History serves as both a help and a hindrance to the Springboks as they prepare to host the Wallabies in the 2019 Rugby Championship opener.
Rassie Erasmus has opted to deploy a second-string team for the Ellis Park clash and the Bok coach will have spent part of this week rallying Test rookies Herschel Jantjies, Rynhardt Elstadt and Lizo Gqoboka with a review of South Africa’s record against Australia.
Rugby turned professional after the 1995 Rugby World Cup and the Boks have since won 20 of 25 Tests against the Wallabies in the Republic. While this record includes a thrilling 27-27 stalemate in Bloemfontein in 2017, a 41-39 loss at the same venue in 2010 and two defeats in Durban (19-18 in 2000 and 27-15 in 2008), South Africa is unbeaten against Australia at Ellis Park in the professional era.
Even more encouraging for Bok fans, the Highveld fortress marks the site of the Wallabies’ biggest reverse in this 86-year-old rivalry – a 53-8 drubbing in 2008.
But therein lies the hindrance for a shuffled team that features new-look combinations – the archives make a Bok victory seem inevitable. And anything less will ramp up the importance of winning next week’s showdown against the All Blacks in New Zealand.
Erasmus’ team chats will have glossed over the what-ifs, instead focusing on the Boks’ five biggest wins against Australia in the professional era.
30 August, 2008: 53-8 at Ellis Park
Jongi Nokwe scored four of South Africa’s eight tries as a hapless Wallabies side crashed to an emphatic loss. Interestingly, Beast Mtawarira is the only survivor of that match who will be on active duty this week.
23 August, 1997: 61-22 at Loftus Versfeld
Erasmus scored a try in the No 7 jersey, Percy Montgomery crossed for two from outside centre and Jannie de Beer kicked 21 points in front of a full house at Loftus Versfeld.
7 September, 2013: 38-12 at Suncorp Stadium
Captain Jean de Villiers scored a try and Morne Steyn kicked four penalties and three conversions as the Boks banked their first win at the Suncorp.
29 September, 2012: 31-8 at Loftus Versfeld
The forwards crushed the Aussie pack and Bryan Habana converted that dominance into a devastating hat-trick of tries.
28 September, 2013: 28-8 at Newlands
The Boks streaked to a 23-3 halftime lead, but played 20 minutes of the second half with 14 men after Duane Vermeulen and Flip van der Merwe were yellow-carded.
Springboks: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Francois Louw, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (c), 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Bench: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Marcell Coetzee, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Dillyn Leyds
Wallabies:15 Tom Banks , 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Reece Hodge, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nic White, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Rory Arnold, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper
Bench: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Will Genia, 22 Matt To’omua, 23 Kurtley Beale