Winner takes all as White's Boks face up to Wallabies

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The Independent Online

Back up on the high veldt, a week after the Springboks' fulsome win over New Zealand in Johannesburg, some are still ordering celebratory beers with a gusto not seen for six years. Which is the length of time since South Africa won the Tri-Nations Championship.

Back up on the high veldt, a week after the Springboks' fulsome win over New Zealand in Johannesburg, some are still ordering celebratory beers with a gusto not seen for six years. Which is the length of time since South Africa won the Tri-Nations Championship.

In Durban this afternoon we will discover whether Jake White's Springboks will be crowned the new Tri-Nations champions. Any legacy of satisfaction at last weekend's achievement will be brutally exposed by the clever Australians.

Australian rugby players like nothing better than wrecking someone else's party. They did it to England, in the 1991 World Cup final at Twickenham, and last November in the World Cup semi-final they ruined New Zealand's assumptions of a place in the final. Now, for just the third time in its nine-year history, the Tri-Nations comes down to the final game with both participants capable of becoming champions.

The Wallaby coach, Eddie Jones, said: "The Tri-Nations this year has produced very good rugby and to have the last game as a final makes it enormously challenging for both sides. We have worked hard this week, especially on our scrummaging and line-outs, and we feel ready."

Australia's captain, George Gregan, will break the record for the most Test appearances for his country, passing David Campese's tally of 101. "It's a terrific honour and a landmark that gives me huge pleasure," he said. "But I haven't been thinking about it this week. We have concentrated on the team."

"Winning one Tri-Nations match doesn't mean we have had a good season," said White. "The job is not yet finished. Pressure and expectation goes with the territory. For us, this is a wonderful opportunity. If we win, we are Tri-Nations champions. If we lose, we finish bottom of the table. That is the scary thing. It is all or nothing."

The Springboks must remember the reasons for their win last Saturday: concentration, focus, determination, physical commitment, composure in tight situations, self-belief, a collective will, a deep hunger and a desire to achieve. If they reproduce those potent qualities, there is no reason why they should not win. Anything less leaves them vulnerable.

This is no earth-shattering Wallaby side. They have flaws up front which clever coaching and what the former Irish captain Keith Wood calls "the hood-winking of referees" have masked. As ever, what happens in the front five will be crucial. South Africa must negate the influence of the two Wallaby flankers, George Smith and Phil Waugh. The best way to do that is by pressurising the Australian tight five, thereby forcing their back-row to concentrate on shoring up their mates up front.

The challenge is there for the Boks; the prize awaits. Can they seize the moment?

South Africa: P Montgomery; B Paulse, M Joubert, D Barry, J de Villiers; J van der Westhuyzen, B Conradie; O du Randt, J Smit (capt), E Andrews, B Botha, V Matfield, S Burger, J van Niekerk, AJ Venter. Replacements: H Shimange, C J van der Linde, G Britz, J Cronje, F du Preez, G du Toit, B Russell.

Australia: C Latham; C Rathbone, S Mortlock, M Giteau, L Tuqiri; S Larkham, G Gregan (capt); W Young, B Cannon, A Baxter, J Harrison, N Sharpe, G Smith, P Waugh, D Lyons, P Waugh. Replacements: J Paul, M Dunning, D Vickerman, J Roe, C Whitaker, W Sailor, M Burke.

Referee: P O'Brien (New Zealand).

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