Rugby-Australia to rest players as Springboks trip looms large
MELBOURNE, June 4 |
MELBOURNE, June 4 (Reuters) - Australia coach John Connolly is set to rest players for Saturday's test against Fiji in Perth, keeping his powder dry before the opening Tri-Nations clash with the Springboks.
Connolly sees the game against in-form South Africa in Cape Town on June 16 as the first genuine test of the year for the Wallabies who wrapped up a 2-0 series win over Wales in Brisbane on Saturday.
Back Matt Giteau will travel to South Africa early after aggravating a knee injury in the 31-0 win over the Welsh and forwards Guy Shepherdson, Rocky Elsom and Wycliff Palu, and centre Stirling Mortlock are also set to make the trip early.
South African rugby is on a high after the Bulls claimed the country's first victory in the Super 14 tournament, and the Springboks rattled up over 100 points in a two-test rout of world champions England. "The Springboks are in a good space at the moment, probably the best space since the game went professional," Connolly told reporters after the Wales win.
"They won the '95 World Cup and since then they've had their ups and downs but now on the backs of their tremendous Super 14 performances, that's really carried through to their test level performances, they have a tremendous amount of depth in their squad."
"It will be a good test for us and give us a good indication of where we're at and history shows South Africa hasn't been kind to Australia."
Giteau's absence means former captain George Gregan is certain to start at scrumhalf against Fiji after being the catalyst for Saturday's romp when he came on at halftime in Brisbane.
"Giteau is definitely a nine, potentially. It would have been more helpful if he had played more Super-14s there, but having said that George performed very well when he went on," Connolly said.
"Gregan will start this weekend, and that was always the plan."
Winger Lote Tuqiri is set to return against the nation of his birth at the Subiaco Oval after being rested for the Wales series.
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