SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia coach Ewen McKenzie said Friday the Wallabies have one hand on the Mandela Challenge Plate but face a tough assignment against South Africa in Cape Town later this month.
The Springboks as holders of the trophy need only to win at Newlands on September 27 to retain the silverware after Australia edged out South Africa 24-23 in the first of the two-Test series earlier this month in Perth.
The Wallabies have not won in Cape Town for 22 years with losses in their six last encounters at Newlands.
“There’s no question – South Africa is hard to play in South Africa,” McKenzie told reporters ahead of the team’s departure for the republic on Monday.
“Cape Town hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for us for a while.”
McKenzie will take an injury-hit 28-man squad for the remaining Rugby Championships Tests against the Springboks and Argentina in Mendoza on October 4.
Despite the injury setbacks, McKenzie said the squad had a good chance of winning at Newlands.
“We’ve got one hand on the Mandela Plate,” he said.
“But we only play against teams pretty much in the top 10.
“On any given day, you’re going to have close games. You don’t get easy games.”
McKenzie said it was imperative his side delivered at Newlands after losing fans’ respect with their 50-21 thrashing by the All Blacks last month in Auckland.
“It’s another significant moment,” he said.
“There are opportunities that can create reputations and create credibility.
“We’ve been pretty consistent, but we still haven’t won everyone over and we’re our own toughest critics and we need to keep at it.”
McKenzie opted for 16 forwards and 12 backs for the tour, calling up NSW Waratahs prop Benn Robinson and scrum-half Will Genia, while giant young lock Will Skelton was omitted.