an away match in the competition since 2001 and are without a victory at the high-altitude Ellis Park since 1963.

"You need to play a bit better when you're away from home because your preparations can be a bit disrupted but it's been very settled this week," Gregan said yesterday.

"We've been in Johannesburg since last Friday and the players have acclimatised well, so it's been a very positive step."

In previous years, the Wallabies have been based on the coast before travelling up to altitude the day before the game.

"Ellis Park is like the spiritual centre of South African rugby and because they won last week for the first time in a number of weeks, they will have their tails up," said Gregan.

"We want to compete hard in terms of the physical aspects, because it is a collision sport, but we still need to balance that with skill and finesse."

South Africa beat champions New Zealand 21-20 in Rustenburg last weekend to record their first win of this year's competition.

Australia were 20-18 winners when they met the Springboks in Sydney last month. However, the Wallabies' centre Stirling Mortlock did not train yesterday due to a hamstring strain.

Closer to home, the British and Irish Lions legend Phil Bennett has forwarded the case of Stephen Jones to become the new captain of Wales. "He's worked with [the new Wales coach] Gareth Jenkins before, he controls the game anyhow at number 10 and now has faith and belief in his own ability," Bennett said.

Bennett, the former Wales and Llanelli fly-half, bases his comments on the conviction that the stand-in captain, Duncan Jones, is far from an automatic selection. "Duncan Jones is a top man, but he's up against Gethin Jenkins, who is a very good loose-head prop. He's not certain of his place 100 per cent."

Bennett said the same argument also goes against Gareth Thomas: "I look at him and I think 'fantastic captain'. But he needs to play himself back into the side and get his fitness right."

Jenkins will name his new captain next month.