South Africa want to beat Australia for only the second time in seven Tests Saturday and avoid being labelled one-match wonders after a stunning triumph over New Zealand.
A seesaw season for the Springboks under new coach Johan ‘Rassie’ Erasmus has brought four wins and four losses with a thrilling 36-34 victory in Wellington this month the highlight.
Before inflicting a rare home defeat on the world champions, the South Africans were lacklustre in away defeats by Argentina and Australia.
Erratic form has left them with little chance of winning the Rugby Championship for the first time as they trail the All Blacks by six points with two rounds remaining.
But home fixtures against Australia in Port Elizabeth, and New Zealand in Pretoria next Saturday, offer South Africa an opportunity to build momentum.
“We do not want to be known as one-match wonders,” stressed scrum-half Faf de Klerk ahead of the showdown with struggling Australia at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in the coastal city.
“All the gloss of defeating the All Blacks in Wellington will disappear if we deliver a mediocre performance at home to the Wallabies and lose.
“Having celebrated the victory in New Zealand, the focus quickly shifted to plotting a victory over the Wallabies.”
De Klerk, who plays for English Premiership club Sale Sharks, was recalled this season after being left out in the cold last year by previous coach Allister Coetzee.
His inconsistent form in seven consecutive starts for the twice former world champions this year has matched that of a team which has ranged between brilliance and mediocrity.
‘Spoken a lot about consistency’
“We have spoken a lot about consistency,” said De Klerk. “It is not just about winning, but improving our individual performances.”
Erasmus has made four personnel changes — three injury enforced — from the Wellington starting line-up for the southern hemisphere championship fifth-round match.
Cheslin Kolbe comes in on the right wing for Jesse Kriel, who switches to centre in place of Lukhanyo Am and partners Andre Esterhuizen, a replacement for Damian de Allende.
Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira wins his 105th cap as loosehead prop with Steven Kitshoff dropping to the bench and Sikhumbuzo Notshe takes over from Warren Whiteley at number eight.
Australia coach Michael Cheika has also made four personnel changes after a 23-19 loss to Argentina in the Gold Coast — their first home defeat by the Pumas in 35 years.
Losing relegated the Wallabies to a record-low seventh in the world rankings midway through a season in which they have won only two of seven Tests.
Skipper and flanker Michael Hooper has recovered from an injury and returns to a reshuffled back row with Ned Hanigan also called up and David Pocock switching to number eight.
Adam Coleman replaces Rory Arnold at lock and tighthead prop Taniela Tupou makes his run-on debut with Allan Alaalatoa relegated to the bench.
Cheika resisted media calls to begin with fly-half Bernard Foley, giving versatile Kurtley Beale a third straight start as playmaker.
Centre Reece Hodge is upbeat ahead of the first match between the countries in Port Elizabeth since 1963 when South Africa triumphed to draw a four-Test series.
“They had a great win over the All Blacks but their supporters, like ours, are going to demand consistency.”
© Agence France-Presse (Additional Edits By Oisin McQueirns)